Shohei Ohtani Absence Opens Wide AL MVP Race

AL MVP race heats up with new contenders in 2024

by Zain ul Abedin
Shohei Ohtani Absence Opens Wide AL MVP Race
© Luke Hales/Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani has, over the last three seasons, twice swept American League MVP votes. Now that Ohtani plays for a National League team, though, the '24 AL MVP race isn't much of one yet. A few players will contend, among them Aaron Judge.

The outfielder won his first MVP in 2022 after setting an American League single-season record with 62 home runs, and he is off to another blazing start. He batted .361 with 14 home runs in May alone, accounting for many of the New York Yankees' best record in the AL.

Judge is the only player other than Ohtani to have a first-place vote for AL MVP since 2021. A teammate of Judge's, Juan Soto, also has a strong case of his own. Soto, the runner-up for NL MVP in 2021, swiftly playing with the Washington Nationals, has been phenomenal during his first season playing for the Yankees.

He adds depth to their lineup with this performance that boosts the prospect of an MVP for the Yankees. Out of New York, other standouts exist in Baltimore's Gunnar Henderson and the Kansas City Royals' Bobby Witt Jr. Thus far-after his incredible rookie season-Henderson is well on his way to pulling a Cal Ripken by repeating quite possibly as Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons.

In contrast, Witt has been the shining light of the Royals, who have rebounded auspiciously from an abysmal 2023 campaign to rest 12 games over .500.

Notable Performers Shine

You need not also to forget Kyle Tucker in Houston.

Even when he just landed on the injured list, Tucker had already smacked 19 home runs in a critically important year in his career, helping the Astros get back on track from an abysmal start toward the playoffs. Regarding Ohtani-he's not only changed leagues but is recovering from elbow surgery and thus isn't pitching this year.

While maybe not playing the field, he's still raking impressively to a .310 average, 15 bombs, and 14 steals for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Weird would be 2024, preconditioned to be an awful year by league-wide mediocrity. Since the MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998, at least 12 teams finished above .500.

Now, that mark has only been met by ten teams so far, only four in the NL. Having 11 more teams linger around 500, this dynamic may change dramatically, however. Three players since Cal Ripken have been the MVP in one year and the Rookie of the Year award the previous year.

They were Ryan Howard '05-'06, Dustin Pedroia '07-'08, and Kris Bryant '15-'16. RHP Kevin Gausman fanned a career-high ten batters, throwing a five-hit shutout as Toronto won 7-0 over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. That was the first career shutout by Gausman - his first complete game in nine innings.

The Kansas City Royals manufactured an epic comeback against the Seattle Mariners Friday evening. Trailing 8-0 in the fourth inning, with a 1.0% win probability, it was a four-run Royals' fourth that fell into place, ignited by an MJ Melendez three-run bomb.

They kept going in the rally and ended up tying the game in the ninth before a Maikel Garcia groundout and a Witt triple set the put-away stage for a 10-9 win, marking just the second game this season where a team overcame an eight-run deficit to win.

Shohei Ohtani