As the 2012 MLB regular season came to a close on Wednesday, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera put the finishing touches on the first Triple Crown season since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski achieved the feat playing for the Red Sox.
With a line of .330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBI, Cabrera became the 15th players in MLB history to accomplish the Triple Crown, with Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams the only two players with two Triple Crown wins.
While we could very well go another 45 years before the next Triple Crown is won, here is a look at the five players who have the best chance of being the next to lead their league in average, home runs and RBI.
Best Batting Average: .327 (2012, second in league)
Best Home Run Total: 31 (2012, eighth in league)
Best RBI Total: 96 (2012, 11th in league)
McCutchen came into his own this past season, and while he fell off in the second half, his first-half numbers showed that he is capable of making a Triple Crown run.
With a .362 BA, 18 HR, 60 RBI line, he ranked first in average, fourth in home runs and third in RBI. He was certainly in the hunt for all three categories at midseason.
The Pirates lineup will have to improve for him to make a run at the RBI title, and it remains to be seen if he has much more room to improve his home run numbers, but the tools are there for him to post impressive numbers in all three categories, and if everything comes together for one season, he could win it.
Best Batting Average: .342 (2006, third in league)
Best Home Run Total: 33 (2012, eighth in league)
Best RBI Total: 118 (2011, second in league)
Over the past few seasons, Cano has emerged as the most feared slugger in the Yankees lineup, and he surpassed the 30-home run mark for the first time in his career in 2012.
He's shown the ability to hit well over .300, and slotted in the middle of the Yankees lineup, he should have plenty of RBI opportunities moving forward, so there is no reason not to think he is at least a Triple Crown contender.
Home runs will likely be the biggest challenge for him, as he may not have much room to improve on the 33 he hit this season, but him exploding for a 40-plus long ball season would also not be all that surprising.
Best Batting Average: .326 (2012, second in league)
Best Home Run Total: 30 (2012, 13th in league)
Best RBI Total: 83 (2012, 23rd in league)
At the age of 21, Trout turned in arguably the best rookie season in baseball history, as he swiped a league-high 49 bases to go along with the above numbers and finished with a ridiculous 10.4 WAR.
He did all that in just 139 games, as he was not called up until April 28, and it will be interesting to see what he does for an encore over a full season of at-bats next year.
He's an advanced enough hitter that he should continue to contend for a batting title from here on out, and depending on whether the Angels opt to move him down in the lineup out of the lead off spot will go a long way towards influencing his RBI totals. To think that he could conceivably get better down the road, you'd be foolish not to consider him a Triple Crown threat.
Best Batting Average: .359 (2010, first in league)
Best Home Run Total: 43 (2012, second in league)
Best RBI Total: 130 (2010, first in league)
Hamilton already has a batting title and an RBI title under his belt, and he gave Miguel Cabrera a run for his money with a career-best 43 home runs this season.
Health is certainly a concern moving forward, as is his eventual landing spot this offseason, as there are few more hitter-friendly home parks than the Ballpark at Arlington should he wind up leaving.
If not for a slump to open the second half, Hamilton would have hit over .300 this season, and if he can avoid injuries and a slump of that scale, he could certainly make a run at the Triple Crown next season. Those are big "ifs," though.
Best Batting Average: .332 (2011, second in league)
Best Home Run Total: 41 (2012, first in league)
Best RBI Total: 114 (2009, fourth in league)
Braun had a fantastic 2011 campaign, taking home MVP honors amid controversy stemming from a positive PED test that was overturned on under shady circumstances.
While some fans still haven't, there is no question Braun has put all of that behind him and was great again in 2012, as he posted his second consecutive 30/30 season and hit a career-high 40 home runs.
A .313 career hitter, he is more than capable of winning a batting title. Still just 28, he may not have yet reached his peak as far as home runs are concerned. With fewer top-tier sluggers in the NL right now, Braun was able to finish second in the league with 112 RBI this year, so all the factors are there for him to achieve the Triple Crown, and in my mind, he has the best chance to be the next to win one.