By Luke Winstel
In 2018, the Atlanta Braves have enjoyed the most success since the last time the franchise reached the playoffs five years ago. Young stars like power-hitting second baseman Ozzie Albies, former #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, and top prospect Ronald Acuna have received most of the attention while superstar and franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman has continued to dominate MLB pitchers offensively through the first 67 games of the regular season. Here are four reasons why Freeman is the NL MVP right now and will be a serious candidate for the award at the season's end:
1. He has hit five home runs in his last seven games played. He has hit safely in 23 of his past 24 games and has a batting average of .385 during that span.
2. The California native is not just a great offensive player, he gets it done as a defender as well (.993 fielding percentage and 2.2 UZR).
3. The lefty is on the NL leaderboard in almost every statistical category. He leads the NL in batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.435), slugging percentage (.590), OPS (1.025), hits (88), total bases (154), and intentional walks (8). He is second in RBI, doubles, and extra-base hits. Freeman has also hit the fourth most home runs in the NL (14) and places 6th in the league in runs and walks.
4. 67 games into the season, Freeman has a WAR* (Wins above replacement) of 3.6. The ninth-year veteran is on pace for a WAR around 8.7, which on the single-season scale is in the "MVP range."
Additionally, the former 2007 second-round draft pick is not just a great player but is also a phenomenal veteran leader on a young Braves squad. He is one of the best hitters in the major leagues and a serious candidate for the 2018 NL MVP as a 28-year-old in the midst of his prime.
Note: All stats used in this article are as of June 13, 2018.
*WAR is defined by baseball-reference.com as "A single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (think AAA or AAAA) would add. The scale for a single season: 8+ MVP Quality, 2+ Starter, 0-2 Reserve, < 0 replacement level."