NL MVP Rankings: Carlos Beltran Challenges Joey Votto for No. 1
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There's not much change in this week's National League MVP rankings. Actually, if you look at last week's top contenders for the award, you'll see that everyone is in the same place.
However, that doesn't mean each of the five candidates didn't make any sort of push. Of the five NL MVP contenders we listed last week, virtually all of them put up impressive numbers at the plate.
Unfortunately for those outside our top five, no one could shove their way in. So the Brewers' Ryan Braun, Phillies' Carlos Ruiz and Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton remain honorable mentions. NL RBI leader Andre Ethier and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen also deserve consideration. Ethier will surely take consolation in his new $85 million contract, while McCutchen draws solace from the Pirates' fight for first place.
We welcome other suggestions and support in the comments. But this week, these five players look like the best candidates for NL MVP.
5. Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants
Melky Cabrera continues to lead the NL with a .366 average.
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Last week: No. 5.
Since last week's NL MVP rankings, Melky Cabrera has sat out three games to rest a hamstring injury. But he was back in the lineup on Tuesday and went 2-for-4.
Should Cabrera be penalized for missing the Giants' weekend series versus the Texas Rangers? San Francisco ended up losing two of those three games and was shut out in each loss.
Well, if that's the effect Cabrera's absence has on the Giants lineup, then he truly is an MVP contender. But if we didn't remove Matt Kemp from the rankings (and the No. 1 spot) for a couple of weeks while he was out with his hamstring injury, then it doesn't seem fair to do so with Cabrera.
The Giants outfielder continues to lead the NL with a .366 batting average, nine points ahead of Joey Votto. His .405 on-base percentage is fourth in the league, and his .935 OPS is good for ninth. Cabrera has also compiled a .531 slugging percentage helped out by a league-leading seven triples.
He probably needs to tally more home runs and RBI to move up in these rankings. But the Giants are 4.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West, and if they stay competitive in the division, Cabrera looks like an MVP candidate.
4. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Carlos Gonzalez keeps launching baseballs out of Coors Field.
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Last week: No. 4.
Since making his debut in our top five last week, Carlos Gonzalez keeps swinging a big stick for the Colorado Rockies. In his past four games, Gonzalez hit 7-for-19 (.368) with two home runs and three RBI.
With 16 homers and 48 RBI, Gonzalez ranks second in the NL in both categories. His .323 batting average is the eighth-best figure in the league, his .616 slugging percentage is second and his 1.001 OPS ranks third among NL batters.
However, there is one red flag with Gonzalez's numbers that Matthew Schiesl brought up in the comments of last week's rankings. How much does Gonzalez benefit from playing most of his games at Coors Field? On the road, he has a .248/.307/.457 slash average with four homers and 13 RBI. But at home, Gonzalez is batting .386/.447/.748 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI.
So how much of a factor will that be among analysts, fans and MVP voters as the season progresses? A 400-point difference in OPS between home and road games for Gonzalez is a significant disparity.
Gonzalez already faced an uphill battle in MVP consideration with the Rockies stuck in fourth place and all but out of playoff contention already. Amazing numbers from him could help him over that obstacle. But if voters think he's a product of Coors Field, that could ultimately squash his chances at the award.
3. David Wright, New York Mets
If the Mets fall out of contention, how will that affect Wright's MVP chances?
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Last week: No. 3.
David Wright has had another strong week at the plate since our last NL MVP rankings were posted. In his past five games, Wright hit 5-for-18 (.444) with a home run and three walks.
That keeps Wright among the NL leaders in each of the slash average categories. His .352 batting average is third in the league, his .454 on-base percentage ranks second and only one other NL batter has an OPS higher than Wright's 1.030.
Wright also ranks second among NL hitters in FanGraphs' WAR (Wins Above Replacement) at 3.7. He's third in Baseball-Reference's WAR at 3.3. (I'm curious as to which one fans and analysts prefer. I tend to usually look at FanGraphs' version first. No good reason. Just a personal preference.)
But what if the Mets begin to slide out of contention in the NL East? With two losses to the Nationals last week and a three-game sweep by the Yankees over the weekend, the Mets fell five games behind in their division. Their playoff chances may have been dealt a serious blow.
As long as Wright keeps hitting like he has, he'll be a top NL MVP candidate throughout the season. But if the Mets aren't in the playoff chase, it's difficult to imagine he'll finish ahead of the competition.
2. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Beltran celebrates another NL-leading home run. (Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)
Last week: No. 2.
Carlos Beltran is doing all he can to take back the top spot among our five NL MVP contenders. The Cardinals outfielder had an outstanding week, batting 8-for-18 (.444) with three home runs and four RBI.
Beltran's 18 homers lead the NL, while his 46 RBI rank third in the league. His .588 slugging percentage is also the third-best total among the top NL hitters. But a .289 batting average and .376 on-base percentage bring his OPS down to .964, sixth among league leaders.
Obviously, those numbers are outstanding. Beltran's resurgence as one of baseball's top batters has been one of the best stories to follow during the 2012 season. His power totals say he's one of the top sluggers in baseball. But is Beltran just a touch below the elite hitters in the game with his slash average numbers?
Not helping his cause is the Cardinals' recent performance. St. Louis took two of three from the Astros, as it should. But losing two games to the Cleveland Indians over the weekend in interleague play hurt the Cards, and they're now three games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. They're even two behind the Pittsburgh Pirates at this point.
But the Cardinals are hardly out of the NL playoff race, and it's hard to imagine they'll fall to that point. Beltran figures to be right near the top of NL MVP consideration for the rest of the season.
1. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto leads the NL in on-base and slugging percentage.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Last week: No. 1.
After taking the top spot from Carlos Beltran last week, Joey Votto maintains his standing above his peers in the National League.
In five games since our previous set of rankings, Votto went 9-for-20 (.450) with two homers, four doubles, six RBI and three walks. He continues to be an on-base machine for the Reds, leading the majors in on-base percentage (.479) and walks (49).
Votto is going to keep racking up those walks too, as opposing managers opt to pitch around him and face Brandon Phillips instead. I witnessed this firsthand last weekend as the Reds played the Tigers and Jim Leyland twice put Votto on first base rather than let him do damage with his bat. Votto currently leads the majors with 10 intentional walks.
His 26 doubles are four more than anyone in baseball, helping him to an NL-leading .643 slugging percentage. His 1.121 OPS is the highest total among major league batters.
The Reds first baseman also benefited from a friendly scoring decision last Saturday when a fly ball he hit to left field was lost in the sun by the Tigers' Delmon Young. Young dropped the ball, and Votto was given a double and two RBI. The Tigers appealed that scoring decision, but as the Detroit Free Press' John Lowe reports, MLB declined the appeal on Wednesday.
Possible home cooking aside, it's not like Votto hasn't done plenty on his own to be regarded as the best player in the NL. Both FanGraphs (3.9) and Baseball-Reference (3.8) rank him as the top player in WAR. That doesn't figure to change over the next four months.
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