The National League (NL) East division is home to the two most recent winners of the NL MVP award, with Bryce Harper being the most recent.
Can the NL East remain the home for the NL MVP award in 2022? Let’s take a look at each team’s potential MVP candidate.
As previously mentioned, Phillies’ outfielder Bryce Harper was 2021’s NL MVP award winner and is looking to defend his title in 2022.
Harper is a two-time MVP, winning his first one while with the Washington Nationals in 2015.
It’s been nearly a decade since Miguel Cabrera was the last player to win back-to-back MVP awards for the Detroit Tigers. And it’s only happened three times in the 21st century, so the odds are stacked against Harper.
When Harper first won the award in 2015, he followed up with a much more pedestrian season. Harper is 29, so one more MVP honor would solidify himself in baseball history before the age of 30.
Harper is still Philadelphia’s best player, but he needs to improve on his 2021 campaign in what will be a competitive 2022 MVP race.
The MLB is flooded with young superstars at the moment and Washington is home to one that is considered as the brightest star of them all.
Juan Soto is 23 years old and has been top-five in MVP voting for the last two seasons, including runner-up to Harper in 2021.
The general idea going into 2022 is that this is Soto’s award to win. He is a generational talent for a rebuilding organization in the nation’s capital.
Juan Soto has accomplished so much at such a young age that an MVP award will further establish him as a staple in Major League Baseball.
As mentioned before, the MLB, especially the NL, is filled with young talent. This includes Ronald Acuña Jr. for the Atlanta Braves.
Acuña was on the verge of an MVP campaign last season until he tore his ACL before last season’s All-Star Break. Acuña, age 24, hit 24 home runs with a 0.283 batting average in 82 games last season.
Freddie Freeman would be the easy choice when looking at the Braves roster, especially after winning the award in 2020, but his future in Atlanta is being threatened due to the MLB lockout.
One drawback for Acuña and in making a case for MVP is that he is just coming off his ACL injury. For a player with the flair and excitement that Acuña presents, an injury as severe as an ACL tear could affect his get-out-of-the-box speed and his change of direction in the outfield.
The ACL injury is uncommon in the sport of baseball, but from what Acuña has done in his short, young career, this should only be a minor setback that leads to a major comeback.
New York Mets
To talk about an injury-ending MVP campaign, Jacob deGrom was most likely the MVP in the National League had he played the whole 2021 season. Although he only played 15 games, the consensus still was that he was the best pitcher in the entire league, allowing deGrom finished top-ten in Cy Young Award voting.
deGrom, who has been a league-renowned pitcher for years now, was having his best season last year, holding a 1.24 earned run average (ERA). He was also dominant at the plate himself, batting an average of 0.36.
Last season’s injury-riddled performance was an anomaly. He is, if not the best player, the best pitcher in the world.
The last time the MVP award was won by a pitcher was in 2014 by Clayton Kershaw. Last season, deGrom had a significantly lower ERA and was on pace to shatter Kershaw’s strikeout total.
While Ronald Acuña’s injury is something to worry about going forward, deGrom’s is a little less worrisome. The mild forearm strain aggravated him enough to end his season, but no surgery was needed. Expect deGrom’s injury to hold no setback for 2022.
The Marlins are clearly still a rebuilding team and, unlike the Nationals, they do not have a franchise cornerstone like Soto.
But there is one young star blooming in Miami that you can expect to make a leap and that is Jazz Chisholm.
With less than a full season worth of games played, Chisholm has shown major excitement and screams marketability. While last season was his first full season in the majors and he showed growing pains, he still exhibited high-intensity base running and fielding.
The 2022 Marlins may contend for an NL Wild Card spot throughout the summer, but this team is not built yet for playoff contention despite having a talented, young pitching staff.
Chisholm will look to be an intriguing piece for this club going forward and his role will probably sell a few tickets and jerseys alone.
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