Even though there are over 20 games left in the 2017 regular season, make no mistake about it: outfielder Tommy Pham is the Cardinals MVP (we’ll leave the Rookie of the Year Award to Paul DeJong). While the pitching is inconsistent, the baserunning lacking, and still plenty of question marks at the plate, Pham has stepped up and not only filled in nicely, but has exceeded all expectations.

Before the season started, St. Louis had Matt Adams in left field. Then Jose Martinez. Then Randal Grichuk. Finally, they called up Pham against the Atlanta Braves, and he immediately made his presence felt. The 29-year old has struggled with injuries over the past couple of seasons, but that hasn’t hampered him this time around.

When Dexter Fowler has gone down in center field, the Cardinals have been able to shift Pham over, thereby keeping Grichuk in the lineup.

This year, Pham (entering September 5th.) is hitting .311 with 19 home runs, 61 RBI’s, 18 stolen bases, 116 total hits, and a .408 OBP. While he doesn’t lead the team in home runs, the fact he’s already surpassed the most he’s hit in a season shows the drastic improvement in his abilities.

Defensively, his versatility has played a big role as well, filling in not only for injured players, but maintaining his own starting spots. In a season in the Cardinals are hanging in there until the bitter end, Pham is the key piece they need to help them contend.

It’s up to St. Louis, however, if he’s worth keeping for the long-term. His first year of eligible arbitration is 2019, and free agency won’t come his way until 2022. With his performance this year, they might use him as trade bait (though it’d be unwise to do so), even though plenty of spots need boosting.