Toronto MVP Josh Donaldson

2015 American League Most Valuable Player, Josh Donaldson Brings His Game.

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Josh Donaldson didn't come out of nowhere. He was a front line player prior to 2015.

When an athlete truly loves the sport he plays it shows. It shows in the hustle. It shows when the athlete puts his body on the line for the sake of the game. The fire and energy born of the joy of competition can't be faked. But it is forever admired.

There are an awfully lot of teams in Major League Baseball.There are so many Big League players it is hard to familiarize yourself, as a fan, with all of them. So for some it seems like this Josh Donaldson person came out of nowhere and won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2015. Josh Donaldson had already established himself as a front line player. Now he's raised his personal bar to elite player status.

The epic hustle and play of 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson.

Epic heads up hustle by Josh Donaldson.
Epic heads up hustle by Josh Donaldson. | Source

Josh Donaldson ranked very high in wins above replacement in 2015.

Everything just clicked for the Blue Jays last year. Donaldson in a line up with Encarnacion and Bautista, that's a tough trio for any pitcher to have to deal with. As the 2015 season progressed the Blue Jays made some big deals, and acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.

There is one thing certain to be said about the people of Toronto - they love baseball and their baseball players. The team and management didn't win the pennant, but they sure did their best for the fans. It will surprise no one should Toronto win the American League East again this coming season.

But in 2015, a season where everything clicked for the Blue Jays, nothing clicked more than Josh Donaldson. He led the Major Leagues in runs scored, and the American League in runs batted in. Donaldson's total wins above replacement value was only lower than those of persons like Mike Trout, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Bryce Harper. The comparison to Trout came again and again last season. In 2016 Donaldson is going to seek to prove it wasn't a fluke. Whether he's more similar in style, and makes a more fair comparison to Trout or Harper is something debatable. Josh is older and more mature than either, and clearly in his prime now. He's certainly now thought to be one of the elite offensive and defensive players in Major League Baseball, and as he is now just 30 years of age, will be for some time to come.

Donaldson was already a potential MVP player - but Toronto brought out the best in him.

A sturdy case could be made for the notion that Donaldson didn't up his level of play at all last year in Toronto. What happened was he got out of Oakland, where the massive Colosseum saps away at a hitter's numbers for all the foul balls caught for outs in the dual purpose stadium. The place is a haven for pitchers. A statistics killer for hitters.

Baseball is a team sport though. So the set of guys you interact with every day as teammates always makes a difference too. No doubt Donaldson, at least early last season, got more pitches to hit for who was batting behind him.

You can't argue with numbers. Numbers and statistics just are. All that is left is the rest of the world, and all the myriad possible explanations for statistical aberrations. Donaldson's batting average and on base percentage had been higher in previous seasons with Oakland. What happened in Toronto is he increased his home run and run scored outputs significantly. These things can be explained easily when you realize what a pitcher's park Oakland has, and what an improved batting order Josh was a part of in Toronto.

Josh Donaldson as a Florida high school baseball player.

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Josh Donaldson excelled in sports in high school, but especially in baseball.

Probably nobody who grew up and went to school with Josh Donaldson is surprised at his success in baseball. Josh had been a fine athlete in high school. He was born in Pensacola but when to high school in Pace, Florida. Then he went on to Mobile, Alabama. Josh played football, basketball, and baseball. But baseball is where he excelled, but he was then a pitcher and a shortstop.

He literally batted over .500 his senior year in high school. Such things do happen in high school, but they aren't common statistics even for someone who goes on to become a professional. Don Mattingly comes to mind here, for his extreme batting averages in high school, and also for the way Josh led his team to a state championship in baseball.

I shouldn't omit here what a football player Josh had been in high school. We're lucky to have him in Major League Baseball, but Josh was also a fine football player. He had 11 interceptions in one year for Faith Academy in Mobile. He was also a wide receiver and a punter.

2010 Topps Update Baseball #US-172 Josh Donaldson Rookie Card

Originally, Josh Donaldson was a catcher.

Josh Donaldson would go from high school to Auburn University where he'd play 3rd base and catcher. He's got a rifle for a throwing arm, so he was suited to both positions. As a catcher Josh was gunning out nearly half of the would be base stealers, and also picked off significant amounts of base-runners. He was drafted as a catcher as the 48th pick in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Chicago Cubs.

Josh played well for the Cubs minor league farm teams, but was traded in a package deal to the Oakland Athletics. In the first month of the 2010 season Josh was called up to play for Oakland. His first appearance was as a pinch hitter, and he struck out. The very next night he got his first hit, and the ball flew over the outfield wall, a home run. He would not spend the 2010 season in the Major Leagues though, he was given a taste and then sent down to triple A ball to develop some more.

Still a catcher, Josh would spend the entire 2011 season for Oakland's triple A club. He showed good power hitting skills, and improved his batting average. It was the 2012 campaign, however, that saw Josh's conversion to third base. He would start the season as the Athletics' starting 3rd baseman. This wouldn't last. Josh would struggle, and get sent back down to Sacramento, the triple A team. Late in the season Josh would be recalled to the Athletics, and he'd shine, helping the team to the post season as their 3rd baseman.

Josh Donaldson as starting 3rd baseman for the Oakland Athletics.

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Josh Donaldson - Oakland A's Highlights

2013-2014 Josh Donaldson establishes himself as a star third baseman for Oakland's Athletics.

In 2013 Josh Donaldson was Oakland's starting 3rd baseman, and he would stay that way. He'd start strong, and stay strong. In September he won American League Player of the Month. He had an altogether fine season. He batted .301, had 24 home runs, and 93 runs batted in. He'd finish fourth place in the American League MVP voting. So Donaldson as a league most valuable player isn't a new idea. As good as he was in 2013, he was better still in 2014.

Despite how good Josh was in 2013, the news came out he'd still be paid the Major League minimum salary in 2014. Now, to be sure, a half a million dollars in salary is nothing to be too upset about. But the man had placed 4th in the AL MVP voting the previous season. Josh got off to a bit of a late start insofar as Big League stardom goes. No matter, he would give Oakland's Athletics his all in 2014.

Josh would be voted in as the starting third baseman in the American League for the All Star game. He'd win the Fielding Bible award for his defensive play at 3rd for the season. He had a fine year offensively too, but his batting average sank to .255, and he'd place 8th in the AL MVP voting.

2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson has a ferocious swing.

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Toronto Blue Jays star 3rd baseman, Josh Donaldson.

Just after the conclusion of the 2014 season, the Oakland Athletics traded Josh to the Toronto Blue Jays for four good players. Josh was by then an elite third baseman, the defensive and offensive equal of long time stars such as Adrian Beltre. Again Josh was seeking more in the realm of pay, and he knew he could get it. He was awarded over four million in salary arbitration for the 2015 season.

Josh started 2015 hot, and he stayed hot the entire season. He was awarded a Player of the Week award early, then voted in a landslide by Toronto's zealous fans as starting 3rd baseman for the mid-summer classic All Star game. Later in the season he won a second Player of the Week award. By the end of August Josh Donaldson was a shoe-in for the American League MVP award. He was also having one of the single finest offensive seasons in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays, rivaling teammate Jose Bautista. I personally remember listening to games on the radio, and hearing little of the play by play man's voice, for the Toronto fans shouting 'MVP! MVP! MVP!' whenever Donaldson was at the plate.

Josh's season would rival the great seasons former Blue Jays such as Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green had had, as he had both over 40 home runs, and 40 doubles. Something Bautista had not done. Besides winning American League MVP, Josh would win the Sporting News Player of the Year award. Following the season's end, and those prestigious awards, Donaldson would be awarded a nice two year deal of $17 million per season for the Blue Jays.

Highlights from Josh Donaldson's 2015 MVP season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Josh Donaldson will get a part in season 4 of the History Channel's 'Vikings'

You know, like Bautista, Donaldson isn't a huge man. He's only six feet even in height, and just over 200 pounds. But he can hit, and he puts his all into his swings. Also like Bautista, he's got a cannon of an arm, but Josh has more range as a 3rd baseman. He's a true great at 3rd. He's just 30 years old now. He was somewhat a late bloomer, but he's sure bloomed now.

Don't be surprised if Josh and Trout are fighting it out over the MVP over the next several seasons. Josh Donaldson was mostly raised by his mother, as his father was in prison. It was long before Josh's father ever got to see his son play professional baseball. But this has since been remedied.

As a man who's now won an MVP award, and placed highly in the same award's voting in the two prior seasons to the one he won the thing in, Josh Donaldson is a vital member of Toronto's clubhouse. He provides counsel and inspiration to the younger players, the prospects. He understands their needs, as he was once one of those people.

Josh Donaldson isn't only famous for baseball. He's also somewhat of a pop culture icon now for his hair style. Yes, you read that correctly, a man mostly known for wearing ball caps and protective helmets is also famous for his hair. Josh is a huge fan of the wonderful History Channel series Vikings, and will actually get a bit of an appearance in season 4. Look for it, but mostly lets look forward to the 2016 Major League Baseball season. Lets root for Josh, except for when he's playing against our hometown teams. Thanks for reading.

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