DJ LeMahieu continues to add to his resume before what should be a fruitful offseason for the 32-year-old second baseman.
After finishing the season as the American League’s batting champion, becoming the first player to do so in both leagues, LeMahieu was named a finalist for the AL MVP award Monday evening. The man who has been the Yankees’ MVP for his two seasons in the Bronx goes up against the White Sox’s Jose Abreu and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez.
LeMahieu exceeded expectations in his first season as a Yankee in 2019, finishing second in the race for the batting title and fourth in AL MVP votes. He then improved his contributions during the shortened 2020 season. This earned him an $18.9 million qualifying offer from the Yankees.
It won’t be easy for LeMahieu to take home the league’s top honor, however, as Abreu and Ramirez both had superior seasons if going by FanGraphs’ WAR. But a field without Mike Trout and Shane Bieber, who many thought could make a push for the award, makes LeMahieu’s path a bit less cumbersome.
A traditional .364/.421/.590 triple-slash line for LeMahieu ranks above both Abreu and Ramirez, who finished with a .987 and .993 OPS, respectively. Abreu finished the season with a WAR of 2.6, Ramirez collected an MLB leading 3.4 WAR and LeMahieu finished with a 2.5, according to FanGraphs.
The main thing that could turn away voters for LeMahieu is the number of games played. He missed 10 games with a thumb sprain in August. LeMahieu hit 10 home runs and scored 41 runs to go along with his MLB best batting average. Abreu accumulated 19 home runs and 60 RBI. Ramirez had a more well-rounded season, hitting 17 home runs to go along with 45 runs, 46 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
If voters aren’t turned off by LeMahieu’s injury, they could look to his AL-leading 177 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus), which looks to weigh offensive production by adjusting for league average output and park factors. Taking home the award would give the Yankees their first MVP since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.
The award will be voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America and the winner will be announced Nov. 12.