American League MVP: Josh Donaldson

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The staff here at TBOH bringing you Philadelphia Phillies coverage year-round was polled for their choices on the biggest awards in Major League Baseball for the 2015 season, and our consensus choice as the American League Most Valuable Player was Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Donaldson received the vote of five of our six staffers, with Los Angeles Angels outfielder and last year’s AL MVP Mike Trout receiving the other vote. The Jays’ slugger bashed 41 homers and had an AL-leading 123 RBI and 122 runs scored this season.

Donaldson hit for a .297/.371/.568 slash line and 41 doubles as well in earning a Silver Slugger in what was his 2nd consecutive AL All-Star campaign. Donaldson has finished in the top 10 of the AL MVP voting in each of the last two seasons. He has already been named winner of the AL Hank Aaron Award as the league’s top hitter, and was MLB Player of the Year as named by both The Sporting News and the MLB Player’s Association.

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I came into the season feeling pretty good about the potential that was there as far as playing in Toronto for 81 games,” said Donaldson, per Israel Fehr at Yahoo Sports. “And being involved in the lineup that I was in, a lot of guys who are very potent hitter and I knew we could have something special.

Donaldson was an MLB late bloomer, not establishing himself as a big league regular until age 27 in 2013. He had been the 48th overall pick of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cubs as a catcher out of Auburn University.

The Cubs deal Donaldson away to the Oakland A’s as part of a big seven-player deal on July 8th, 2008. While he remained primarily a catcher, the Athletics organization tried him out for a few games at both 1st and 3rd base between the 2008-2010 seasons.

In that 2010 campaign, Donaldson made his big league debut, striking out as a pinch-hitter for Oakland on April 30th against, ironically, the Blue Jays. The very next day, Donaldson got his first start at Toronto, and bashed his first career home run off Dana Eveland. Donaldson only remained with Oakland for two weeks, and then returned for a late September cameo.

It would take until the 2012 season for Donaldson to return to the Athletics, and this time it was as the club’s starting 3rd baseman. A mid-season injury limited his effectiveness, but by 2013 he was back and ready for a full-on breakout campaign. Donaldson hit for a .301/.384/.499 slash line with 24 homers and 93 RBI, and helped lead the A’s to the AL West crown. For that strong season he finished 4th in the AL MVP voting.

In 2014 it was more of the same for Donaldson, who made his first AL All-Star team that summer. He would end up with 29 homers and 98 RBI, finishing 8th in the AL MVP voting.

Just after Thanksgiving last year, the Athletics sent Donaldson to the Blue Jays in exchange for a four-prospect package that was led by infielder Brett Lawrie. Donaldson blended in perfectly with the Jays, adding another potent bat to a lineup that already had Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on board.

Donaldson’s production was a key reason that Toronto was able to win the AL East this year for the first time since 1993. The Jays got past the Texas Rangers in five hard-fought games, but then lost to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals in another set that went the distance. In the deciding Game Seven of this year’s ALCS, won by the Royals by a tight 4-3 margin, Donaldson came up small for a rare time, taking an 0-5 collar.

About to turn 30 years old in roughly three weeks from now, Donaldson has played in just seven games during his career against the Phillies. He has a .276 average across 32 plate appearances in those games, with three home runs and six RBI, all of that experience in the last two years. On August 18th of this past season at Citizens Bank Park, he had a 2-homer game to help lead Toronto to an 8-5 victory.

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