Who could be the next to win the Triple Crown?

In 2012, Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to lead his league in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBIs (139). No one has won the Triple Crown in the majors since Cabrera did it that season en route to being named American League MVP.

Ten players have won the Triple Crown since runs scored became an official statistic in 1920. This group includes some of the greatest hitters in major league history. Cabrera, who retires as a player after the 2023 season, is a perfect fit.

Who will be the next member of this elite group? The players below could win the Triple Crown, and we’ve divided them into three categories: favorites, contenders and dark horses.

Juan Soto, Yankees
Soto’s personal bests in home runs and RBIs, 35 and 110 respectively, are slightly below typical Triple Crown standards. No player has ever won the Triple Crown with fewer than 114 RBIs, and each league’s full-season home run leader has hit at least 36 in a full season since 1993. But Soto turned 25 in October. He’s on the cusp of what should be the best period of his career, already has a batting title to his name and could show more power as he gets older, although playing half of the 2024 season at Yankee Stadium may not bring it. meaning.

Aaron Judge, Yankees
Soto’s new teammate was very close to the Triple Crown in 2022. In what was still a historic year for Judge, he finished just five percentage points behind the Twins’ Venezuelan Luis Arraez, who led the American League in batting average. Judge hasn’t hit better than .287 in his other seven major league seasons, but his tremendous power gives him an advantage in the other two categories of the Triple Crown. If he can increase his contact percentage above 70%, as he did in 2021 and 2022, Judge could become the third Yankee to accomplish that feat.

Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers
Let’s not forget that Ohtani came close to winning the Triple Crown as recently as last August. He’s never driven in more than 100 runs in a season, but now with the Dodgers, he should see his chances of making runs improve, even if he spends most of his time batting second. Triple Crown winners typically finish third or fourth, but we’ve seen some players recently lead their league in RBI while mostly finishing second. This includes Judge in 2022 (131 RBIs), Josh Donaldson in 2015 (123) and Mike Trout in 2014 (111). And since we know Ohtani can’t do anything on the diamond, what’s stopping the two-time unanimous MVP from adding the Triple Crown to his list of accomplishments?

Yordan Alvarez, Astros
Alvarez has what it takes to be a Triple Crown candidate: He’s a feared 28-year-old slugger with tremendous pure hitting ability and part of a meaty offense that consistently ranks in the top 10 in runs scored. . . After hitting 37 homers in 2022, the Cuban hit 31 in just 114 games last year. At the same time, he and Freddie Freeman are the only players with an expected batting average of .300 or higher in each of the last two seasons (minimum 450 plate appearances).

Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
So why isn’t Freeman in that top category? He only hit 35 home runs during his illustrious career. And the point is not that there should be age prejudices, but that Freeman’s date of birth should be taken into account. Lou Gehrig is the oldest player to win the Triple Crown; During his incredible 1934 campaign, he was 31. Freeman is 34. His batting average heading into 2023 is .324, and he is expected to enter the batter’s box with many runners on base as he ranks last in the batting order. I’ve ever seen in a lineup. With a slight increase in power generation, Freeman might have a chance.

Corey Seager, Rangers
While Ohtani flirted with the Triple Crown last year, Seager, who finished second in American League MVP voting, could have been a legitimate threat to win if not for injuries. He hit a career-high .327 with 33 home runs and 96 RBIs, but missed 40 games with sore left hamstring and soreness in his right thumb. If we extrapolate these statistics over 162 games, Seager would lead Young Circle with 45 homers and 130 RBIs. It’s hard to predict good health for Seager, who has played fewer than 140 games in four of the last five full seasons.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
It’s tempting to look at Guerrero’s numbers in his MVP-caliber 2021 campaign – .311 batting average, 48 home runs, 111 RBIs – and just say, “Well, if he could repeat that season…” Unfortunately, the Dominican hasn’t even didn’t come close to repeating that performance. Although he continued to put up stellar hitting numbers, Vlad Jr. hit 26 home runs, a .264 batting average and a .780 OPS in 156 games last year. There are many theories about what caused the drop in production, but there are no clear answers. However, Guerrero is only 24 years old, so the Dominican has time to recapture his old magic.

Bryce Harper, Phyllis
Harper had one of those magical seasons in 2015, when he led the National League with 42 home runs and finished with a .330 batting average, three thousandths away from winning the title. Six years after winning his first Most Valuable Player award, Harper won his second trophy with 35 home runs and hitting .309 in 2021. Although he has surpassed 100 RBIs only once in his 12-year career, his RBI projection is helped by the Phillies’ solid lineup. Additionally, Citizens Bank Park should be a determining factor in Harper’s overall outcome. The key for him will be his judgment of the strike zone; Harper’s rate of changeups on pitches outside the strike zone was near the 70th percentile in 2015 and 2021. He was below the 25th percentile in each of the last two seasons and hit .290 during that stretch.

Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves; Mookie Betts, Dodgers
Barring a specific change, neither Acuña Jr. nor Betts will win the Triple Crown. This is not a bold prediction. The reason is simple: being first in line reduces your chances of hit-and-run driving. This occurs when you are guaranteed at least one empty plate appearance. How many Triple Crown winners batted first in order? None—unless you want to count the players who were first on Gehrig’s and Mickey Mantle’s rosters in 1934 and 1956, respectively. Betts set the record last year with 107 RBIs as a leadoff hitter (Acuña had 106).

Acuna and Betts were the two best players in all of baseball by bWAR, and they could be the best again in 2024. But reaching the Triple Crown will remain elusive as long as they remain the leading strikers in their lineups.

Fernando Tatis Jr., parents; Julio Rodriguez, Sailors
Tatis and Rodriguez each played 45 games last year, so both Dominicans share some of the limitations of the previous pair of stars. Both have the power to lead the league in hits; Tatis led the Old Circuit in corner four hits with 42 in 2021, while J.Rod hit him 32 times last year when he was just 22 years old. However, even if these two phenoms spend the entire season hitting second or third in the lineup, it will be difficult for both of them to compete in batting average because their singles and hit rates on pitches outside the zone are higher than theirs. any other player from this list.

Mike Trout, Angels
We’ve seen Trout produce incredible numbers even though he’s missed significant playing time due to injuries. For example, the 2022 slugger hit 40 homers in just 119 games. He also has three seasons with at least 40 home runs and five full seasons with a .300 batting average or higher. But beyond Trout’s injuries, there may be another obstacle that will prevent him from winning the Triple Crown: the Angels’ roster. Ten of the 12 Triple Crown winners since 1920 have played for teams that finished in the top 10 in scoring. The 2023 Angels finished 16th in scoring with Ohtani. While it’s difficult to predict a team’s performance from year to year, it’s fair to wonder if there are enough players around the 32-year-old slugger to reach triple-digit RBIs.

Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
Goldschmidt’s window to win the Triple Crown may have already closed at age 36, but the veteran deserves to be included in this debate because he had impressive numbers in all three categories not too long ago. Goldschmidt entered the final month of the 2022 season with a .335 batting average, 33 home runs and 105 RBIs. A lackluster September saw him finish behind Jeff McNeil, Kyle Schwarber and Pete Alonso in their respective categories, but in the end Goldie won the National League Most Valuable Player award.

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