In an announcement that surprised nobody, the Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson were named Most Valuable Players in National League and American League, respectively. Harper, who won the award in a unanimous vote, became the first NL player under the age of 24 to win the MVP since Johnny Bench did so in 1970. Donaldson outdistanced Mike Trout, who was the runner-up for the third time in four years.
Despite the Nationals' underachievement team this year, Harper's season was simply so much better than anyone else in the league that it was impossible to ignore. The 22-year-old lefty was third in the National League with a .330 batting average and led the majors with a .649 slugging percentage, .460 on-base percentage, 1.109 OPS, and 9.9 bWAR and 9.5 fWAR. He also led the National League with 118 runs scored and tied for the league lead with 42 home runs.
Harper became the first player from the Nationals-Montreal Expos franchise to win the MVP award, garnering the maximum 420 points. Paul Goldschmidt, bolstered by 18 second-place votes, finished second with 234 points, and Joey Votto finished third with 175 points, though he received just one second-place and six third-place votes.
In order, Anthony Rizzo, Andrew McCutchen, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey, and Clayton Kershaw rounded out the top ten. NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant finished 11th while Matt Carpenter finished 12th. This was the first time the team with the best record in the NL didn't have a player in the top ten since 2007, when Eric Byrnes finished 11th for the Diamondbacks, who tied for an NL-best 90 wins.
Yoenis Cespedes, whose name was mentioned in early September as a potential candidate by some, finished 13th and was only named on seven of the thirty ballots. He received two sixth-place votes, three seventh-place votes, and two tenth-place votes. Curtis Granderson received one seventh-place vote and finished 18th. Interestingly, neither Mets voter—Mike Puma and Mark Carig—named Cespedes on their ballot, but Puma was the sole voter to name Granderson.
Although Donaldson didn't win unanimously, he was named first or second on each of the 30 ballots cast, gaining 23 first-place votes to Trout's seven. Trout received 22 second-place votes, while Nelson Cruz notched the only other second-place vote. Donaldson became just the second player from a Canadian team to win the MVP award, joining George Bell, who took home the hardware in 1987.
Donaldson led baseball's best offense and boosted the Jays to their first playoff appearance since 1993. He led the American League with 122 runs scored, 123 RBIs, and 352 total bases. Donaldson batted .297 with a .371 on-base percentage and .568 slugging percentage. His .939 OPS was third in the AL behind Trout and Miguel Cabrera.
In high-leverage situations, Donaldson hit .351 with a 1.139 OPS over 115 plate appearances. He also smacked eight home runs and had 40 RBIs in those situations. Of his 41 home runs, 30 came in games that were either tied or had a one-run difference, and over 30% of his RBIs (38 of 123) broke up a tie game.
The World Series champion Royals were represented on the ballot by five players, with Lorenzo Cain finishing the highest at third. Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Jose Bautista, David Price, and Jose Altuve completed the top 10. The Yankees were represented by three players, with Brian McCann finishing 23rd and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira each receiving one tenth-place vote.