2013 MLB MVP Award Stock Watch Entering June
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With two full months of the 2013 season behind us, performance sample sizes are reaching a point where it's worth buying into those who are playing well. Especially those who are putting up Most Valuable Player-type numbers.
With that in mind, here's a countdown to update the top five candidates for both the American and National League MVP as we say goodbye to May.
All statistics come from FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
National League No. 5: Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
.287/.386/.587, 20 XBH, 12 HR, 23 RBI, 29 R, 2 SB, 1.8 WAR in 44 games
What Bryce Harper has done to this point in his career is absolutely incredible.
The lefty is more or less the only offensive player on the Nationals who's performing to expectations, meaning Harper is carrying the club that had baseball's best record a year ago...as a 20-year-old.
At some point, the boys in D.C. will get on a roll. As long as he can avoid a long DL stint (and keep from running into any more walls), Harper will be right in the middle of it, putting him in position to contend for the youngest ever to win an MVP award.
American League No. 5: Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
.291/.347/.532 BA/OBP/SLG, 25 XBH, 14 HR, 36 RBI, 28 R, 2 SB, 1.8 WAR in 55 games
A perennial MVP candidate, Robinson Cano gets bonus points for being a consistent force in the middle of an injury-riddled Yankees lineup.
Without (deep breath) Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis (forget anyone?) for most of the season, the 30-year-old Cano has done what's necessary to keep the Yankees not only afloat but also in playoff contention.
Having placed in the top six in MVP voting each of the past three years, Cano is likely to stay in this discussion all season long. If the lineup around him can get healthy, it will allow him to pump up his numbers even more.
National League No. 4: Justin Upton, OF, Braves
.249/.358/.518, 23 XBH, 14 HR, 29 RBI, 38 R, 4 SB, 1.7 WAR in 53 games
Did anyone in baseball have a hotter start than Justin Upton? The 25-year-old bashed an MLB-high 12 homers in April while hitting a solid .298.
Since then? Upton's been struggling, as he hit just .211 with two home runs in May.
It's still hard to ignore his overall numbers, though, or the fact that he's helped propel the Braves to the top of the NL East.
If he can put up another couple April-like months, Upton will remain in the mix.
American League No. 4: Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
.302/.360/.516, 27 XBH, 9 HR, 31 RBI, 37 R, 0 SB, 2.6 WAR in 55 games
You could certainly make a case here for fellow third baseman Manny Machado of the Orioles. He's been just as great as Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria in the AL. However, the second-year player has more to do to prove he can maintain this pace all season long.
As for Longoria, the key is that he's finally managed to stay healthy. We've been waiting for the 27-year-old's elite combination of offense and defense to click, and it has this year.
If he can avoid a lengthy DL stint for the third straight season, Longoria is primed for a career year.
National League No. 3: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
.282/.345/.451, 21 XBH, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 35 R, 14 SB, 2.0 WAR in 54 games
Andrew McCutchen's numbers aren't quite as eye-popping as they were this time last year when he owned a .331/.389/.541 triple-slash through May. However, he's still having a great year.
The Pirates are once again off to a phenomenal start, which only helps McCutchen's case.
If the 26-year-old center fielder avoids a repeat of his second-half decline in 2012 and instead keeps his team in playoff contention, he may have the best narrative case for NL MVP.
American League No. 3: Mike Trout, OF, Angels
.296/.372/.553, 32 XBH, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 42 R, 12 SB, 3.0 WAR in 56 games
Hey, remember when Mike Trout was struggling?
Since bottoming out at .252 with a .724 OPS through April 29, the 21-year-old phenom has been on an absolute tear, hitting .333/.417/.684 with eight homers, 25 RBI, 28 runs and eight steals over his past 30 games.
In other words, Trout is arguably once again the best all-around player in the majors.
The biggest knock on his MVP credentials, then, is that even though the Angels have been hot of late, they still finished May five games under .500 and 6.5 games out of a playoff spot.
If Trout and Co. actually recover from that dreadful start and enter the postseason chase, he's going to have quite a case.
National League No. 2: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
.332/.411/.603, 28 XBH, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 37 R, 4 SB, 2.7 WAR in 54 games
Aside from the next guy in this list, perhaps no other hitter has come into his own more this season than Paul Goldschmidt.
In just his second full season, the 25-year-old first baseman is destroying baseballs and has become a much more complete all-around hitter and player.
While the Diamondbacks batters have been fine overall, Goldschmidt is the driving force in a lineup full of lesser-knowns. He's a big reason why the team is in first place in the NL West.
American League No. 2: Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
.354/.439/.738, 37 XBH, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 41 R, 0 SB, 3.3 WAR in 55 games
Normally, ranking second in batting average and RBI while leading all of baseball in home runs would be more than enough to be the top MVP candidate in your league.
Unfortunately for Chris Davis, the guy two slides ahead actually has been better.
Still, after a breakout 2012, the 27-year-old lefty slugger has improved every aspect of his game to the point where he's now neck-and-neck with last year's Triple Crown winner.
If Davis can keep it up, we could have another hotly debated decision on our hands in the AL.
National League No. 1: Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
.338/.462/.538, 21 XBH, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 45 R, 2 SB, 2.9 WAR in 56 games
It seems like Joey Votto isn't quite getting the respect he deserves for what he's doing this year.
Sure, he won the MVP in 2010, so it's not like he's been criminally overlooked in his career, but folks who focus too much on important-but-overrated categories like homers and RBI tend to gloss over Votto's production.
There are plenty of great players in the potent Reds lineup, like Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. Still, entering June, the 29-year-old is leading the MLB in runs scored (45), walks (46) and on-base percentage (.462). He's getting on almost half the time he steps to the plate.
Votto's approach, discipline, hitting ability and power make him one of baseball's most slump-proof and dangerous all-around hitters, which will keep him in the MVP race all year long.
American League No. 1: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers
.369/.445/.676, 33 XBH, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 45 R, 1 SB, 3.4 WAR in 54 games
It's not often a player wins the Triple Crown. It's also not often a player wins the Triple Crown and then (gasp) gets better.
But that's just what Miguel Cabrera is doing this year.
At 30, he's leading the majors with a .369 average. He's also on pace to challenge the all-time mark of 191 RBI.
Simply put, there's no better hitter in baseball right now, and as the reigning AL MVP, the award is Cabrera's to lose.