With so much movement of some great All-Star caliber players in this past offseason, the front runners for MVP are not as clear as they were. Especially in the National League where both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder moved to the American League, the award is up for grabs among many young and rising stars. I will pick the top four MVP candidates in each league and dig a little deeper to figure out what will push them over the top.
Robinson Cano has been in the MVP conversation for the past couple of years. In order for him to actually make a move this year, Cano will have to explode with one of his best years yet as a Yankee.
Last year Cano set career highs in runs scored and runs batted in at 103 and 118 respectively.
For Cano to win the MVP, look for a 30+ home run, .320 batting average and 110+ RBI season.
It will be hard for one to overlook numbers like that.
Now that Albert Pujols has joined the Angels and moved to the American League, his competition for MVP has greatly increased. His production last year was one of his lowest in his career.
Pujols hit .299 (first time in his career under .312) has 99 RBI (first time under 100), hit 37 home runs and scored 105 times, around 12 times less that his seasonal average.
Alhough these numbers are not horrible, Pujols will need to step up his game this season to make a run that the MVP.
Coming off one of the best seasons in his career, Prince Fielder should continue to improve his stats this year and make a solid run at the American League MVP.
If Fielder can keep his RBIs up above 120, improve his batting average to over .300, score at least 100 runs and hit 40+ even 50 home runs as he did in 2007, he will only add to the American League MVP race drama.
Look for Jacoby Ellsbury to start off exactly where he left off last year and even continue to improve some more.
After being injured for most of the 2010 season Ellsbury came back and posted some impressive numbers. Hitting a .321 average, 32 home runs, batting in 105 runs and scoring another 119 himself, as well as stealing 39 bases.
If Ellsbury can maintain these numbers throughout the 2012 season and even improve some of them some more, his chances of being MVP will be looking pretty good
Justin Upton was a young star who was in the MVP discussion for a while last year until Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun’s numbers couldn’t be ignored. Upton is not done improving yet; Upton will continue to grow as player both on the offensive and defensive side.
After the best season of his young career yet, hitting .289, 31 home runs 88 RBI and scoring 105 runs, it is clear where he will need to improve to really make a push for MVP.
If Upton can push his batting average over .300 and his RBIs over 100, his case for MVP will be very solid.
The only thing that could make him even better is cleaning up his play in the outfield. Last year, Upton ranked last of all outfielders in his fielding percentage with 13 errors.
Ryan Zimmerman has had his share of trouble trying to stay healthy for an entire season. For Zimmerman, his health is half the battle to win the MVP.
If he can remain on the field for a full season this year, he could turn a lot of heads and start conversation about his chances as an MVP.
With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder now gone, Joey Votto is now the National Leagues top first baseman. And really, he is far better than anyone else in the National League.
If Votto can just add some speed to his power and steal some more bases, Votto will be an all around great player deserving of an MVP.
Most people thought Matt Kemp was going to and should have won the MVP over Ryan Braun last year. And then when Braun got mixed up with the whole steroids situation, even more thought the award should be given to Kemp.
In 2011, Kemp had an amazing bounce back year from his “off” year in 2010. I quote off because it was still a season to be proud of, but what he posted in 2011 made 2010 look like a bad year.
Scoring 115 runs and batting in 126, while batting .324 and hitting 39 homers and stealing 40 bases, Kemp will most definitely make a great case for the National league MVP if he can repeat last season.