We all know that MVP races often come down to the final weeks of the season. Who performs well in crunch time usually plays a large role in the decisions of voters.
Nonetheless, speculation is always fun. And with just two and a half months left in the regular season, the race certainly has been narrowed down.
So like I did when I broke down the AL MVP race, I’ll rank ’em in the NL, this time from bottom on up.
Luckily for me, there’s only eight guys I believe to still be in the race.
8. Matt Kemp
Early in the year, the LA star was the favorite for the award. But a couple of injuries later, his Dodgers have slipped out of first place and his numbers are no longer ahead of the pack.
It’s always disappointing to see injuries slow one of the league’s best; in Kemp’s case, the best. But I put him on this list because I do think he still has a small chance.
Hitting .354 with 13 HR and 31 RBI, his numbers are still better than most, and actually on par in some ways with some of the others on this list. But this National League MVP race will be one for the ages, so it may come down to all of the numbers.
With a few of these guys doubling up Kemp in the RBI category, his statistics, as a whole, likely just will not be enough.
7. Melky Cabrera
The San Francisco Giants have soared to first place in the NL West behind the All Star Game MVP, Melky Cabrera.
Hitting .348 with 8 homers and 48 driven in, he’s having a phenomenal year. But to be frank, he just doesn’t produce enough to win the award. His power numbers are severely behind most of the others on the list, and he could finish the year with about one third as many long balls and far fewer RBIs.
Now don’t get me wrong, he deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done in San Fran. But when you take a look at all the other players’ numbers, you’ll realize just how good the winner will have to be.
And let’s not forget…chicks dig the long ball.
6. David Wright
The New York Mets have been one of the biggest surprises in a year full of shockers, in large part due to their franchise player, David Wright. Hitting .354 with 11 HR and 60 RBI, he’s been hitting the cover off of the ball with great consistency in 2012.
But I’ve got him toward the end of my list due to two factors:
- First, in a year with so many people putting up immaculate statistics in the NL, the power numbers are key. I know he’s driven in 60 runs, but again, you can’t club half as many homers as the other guys and expect to draw near as much attention.
- Second, the Mets are quickly fading in the NL East.
I don’t want to take away from his year, because it has been nothing short of outstanding, but those two factors will make it tough for Wright to win the award.
5. Carlos Beltran
Get used to seeing guys from the NL Central on this list from here on out.
The Carlos Beltran resurgence story has been a great one, as he’s helped St. Louis fans take their mind off of the loss of Albert Pujols. While Beltran’s line of .292, 20 HR, and 66 RBI’s has been elite, there are still a couple question marks for him going forward into the last couple months of the year.
Beltran has been around the block a few times, which could be an advantage for him. But he’s battled injuries for years now, and with many more years of wear on his legs than everyone else, I think he may cool down in the 2nd half.
Will he still be a very good middle of the order force for the Red Birds? Certainly. But the guys that round out the list are much more likely to finish strong.
That is…very strong.
4. Carlos Gonzalez
CarGo is the first guy on the list who is playing for a non-contender. While that factor is obviously playing strongly against him, all of his numbers help you forget that.
Hitting .333 with 18 HR and 62 RBI, Gonzalez has one of the most complete lines in all of baseball. We’ve seen him go on ridiculously impressive hot streaks before, and one main reason why he’s so high on my list is because I think he’s got at least one of those streaks in him for the 2nd half.
Sure, he may have to be even better than he’s been to stay in the MVP race on a non-contender, but when you pair his youth, health, and home field being in Denver, the potential is certainly there.
3. Joey Votto
The Cincinnati star recently went on the disabled list for what’s expected to be 3-4 weeks. Hitting .342 with 14 HR and 49 RBI, that came as a huge disappointment to Reds fans and baseball fans in general.
But let’s say he comes back strong in a few weeks and goes on a tear, like he has so many times before; he’ll be right back in the race. Of the whole group listed here, he may be the most reliable hitter in any given game or at bat, so I don’t think that’s anything too crazy to ask for.
If Votto weren’t injured, he’d be number two on my list. But unfortunately his power numbers were already a little behind some of the others, and that gap will grow much greater by the time he’s back.
2. Ryan Braun
Braun has done it before, and we knew he could do it again. And so far in 2012, he has been doing it again, hitting .309 with 26 homers and 65 RBI.
If you had to pick one guy to lead the league in power numbers come season’s end, Braun is the best answer. When you consider that he hasn’t even been one of the hottest guys on the list of late, you realize just how far ahead he could be if he gets hot once again.
Now of course, he’s not on a contender. As with Carlos Gonzalez, this hurts his case. But if Braun out-slugs the rest of the list by a long shot from here on out, we could be looking at a two-time defending champion come October.
1. Andrew McCutchen
If you’ve been paying attention to baseball of late, you know the league’s best player has been roaming the outfield in Pittsburgh. Hitting .369 with 22 HR and 65 driven in, Andrew McCutchen has been on a hot streak for the ages.
He’s on an exciting, young contender in the Pirates, he has carried his team on his back for a while, and he has the most complete stats of any NL MVP candidate. You simply can’t pick against this guy right now.
The main question is whether or not he can keep it up in the 2nd half. The man is only 25, so you have to assume he has all the energy to burn in the world. Being trotted out there every day, I see no reason to believe that he won’t finish the year with superb numbers.
Will he be able to keep pace with his nearly .500 average of late? Of course not. But his consistency has been there all year.
If McCutchen can keep his power numbers up, and if the Cinderella story in Pittsburgh continues, McCutchen will be the clear-cut leader for NL MVP.