Value is hard to quantify. A lot goes into how much a player is valued by his organization. How much does a player contribute to winning? Do consistent bad performances accelerate losing? Does the player subscribe to the team’s culture?
A team’s most valuable player is essential in establishing its identity. Although success is dependent on the team as a whole, each MLB squad is led by an individual that stands out above the rest.
Let’s dive into the most valuable player to each American League team so far this season.
American League East
Yankees (44-16): Aaron Judge
There is Aaron Judge, and then there is everyone else. The Yankees’ towering outfielder has been the best player for the winningest team in baseball. He impacts winning at all levels. With his power bat, cannon of an arm, range in the outfield, and captain-like leadership, Judge has the Bombers well in line for a chance at the organization’s first championship since 2009. It seems as though Judge’s seamless transition to centerfield has been understated as well.
Blue Jays (36-24): Alex Manoah
I am a big Alex Manoah supporter. The commanding right-hander is one of the game’s young pitching marvels. Manoah is a tank. The 260-pound stud preys on hitters. His changeup is extremely well-developed and an inspiring slider. There is still great value on him at +800 to win the Cy Young.
Rays (35-25): Shane McClanahan
What is there to say about McClanahan this season? He might be the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. The Rays win when McClanahan starts.
Red Sox (32-29): Rafael Devers
Devers is one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. The Red Sox are 22-10 in their last 32 games and are firmly entrenched in the Wild Card race thanks to the splendid hitting of their third baseman. Devers had the best May in the league, boasting a 2.5 WAR, and he now has the most hits (83).
Orioles (26-36): Austin Hays
The Orioles are playing better than expected this season. Although they are 10 games below .500, Hays has been a bright spot. He is batting a solid .293 and should be an All-Star candidate for the AL outfield.
American League Central
Twins (36-27): Byron Buxton
The injury bug gets to Buxton, but when he is on the field, he contributes to winning. Buxton mashes fastballs and is a stolen-base threat every time he reaches. The Twins are lucky to have a healthy Buxton, because they would not be a first-place team without him.
Guardians (29-27): José Ramírez
Ramírez is just so talented. I have the luxury of having him on my fantasy baseball team, and he is off to the best start of any season in his career. He is not striking out either, touting a 7% strikeout rate, 17 points lower than Judge.
White Sox (28-31): Tim Anderson
Anderson is on the IL right now. The White Sox are 5-8 since their dynamic shortstop went down with a hamstring injury. South Side fans will be clamoring for Anderson to come back as soon as possible to get the team back into the Wild Card race.
Tigers (24-36): Tarik Skubal
No offensive player on the Tigers is most valuable to winning. They simply cannot score runs. Skubal has been a lone bright spot for Detroit. He has the second-highest WAR (2.4) among pitchers and should get an All-Star nod.
Royals (20-40): Andrew Benintendi
Benintendi should get a lot of love from buying teams at the trade deadline. He has a reliable glove and can help squads like the Padres and Red Sox that are in need of Gold Glove fielding.
American League West
Astros (37-24): Yordan Álvarez
The Houston slugger is hitting the absolute lights out of the baseball. His xwOBA (offensive contributions per plate appearance) is 30 points higher than Judge, and he is second in the league in home runs (17). He will hopefully be worth every penny of his new six-year, $115 million extension.
Rangers (29-31): Corey Seager
Seagar is not having a great year, but he is still the best player on the Rangers.
Angels (29-33): Mike Trout
The Angels will live and die by Trout. This generation’s greatest player is having a typical Trout year, and he has been able to stay healthy.
Mariners (27-34): Logan Gilbert
Gilbert provides hope for Seattle’s struggling pitching staff. He is in the midst of an All-Star campaign and is outshining free-agent addition Robbie Ray, who does not have the same stuff as last year.
Athletics (21-41): Frankie Montas
It is hard to find a valuable player for one of the worst teams in baseball. Montas was very good last year, and aside from a few blips this season, he is throwing well.