Last week, two of baseball's best, most marketable, most instantly recognizable players finally reached a career milestone: They won their first MVP Award. Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins (for now) and Jose Altuve of the Astros won close elections for the award, and no matter what happens the rest of their careers -- and the rest of their lives -- they can say they are MVP Award winners. Say what you will about the careers of, say, Jeff Burroughs, or Willie McGee, or Justin Morneau, or Terry Pendleton, but they have MVP Awards, and you don't.
Now that Stanton and Altuve have MVP trophies, there are 17 active players who have won one:
- Jose Altuve
- Ryan Braun
- Kris Bryant
- Miguel Cabrera
- Josh Donaldson
- Bryce Harper
- Clayton Kershaw
- Joe Mauer
- Andrew McCutchen
- Dustin Pedroia
- Buster Posey
- Albert Pujols
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Ichiro Suzuki
- Mike Trout
- Justin Verlander
- Joey Votto
That leaves a lot of greats, including some who will be making a Hall of Fame case, off the list. So I thought I'd take a look at the 10 best active players who have never won an MVP Award and still have a chance to. That is, the 10 players without one who are most likely to win one in the next five years. This is not necessarily the "10 active players who have had the best careers who have never won one," because that would just be a ranking of career WAR and that's no fun. (Plus, we've done that.) Adrian Beltre is an inner-circle Hall of Famer, but he's never won an MVP Award, and I'm afraid the ship has sailed on that one. This is instead a look at the 10 players who could realistically win one but haven't yet. Stanton and Altuve would have been on this list, but they've finally gotten off the schneid.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Top-five finishes: 2017 (fourth place), 2016 (fifth)
Arenado is always going to be hurt by where he plays his home games (only one Rockie has ever won an MVP Award, Larry Walker in 1997), but he's as respected for being an amazing all-around player as anyone in the game, he hits over .300 with a ton of RBIs ever year and he has won a Gold Glove every year of his career. The National League Wild Card run this year mitigated a little bit of the "surprise Rockies postseason run" factor, but if they ever actually win the NL West, he's the guy everyone will credit for it.
Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Top-five finishes: 2016 (second)
Betts actually finished sixth this year, which is particularly impressive considering most fans felt like he had a down year, at least compared to 2016. His batting average was 54 points lower, and his slugging was 94 points lower, but he still got on base like crazy, played amazing defense and was the leader of a team that won its division. If he has another year like 2016, he'll win one, although Trout may always stand in the way.
Byron Buxton, Twins
Top-five finishes: None
This is probably a year or two early on Buxton, but he was one of the best players in the game in the second half of the season and pushed his team into the postseason. It would help if he ever walked, but he's about to become a 20-20 player who might be the best defensive player in baseball, on a team that's widely considered to be the next force in the American League Central. The more credence voters give to defensive statistics, the better Buxton will do in the voting. Think of it this way: He hit .253 this year with only 38 walks and 16 homers … and he finished 18th. Put a full season together like the second half of 2017, and you've got a top-five finisher, at least.
Carlos Correa, Astros
Top-five finishes: None
Correa was the second-best player by fWAR on the Astros, not George Springer, and he was one of the top 25 players by fWAR in the game this year. He has stopped stealing bases, and there's still a school of thought that he'll eventually move to third base (thus slightly diminishing his overall value), but this is still a guy who is going to hit over .300 every year and probably 40 homers someday. Oh yeah, and he just turned 23 a couple of months ago. Altuve is always going to be the face of this championship Astros team. But Correa is about to become the franchise's best player.
Freddie Freeman, Braves
Top-five finishes: 2013 (fifth)
This one is probably a reach, considering Freeman has only finished sixth or higher twice and has missed more than 50 games two out of the past three years. But Freeman has shown true superstar abilities when he's been healthy, he's in the middle of his prime and he plays in a stadium that seems built for his specific offensive skill set. He was well on an MVP-like pace before he was hurt this year, and if he can stay healthy, and the Braves can take a step forward, you can see him reaping the benefits. Had he not gotten hurt this year, he would have hit 40 homers and batted .310. He has another year like that in him, and probably more than one.
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Top-five finishes: 2017 (third), 2015 (second), 2013 (second)
How has Goldschmidt not won one of these yet? How, for that matter, did he not win one in 2013, when he led the NL in every major category and won a Gold Glove? (The answer: Andrew McCutchen's Pirates made the playoffs, and the D-backs didn't.) Goldschmidt was a distant third this year, helped by Arizona's success but hurt by having a year that didn't match 2013, '14 or '15 for him offensively. He's already 30 years old, so he's running out of time.
Aaron Judge, Yankees
Top-five finishes: 2017 (second)
He didn't finish quite as close to Altuve as many thought he would, but, yeah, Judge's rookie season went well. The Yankees are about to be very good for a very long time, and Judge will be smack in the center of that for the whole run. He's likely to be the most popular player in the sport on the most widely watched team, and he's so massive, and his home runs so prodigious, that he's practically a cartoon character.
Francisco Lindor, Indians
Top-five finishes: 2017 (fifth)
Lindor is a genius defensively, a base-stealing whiz and already the most reliable everyday player on one of baseball's best teams. He's also as exciting to watch as anybody in this sport, or any sport. But this year he added a new wrinkle to his game: Power. He hit more home runs this year (33) than he did in his first two years combined, and while it cost him a few points of batting average, his walks and doubles were up. He just turned 24 years old last week. It feels like he'll be fighting Trout, Judge and Correa for MVPs for years to come.
Manny Machado, Orioles
Top-five finishes: 2016 (fifth), 2015 (fourth)
The down year in 2017 was sort of inexplicable, and definitely worrying, but then again, he was a monster in the last two months of the season and is heading into his contract season. He can make himself hundreds of millions of dollars in 2018, and for all the frustrations of 2017, he's still only 25 years old. He may not win one with the Orioles in 2018. But he might set himself up to win one in 2019 for … someone.
Corey Seager, Dodgers
Top-five finishes: 2016 (third)
A strong argument could have been made for Seager winning in 2016, his rookie year, but even while his numbers were down a bit in his sophomore season, he's still the most important, most consistent, most charismatic player on a team that could rule the NL for the next half-decade. He's also nearly a decade younger than Justin Turner, the other Dodger who might be on this list.
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