The 2012 MLB season reached its conclusion several weeks ago, and right on cue is the bickering over the offseason awards.
Typically, there are several quality candidates under consideration for each major award—MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year—but outcomes are fairly easy to predict and there are rarely any shockers thrown out, as the voters tend to stay true to the common public perceptions.
But having said that, there have been exceptions over the years and there's no guarantees by any means.
Which Darkhorse candidate has the best shot at MVP?
In the AL, Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years and was part of a Detroit Tigers team that won the AL Pennant, knocking off the Yankees in the ALCS.
In the NL, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey finished the year with a .336 batting average and helped his team advance to a World Series victory over the Tigers.
These are the two common-sense candidates this year, but don't count out the dark-horse candidate from each league.
CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
If you predicted a member of the LA Angels would win MVP leading up to the season, chances are you were picturing their new free-agency acquisition—Albert Pujols.
No one expected any other player on the Angels to have a chance. Especially not a rookie. But outfielder Mike Trout had a phenomenal 2012 season and is certainly receiving consideration for the award.
Even the Detroit media concedes that Trout is Miguel Cabrera's primary threat in the MVP voting (according to Detroit Free Press).
Tigers' Miguel Cabrera's biggest threat to AL MVP award: Angels' rookie Mike Trout goo.gl/fb/cW42P— Freep Tigers (@freeptigers) November 11, 2012
Trout hit .326 as a rookie and launched 30 homers as a rookie. He was considered a difference-maker all season long, regardless of his team finishing in third place in the AL West and missing the Wild Card Game by four games.
Luckily for Trout, if he doesn't upset Cabrera for the MVP, then he's a lock for Rookie of the Year.
LF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun was voted the NL MVP in 2011 after leading his Milwaukee Brewers to the NLCS, where they eventually lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 83-win Brewers didn't have the same pop in 2012, but Braun certainly carried his weight and helped keep the team competitive.
Braun hit a career-high 41 homers—eight more than his MVP 2011 season total (33)—while he kept his average at .319 and drove in 112 runs.
It's hard to argue with Buster Posey's World Series ring, but Braun is alive in this race.