In the same way that I appreciate Willson Contreras saying he’s going to be the best, I appreciate Jason Heyward’s response when he was asked who the 2018 Cubs MVP will be: “Me.”
There are two schools of thought on answering that kind of question. You can entirely deflect, and say something boring like, “There are tons of great players on this team, and it’s not about one player,” and whatever. Fine. Or you can go the other direction, and take on the confidence that all high-level athletes need to have (especially a guy who has struggled so badly at the plate for the past two years, despite such a long track record of success before that). For Heyward, I’d much rather he went the confident route, especially since we’ve heard that his work with new hitting coach Chili Davis might be more mental than mechanical.
Good. Have that confidence, Jason. Crush it.
That said, is it even plausible for Heyward to be the Cubs’ MVP in 2018?
Let’s assume there isn’t a series of catastrophic collapses all around him, yielding no possible answer but Heyward, and instead assume he’d be winning it because he outperforms even great performances from the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, etc., and the entire pitching staff. Is it *realistic* that he could do it?
At age 28, you wouldn’t think it impossible for a guy to have his best career offensive season (though it sure seems unlikely given Heyward’s trajectory and possibly-declining bat speed). Let’s say he manages to just barely top the best offensive season of his career (.277/.393/.456, 134 wRC+ back in 2010 as a rookie), and posts a 135 wRC+. Let’s further say he plays his typically elite defense in right field. That would make him like something extremely similar to Mookie Betts’ 2016 season for the Red Sox, which was worth 7.9 WAR. Not that WAR is the be-all, end-all of a team MVP race, but that figure would top any of the Cubs from last year, and would be just shy of the 8.3 WAR Bryant put up in 2016 when he won the NL MVP.
So is it *conceivable* that Heyward could be the Cubs’ MVP in 2018? Sure. It’ll just take him being the best offensive and defensive version of himself that he’s ever been. In a way, I suppose it’s quite a compliment to him that it’s even possible. Most big leaguers could be their best offensive and defensive self and that wouldn’t even make them an All-Star.
Here’s hoping Heyward does all that and then it’s a fun debate about whether he’s the team MVP, since SO MANY GUYS had amazing seasons …