Origins of an MVP Award Winner

(Photo Credit to the Wiki Creative Commons, seen here)

13 inches of height disparity exists between 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge and 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve. Although the two have nothing in common when it comes to body size, they do have something much more important in common: great chances at claiming their first American League MVP award.

Their paths to the Major Leagues are quite different, but both ended up being absolute studs at the dish throughout their 2017 campaigns.

When Altuve was 16, he attended an Astros’ tryout camp in Maracay, Venezuela, but the team’s scouts didn’t allow him to participate as they deemed he was too short and that he was lying about his age. The next day, he returned and gave them his birth certificate to prove he was indeed of age to tryout. Altuve would impress at the tryout and was offered a contract with a $15,000 bonus on March 6, 2007.

Altuve went on to dominate the Venezuelan Summer League and the minor leagues over the next few years and would be named the Houston Astros Minor League Player of the Year in 2011. He was promoted to the Astros in July of 2011. On August 20, 2011, Altuve hit an inside-the-park home run for his first career home run.

Altuve would be the only Astros player named to the 2012 AL All-Star team, and would go on to make it to each AL All-Star team from 2014 to 2017. Although he is only 27-years-old, he is a four-time Silver Slugger winner, three-time AL batting champion, two-time AL stolen base leader, Hank Aaron Award winner, Gold Glove recipient, and a 2017 World Series champion.

This season was his fourth consecutive season with at least 200 hits, and he finished with a career-high .346 batting average. He smacked 24 home runs, while knocking in 81 RBI and swiping 32 bases.

Compared to Altuve’s finessed approach at the plate, Judge steps up to the plate with a much different idea.

Judge is the epitome of the changing landscape of Major League Baseball. With a young generation of fans that love towering home runs, No. 99 for the New York Yankees has quickly become a fan favorite, and not just by those in the Bronx.

A lot of his fans are from California, where Judge was born and raised. He played baseball, football, and basketball at Linden High School, which is located near Stockton, CA. He was selected in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, but he decided to enroll as a Fresno State Bulldog instead.

In Judge’s freshman year as a Bulldog, he was named a Freshman All-American. The next season, he won the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby (shocker). In his final season with Fresno State he led the team in home runs, doubles, and RBIs, while being named to the All-Conference team for the third straight season.

Judge was drafted 32nd overall in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Yankees. He never hit more than 19 home runs in a minor league season. He was promoted to the MLB in 2016, but didn’t perform too well for the Yankees as he had a .179 batting average and four home runs in 27 games. This season was a complete 180-degree change, as he finished with an American League-high 52 home runs and led the American League in runs scored with 128. 

With his towering home runs, comes a free-swinging approach, and opposing pitchers began to figure out that Judge would often extend the zone, as they were able to strike him out a league-high 208 times. 

The only man who hit more home runs than Judge this season was Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton’s name has been swirling in trade talks lately, but he will still hit massive home runs no matter where he ends up.

The right-handed slugger went to Verdugo Hills High School and Notre Dame High School in Southern California, where he was recruited to play college baseball and college football. The college talks stalled when the (at the time) Florida Marlins drafted him in the second round of the 2007 MLB Draft.

Stanton spent just over three seasons in the minor leagues before receiving the call to the MLB. Ever since that call, he has not disappointed one bit as he has smashed 267 home runs in 986 games.

The 2017 season was a career year for him, mostly because he was actually able to stay healthy. It was only the second time in his career that he has played at least 150 games, and the first time since 2011. His 59 home runs and 132 RBIs led the MLB.

He was the National League MVP runner-up in 2014, but has a great chance at winning his first MVP award this year. He has been named to the NL All-Star team four times and has won two Silver Slugger awards.

Stanton’s main competition for the elusive MVP award is none other than Arizona Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldschmidt attended Texas State University, where he set program records in home runs, doubles, walks, and RBI. He would become the first Texas State player to reach the MLB.

He was the Diamondbacks’ eighth-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, and nearly immediately became a factor in Arizona’s everyday lineup. In just over two minor league seasons, “Goldy”, as the Arizona faithful call him, was named the Diamondbacks’ Minor League Player of the Year twice and also won the Southern League MVP.

The Diamondbacks called him up to the major leagues on August 1, 2011. He has made it to five All-Star games, has three Silver Slugger awards and three gold gloves. Unfortunately, Goldschmidt has still yet to take home an MVP award, as he finished in second place in voting in both 2013 and 2015.

The announcement regarding the MVP winners will come out later today, Thursday, November 16.

Brendan Kennealy

Staff Writer with CBBSN.
ASU Cronkite School of Journalism Graduate.

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