Cincinnati Reds: Brandon Phillips Is the Obscure NL MVP Candidate

Pete Dymeck@PeteDymeckAnalyst IApril 29, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 16:  Brandon Phillips #4 of the Cincinnati Reds swings at a pitch during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park on April 16, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Nearly one month into the season and the National League Most Valuable Player race is taking form. Obviously, Atlanta Braves slugger Justin Upton is leading the pack. Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper are early candidates as well.

However, one obscure candidate is Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips.

As of April 29, Phillips is the NL leader in RBI with 24 through 25 games. He has also added four HR to coincide with his 14 runs scored.

While Phillips' .272 AVG doesn't stand out among the aforementioned candidates, we can expect it to settle in the .280 to .295 range by the end of the season. Additionally, the second baseman is expected to provide more power at the plate. After all, we are already witnessing an uptick in his Fly Ball Percentage (FB percent). 

Although, teammate Shin-Soo Choo continues to receive admiration for his early accomplishments with the club. Additionally, it is hard to fathom Phillips surpassing first baseman Joey Votto in recognition of the best player in the Queen City. Despite these obstacles, Phillips has the chance to become just the second middle infielder to win the NL MVP since 2001.

The Reds currently sit in third place in the NL Central division. At one-and-a-half games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, they are still considered the team to beat in the division. With Jay Bruce struggling at the dish and an expected adjustment for Choo looming, it will be up to Phillips to steer the Reds.

Votto is in the early stages of an odd season. He is walking at the highest rate of his career thus far and his FB percent is in decline for the fifth consecutive season. Additionally, Votto is striking out at a higher rate than ever before while seeing his AVG dip to a career low. The uniqueness of Votto's 2013 season is difficult to understand. 

Meanwhile, Phillips' appeal lies in his defensive capabilities. On any given night the Reds second baseman can be a 'Web Gem' nominee. 

At this point in the season, any suggestion that Phillips cannot win the NL MVP is side-splitting. The last middle infielder to win the honors, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, did so without cracking the NL All-Star roster in 2007.

In late April, Choo remains the catalyst for the Reds offense. However, it is Phillips who incites the continuity of the offense once Choo reaches base. Soon to be 32 years old, Phillips' ability to maintain the continuance of Cincy's offense will prove to be vital as they make a run at their third division title in four years.