Major League Baseball announced the finalists for the 2019 offseason awards on Monday, and the Oakland A’s have a player in the thick of the MVP race for the first time in a while.
The finalists include the top three players in the voting for each award, and A’s shortstop Marcus Semien is in the running for the American League MVP. His competition is third baseman Alex Bregman of the Astros, and outfielder Mike Trout of the Angels. Click here to see all the finalists in both leagues.
Semien earned this nod with an enormous breakout season. After several years of consistently posting slightly below-average batting lines, he delivered significant career-bests across the board, from his slash rates and OPS, to his homers and doubles, to his walk and strikeout rates, to his RBI and runs scored. He even came within a stone’s throw of setting the Oakland records for runs, total bases, and extra-base hits, though he fell just a couple short in each category.
Semien, 2019: .285/.369/.522, 137 wRC+, 33 HR, 11.6% BB, 13.7% Ks
(Also: 123 runs, 92 RBI out of the leadoff spot, 43 doubles, 7 triples, 343 total bases)
On the other side of the ball, Semien had already famously worked his way from being the worst defensive shortstop in the league to a Gold Glove finalist in 2018, and he repeated that sparkling performance this summer with another well-deserved GG finalist nod. Quite simply, he was the best all-around shortstop in the majors, and one of the best players overall, leading a team that won 97 games and earned a postseason berth.
Looking at the big picture, Semien ranked third among AL position players with 7.6 fWAR, around a win behind Bregman and Trout. His 8.1 bWAR was also third behind that same pair, but in that category they’re locked in a virtual three-way tie that’s separated by just a couple tenths of a win. As an extra bonus, Semien was one of just five players in the majors to play all 162 games.
It might be a long-shot for Semien to actually win this award, considering the strength of the competition. Bregman and Trout are national mega-stars, and they each posted vastly superior offensive numbers while a hefty chunk of Semien’s value came from defense and positional scarcity. But there is a case to be made for him, and we will make it here on Athletics Nation in the coming days before the winner is announced on Nov. 14.
No matter the result, though, Semien will earn the highest MVP finish for any A’s player since Miguel Tejada won the award in 2002. Two A’s finished fourth (Frank Thomas 2006, and Josh Donaldson 2013), Matt Chapman placed seventh last year, and two more clocked in at eighth (Donaldson 2014, and Khris Davis 2018), but that’s the full list of Top 10 finishers in the 16 seasons since Tejada’s victory. Click here to see a full list of the last 20 seasons.
Congrats to Semien on this amazing achievement!