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MLB: First-Month MVPs for All 30 Teams

Geoff EstesCorrespondent IMay 1, 2012

MLB: First-Month MVPs for All 30 Teams

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    The MLB season is already a month old. 

    We begin May with some teams looking like the juggernaut many thought they would be, and some teams stumbling out of the gate.

    There is also a few surprises, such as the Baltimore Orioles, L.A. Dodgers and Washington Nationals.

    Batting averages and ERAs will come up and down greatly over the next five months, but it all starts in April.

    Here is an MVP from each team through the first month of the season.  Also included are two honorable mentions.

    (Stats are up to date as of April 30th).

Arizona Diamondbacks: Joe Saunders

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    Chris Young was on pace to be a lock for this spot until he went down with injury.  His numbers in 11 games were outstanding.  But 11 games is 11 games, and for a position player, that is not quite enough to consider him the MVP.

    Joe Saunders has only appeared in four games, but as a starter, that is equivalent to about 20 position player games.

    Saunders has been lights out.  His record is only 2-1, but he has thrown 30 innings, allowing just 19 hits and three earned runs, with 18 K's as opposed seven walks.  That comes out as a 0.87 WHIP and a 0.90 ERA.

    Saunders starts against Washington on Wednesday to try and keep it going.

    Others deserving mention include Jason Kubel and Ian Kennedy.

Atlanta Braves: Michael Bourn

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    Michael Bourn has been the Braves' best offensive weapon by far in April.

    Bourn is hitting .344 with a .410 OBP.  Bourn is not a power hitter, as evidenced by his goose egg in the home run category, but he can often stretch singles into doubles or doubles into triples with his speed.  Bourn has seven stolen bases in 10 attempts.

    The Braves' pitching staff has been good as usual, but the offense has been equally as impressive, led by Bourn's hitting and speed.

    Others deserving mention include Brandon Beachy and Freddie Freeman.

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones

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    Baltimore is somehow sitting at first place in the AL East.

    Adam Jones has been a big reason for the O's surprising offense.  Jones has long been considered someone who could be a perennial All-Star, but he's been inconsistent.

    That isn't the case in 2012.

    Jones is killing the ball.  He is hitting .330 with six home runs and 12 RBI.  He is also an outstanding center fielder for the O's suddenly explosive outfield featuring Jones, Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis.

    Others deserving mention include Nolan Reimold and Jason Hammel.

Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz

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    Boston started the year about as bad as could be expected.  They have seemed to turn a corner in the last week or so, thanks in large part to the offense coming alive.

    David Ortiz's bat has been alive since day one.

    Ortiz, usually a slow starter, has been on fire in April.  Big Papi is hitting .395 with a .444 OBP.  He already has four home runs and 18 RBI on the young season.

    If the Red Sox want to continue to play good baseball and hang in there in the tough AL East, Ortiz will have to continue to be an anchor for the offense.  So far, so good.

    Others deserving mention include Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross.

Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro

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    The Cubs are not a good baseball team in 2012.

    This is not something that is unexpected.  Many Cubs fans did not expect much coming into the season.  One of the lone bright spots, once again, has been shortstop Starlin Castro.

    Castro has seemingly shaken off his offseason troubles to hit .326 with 10 stolen bases already this season. His defense remains shaky, with seven errors in 22 games, but his bat has made up for it.

    Castro is the face of the franchise right now for the Cubs, and so far he has delivered.

    Others deserving mention include Bryan LaHair and Ryan Dempster.

Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko

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    New manager Robin Ventura has the White Sox at .500 and right in the thick of the AL Central race.

    Paul Konerko is a big reason for the Sox's success so far.  Konerko, who was supposed to be washed up about five years ago, continues to rake under the radar.

    "Pauly" is hitting .383 with five home runs and 15 RBI.  His OBP is the same as David Ortiz's: .444.

    Konerko has been extremely impressive in April.  If the White Sox's offense wants to keep scoring runs and avoid falling off like last season, Konerko will have to continue to be their MVP.

    Others deserving mention include A.J. Pierzynski and Jake Peavy.

Cincinnati Reds: Jay Bruce

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    Cincinnati shelled out the big money to Joey Votto, who is having a good season, but Jay Bruce's 2012 campaign has been just a little bit better.

    Bruce is hitting .296 with seven home runs, 17 RBI and 14 runs scored, all categories in which he is the team leader.

    Jay Bruce had a career year in 2011, and he seems to be building on that in 2012.

    Others deserving mention include Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto.

Cleveland Indians: Derek Lowe

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    The Indians' offense has been spotty and inconsistent.  They haven't hit a home run in a week-and-a-half.

    The pitching staff, on the other hand, has been outstanding, for the most part.  Justin Masterson has had some good and some bad outings.  Jenmar Gomez has been great.  Ubaldo Jimenez has looked stronger than last year.  But the best of the bunch has been Derek Lowe.

    Lowe is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA.  He has been as consistent as can be. When Masterson has had bad command, or Ubaldo or Josh Tomlin have gotten roughed up, it seems like Lowe has been the guy, every time, to get the Tribe back on track.

    If the Indians continue to hang around the top of the AL Central, Lowe could be one of the best under-the-radar free-agent signings of the year.

    Others deserving mention include Travis Hafner and Jack Hannahan.

Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez

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    Quick, who leads the Rockies in batting average (.303), home runs (4) and RBI (18)?  It isn't big-money man Troy Tulowitzki—it is Carlos Gonzalez.

    Gonzalez won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2010 before having a "down" year last season.  His down year still saw a .295 average and 26 home runs. 

    He seems to be healthy and back to form this year.  Gonzalez, when healthy, is one of the best and most underrated outfielders in the majors.

    Others deserving mention include Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

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    Detroit has been struggling as of late, but Miguel Cabrera is not one of the reasons for that.

    Cabrera continues to be one of the best hitters in the Majors, hitting .298 with seven home runs, 20 RBI and 15 runs scored.

    Prince Fielder has obviously been a nice addition to the lineup, but Cabrera continues to be the Tigers' best hitter.

    His fielding, which was under the microscope entering the season, hasn't been as bad as expected.  Cabrera only has three errors so far this season.

    Others deserving mention include Drew Smyly and Austin Jackson.

Houston Astros: Jose Altuve

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    Jose Altuve has been fantastic in April.

    The young second basemen is hitting .373 with a .418 OBP.  He has scored 15 runs and has 10 RBI.

    Astros fans did not have a lot to cheer about a month ago after being picked as not only the worst team in the majors, but also being ranked by ESPN as having the worst farm system in baseball. 

    Their record still is not good, but at least some of the young guys, like Altuve, have given them something to look forward to.

    Others deserving mention include J.D. Martinez and Wandy Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler

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    2012 was supposed to be the beginning of the Royals' upswing.  So far, that has not been the case.  Kansas City hasn't gotten off to a good start at all, mostly due to subpar starting pitching.

    The hitting hasn't been awful, led by team MVP Billy Butler. 

    It seems like Butler has been around for years, but he is still only 26 years old, and he's having his best start to a season of his career.  Butler is leading the team in average (.329), home runs (5) and RBI (16). 

    Perhaps most importantly, there are six other starters who have more, or as many strikeouts as Butler.  Low strikeout rate is a nice luxury for a power-hitting DH to have.

    Others deserving mention include Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar.

Los Angeles Angels: Torii Hunter

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    The Angles have been a huge disappointment so far in 2012.  All the talk was about Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.  Apparently, everybody forgot about Torii Hunter.

    Hunter has had a throwback year as the Angel's center fielder.  He is leading the team in batting average (.284), RBI (9), OBP (.341) and hits (23).  Hunter's nine RBI may not be outstanding, but for a team struggling to score runs, it is pretty good.

    If the Angels can turn it around and be a contender this season, they have Torii Hunter to thank for keeping them in at least a couple games in April.

    Others deserving mention include Howard Kendrick and Mark Trumbo.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp

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    As good as the Dodgers' pitching staff has been, and as good as Andre Ethier has been, they all have paled in comparison to Matt Kemp.

    Kemp hasn't lost a step from his breakout season last year.  He is hitting .425 with a .495 OBP, to go along with 11 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 runs scored.  Kemp also leads the majors with an unbelievable 1.383 OPS.

    Those numbers are incredible considering he has only played 22 games.

    The Dodgers are in first place, and if they continue to contend into the late months, I wouldn't expect Kemp to be passed over for the MVP this season.

    Others deserving mention include Andre Either and Clayton Kershaw.

Miami Marlins: Omar Infante

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    The new Marlins look a lot like the old Marlins. 

    Miami—who was supposed to be a revamped team with a new name, new uniforms and a new stadium—is losing games like the Marlins of old.

    They are 8-14 right now, and their MVP has been Omar Infante.  Infante is a good ball player, but with guys like Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Giancarlo Stanton, that shouldn't be the case.

    However, Infante is having a career year.  He is hitting .323 with five home runs and 14 runs scored.  Obviously, the guys in front of Infante are not getting on base, because he only has seven RBI.

    The Marlins are getting a lot out of guys like Infante and Logan Morrison, but they need their stars to step up soon.

    Others deserving mention include Logan Morrison and Anibal Sanchez.

Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart

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    Milwaukee has been a strange team to figure out this season.  They may look great one day and awful the next.

    The one constant this season has been Corey Hart. 

    Hart is hitting .286 with six home runs and 13 RBI.  His OBP is an impressive .378. 

    With the loss of Prince Fielder and the slow start of Ryan Braun, Corey Hart has been the guy keeping the Brewers in the thick of the NL Central.

    Others deserving mention include George Kottaras and Zack Greinke.

     

    Author's Note: This was typed at about 8:00 p.m. Monday, before Braun's incredible game.  I stuck with my guys and used Hart because of his consistency in April.  But come on, Braun, that was ridiculous.

Minnesota Twins: Josh Willingham

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    Minnesota is a mess.  The lineup has been surprisingly good, led by first-month MVP Josh Willingham, but the pitching is a disaster.

    Willingham has been on fire in April.  His OBP is .457 to compliment his .353 batting average, five home runs and 15 RBI.

    If the pitching can settle down a little bit, the Twins could go on a run.  To do so, Willingham will have to continue to produce.

    Others deserving mention include Joe Mauer and Denard Span.

New York Mets: David Wright

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    If anybody could contend with Matt Kemp for first-month National League MVP, it is David Wright.

    The Mets third baseman has been on a tear.  Wright is hitting .397 with an incredible .506 OBP.  He has three home runs, 14 RBI and 14 runs scored. 

    The Mets are four games over .500, and if David Wright keeps playing like the best third baseman in New York, and the pitching staff holds up, they may just contend in the AL East

    Others deserving mention include Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey.

New York Yankees: Derek Jeter

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    The Yankees captain had a monster April.

    Jeter is hitting .396 with a .440 OBP, has already scored 16 runs, belted four homers and has 13 RBI.

    Four Yankees starters have yet to commit an error, but Jeter is not one of them.  He has one error in the first month, which isn't bad for a guy who is considered to be slipping defensively.

    Jeter is the Tim Duncan of baseball.  Every time we count him out, he goes on a hot streak and makes us remember why he is the captain of so many championship teams.

    Others deserving mention include Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher.

Oakland A's: Bartolo Colon

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    42.2 innings pitched. 2.53 ERA. 0.94 WHIP. 26 K's. Six walks.

    Those are Bartolo Colon's numbers this season.  He has been a workhorse for the A's, and he continues to impress.

    Colon was all but finished as a major league pitcher a year or two ago, but he's rejuvenated his career with good control and the ability to eat innings, among other things.

    Colon has been so good for the A's that after his first four starts he was rated as the best fantasy pitcher in all of baseball.  Impressive start for the big guy.

    Others deserving mention include Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon

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    The Phillies' big problem has been the bullpen over the last few years.

    This season, it appears scoring runs is their problem.  The bullpen is no longer as big of concern since Jonathan Papelbon has came over from Boston and solidified the closer role.

    In 10 appearances, he has eight saves, a 0.90 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP.  In other words, Papelbon has been lights out.

    The Phils need a lot of help on the offensive end, but at least their starting rotation doesn't have to fret over every save opportunity anymore.

    Others deserving mention include Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen

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    Pittsburgh's most marketable star in years continues to produce.

    Andrew McCutchen has been the Pirates' best player in 2012.  McCutchen is hitting .302 with 12 runs scored and five steals in April. 

    His speed makes him dangerous on the basepaths and makes him an above-average outfielder. 

    If the Pirates are ever going to finish above .500, McCutchen is a good place to start.

    Others deserving mention include Pedro Alvarez and Kevin Correia.

St. Louis Cardinals: David Freese

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    David Freese has picked up right where he left off in October.

    He has belted five homers, 20 RBI and is hitting .333.

    Freese has led the Cardinals to a 14-8 record and first place in the NL Central.  He's also made them forget about that Pujols guy pretty quickly.  Well, maybe not completely, but Freese has certainly helped.

    The hometown kid has been the Cardinals' MVP and if he keeps it up, he could be in the running for the NL MVP come October.

    Others deserving mention include Jake Westbrook and Yadier Molina.

San Diego Padres: Chase Headley

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    San Diego is not a good team.

    Chris Denorfia leads the team in batting average with a .326 average.  Second place belongs to Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso, both hitting only .253.

    Headley has added four home runs, 14 RBI and 16 runs scored, which amounts to a nice, solid April.  Headley has also drawn 19 walks, which gives him a .388 OBP.  The ability to get on base and knock in runs makes Headley San Diego's MVP.

    Others deserving mention include Chris Denorfia and Cory Luebke.

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey

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    The Giants are glad to have their catcher back.

    Buster Posey continues to be one of the best catchers in baseball this season. 

    Posey finished April hitting .353 with four home runs and nine RBI.  Posey is also a very good defensive catcher, which is always a plus.

    Posey is eighth in the majors with a 1.016 OPS and is the only catcher in the top 19 in that category.  Yadier Molina is 20th.

    Others deserving mention include Pablo Sandoval and Matt Cain.

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez

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    Seattle is not a run-scoring team, therefore they need solid starting pitching to win games.

    Felix Hernandez is more than solid.

    He is 2-1 with a 2.23 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP.  He is averaging over 106 pitches per outing, which saves the Seattle bullpen.

    Hernandez should be sitting at at least three or four wins with some decent run support, as five of his six starts have been quality starts.  Look for Hernandez to be in the discussion for the Cy Young if he keeps pitching like this.

    Others deserving mention include Ichiro Suziki and Jesus Montero.

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria

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    Evan Longoria has always had the home runs and RBI numbers, like he does this season with four and 19, respectively.  It is his batting average that has been bad at times.

    Through April he is hitting .329.

    If Longoria can keep his batting average above .300, to go along with his power numbers and defense, he could become a legitimate AL MVP candidate.

    Others deserving mention include Matt Joyce and Fernando Rodney.

Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton

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    The first-month MVP is the entire American League has to be Josh Hamilton.

    Hamilton has been unreal for the Rangers in April.  He is leading the team in seemingly everything.

    Hamilton leads the Rangers in batting average (.395), home runs (9), RBI (25), OBP (.438) and OPS (1.182).  The only category he doesn't lead the Rangers in is runs (20), which is led by Ian Kinsler, who is tied with Matt Kemp for the major league lead with 24.

    Hamilton is on pace to have a career year and haul in a big contract in his contract year.

    Others deserving mention include Ian Kinsler and Colby Lewis.

Toronto Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion

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    Toronto is Jose Bautista's team, but Edwin Encarnacion has been their best player in 2012.

    Encarnacion is hitting .322 with eight Home Runs, 21 RBI and 15 runs scores.

    Encarnacion has always been a free swinger who is prone to striking out.  He has already K'd 17 times this season, as opposed to drawing seven walks.  The difference this season is that he is making contact more often, and when he does, he's hitting the ball hard.

    Toronto's pitching staff has been better this year, but the lineup hasn't been quite as good as expected, or at least it seems that way because of the low production of Bautista.  If Joey Bats can get going, however, and Encarnacion continues to hit this way, they could be a very dangerous one-two punch this summer.

    Others deserving mention include Kyle Drabek and Brett Lawrie.

Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche

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    The first-place Washington Nationals are being led by an unlikely slugger.

    Adam LaRoche is leading the team in almost all major categories.  LaRoche leads the team in batting average (.329), OBP (.415), home runs (4) and RBI (17).

    Ryan Zimmerman is hurt.  Jayson Werth started slow, but he's been coming on as of late.  Luckily for the Nats, LaRoach has been pounding the ball all month and has helped the boys from D.C. get to the top of the division.

    Others deserving mention include Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

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