The Two Yankees That Could Win AL MVP This Season

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

If Spring Training stats are any indication of what’s to come from two 24-year-old budding Yankees superstars, then the 2017 season could be one for the record books.

Aside from the starting pitching staff coming together to eat up a vast majority of innings this season, there are two second-year players that will be called upon to carry this Yankees team on their backs towards the Postseason. They are Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.

Sanchez is the obvious, coming off 53 of the best games a rookie has ever played. Yet, quite often this offseason, the one stat that so many people overlooked was the one where Sanchez batted .299. In 229 plate appearances, Sanchez struck out 59 times and walked 24. Clearly, the guy is a contact hitter.

To fall only one point shy of .300 — having never faced Major League pitching is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

This spring, The Kraken has picked up right where he left off. After finishing second in last year’s AL Rookie of the Year voting, he’s slashing .375/.432/.775 with four home runs, 13 RBI and nine strikeouts in 41 at-bats.

Sanchez’s 24-year-old compatriot, Greg Bird, is challenging him for the Grapefruit League’s most outstanding player accolades — hitting .439/.511/1.073 with six homers, 11 RBI, and eight K’s in 40 at-bats.

My thoughts on why one of these two men could very well win the AL MVP this season are based on much more than just spring stats, though.

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By my estimation, I fully expect the Yankees to be in the thick of the AL Wild Card race for the bulk of the 162-game schedule. Hitting won’t be a problem for this club, and the defense has its positives. The relief corps will once again be a major strength.

When/if the starting pitching settles in, will only aid in the Yanks’ chances of clinching home field advantage in the dreaded one-game Wild Card play in.

Don’t believe me? Well, it’s my opinion, so too bad.

Sanchez and Bird are going to be counted on to play at least 145 games. For those of you wondering how this will come to fruition for Bird, with the presence of Chris Carter, it’s simple. Carter is a one-dimensional athlete that is a stop-gap solution for a bad team, or an injury replacement.

The Yankees are/nor have either of these problems. I understand why the club signed Carter, but Bird is fully recovered from last year’s shoulder surgery. By now, we all know what Carter is capable of. He’s a dreadful defender that only hits left-handed pitching.

This spring, Carter’s bat has yet to make much of an appearance in the warm Florida weather — .108/.223/.189 with one home run, three RBI, and 20 strikeouts in 37 at-bats.

If the Yankees want to keep Carter as a late inning stick off the bench, or as a waning insurance policy, then fine. He’s going to make $3.5M whether he plays or not. Of course, should some club inquire about his availability, a trade for a low-level prospect wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. A trade would open up a bit of cash and a much-needed 40-man roster spot.

Back to the MVP talk. The Bovada in Las Vegas recently released their odds on players to win the AL MVP to NJ Advance Media. Sanchez came in eighth place at 18/1 odds.

The seven players currently with a better chance to win the AL MVP according to the experts are Mike Trout (5/4), Mookie Betts (5/1), Jose Altuve (10/1), Miguel Cabrera (12/1), Manny Machado (14/1), and Carlos Correa (16/1).

Should Bird continue to rake at his current pace — once the Yankees open their schedule against the Rays on April 2, no one should be surprised when his name is added to the big board. With a swing tailor-made for Yankee Stadium and a Tino Martinez-like demeanor, Bird has just begun to ascend towards the ceiling of his potential.

But Bird will only continue to grow as a professional hitter if the Yankees allow him to get consistent at-bats against left-handers. And the club knows this. Sure, Bird may hit a few bumps in the road, but this kid has all the makings to be the next John Olerud, Will Clark, Eric Hosmer or even better.

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Sanchez is from a different planet. There’s not much to say about this all-around stud that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. I’ll tell you what, though, having Sanchez and Bird batting third and fourth in the lineup would allow both to reap the rewards of not being pitched around.