This year's MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field promises to be one of the most interesting ones in recent memory. Both rosters are stacked with first-time All Stars, but there are also plenty of well-established stars and future Hall of Famers involved as well.
With the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Mike Trout, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto and so many other big-time sluggers starting the game, there is no shortage of potential Most Valuable Player candidates. With that said, there are countless great players on the AL and NL benches that could potentially put on a show as well.
Here are three under-the-radar candidates for MVP, who could possibly outplay their sleeper status and walk away from Flushing, N.Y. with the MVP Award in tow.
Perhaps the best player in baseball that casual fans haven't heard of is Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. The D-Backs are surprisingly in first place in the NL West over the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, and Goldschmidt is the biggest reason for that. He has been a monster in the middle of Arizona's order, as he boasts a .313 batting average with 21 home runs and 77 RBI. He even has nine stolen bases to boot, and he will take his act to Citi Field on Tuesday.
Truth be told, it's an absolute crime that Goldschmidt isn't starting for the NL. He is almost certainly the front runner in the NL MVP race right now, but he was beat out by Votto in the voting. Votto is having a great season in his own right, but Goldschmidt is playing at an entirely different level. Unfortunately for him, playing in Arizona means that he's an anonymous star. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Goldie is among the elite first basemen in the game this year.
In fact, Goldschmidt leads all first basemen with a 4.8 WAR, and he is tied for fifth among all position players. That is no small feat since defense figures heavily into WAR, and it's easier for non-first basemen to register in that area. Goldschmidt is going to enter the All-Star Game off the bench at some point, and don't be surprised if he delivers a big hit or two to lead the National League to victory.
It's not overly surprising that Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tends to be overlooked from time to time. After all, he does play on the same team as AL MVP candidate Chris Davis, and he plays the same position in the same league as Miguel Cabrera. With that said, Machado is having a spectacular year, and he certainly deserves the accolades he has received thus far. The incredible part is that he is doing all of this at 21 years of age.
Machado's run production doesn't jump off the page as Davis takes care of much of that, but his seven home runs and 45 RBI to go along with a .310 average are certainly solid. He also happens to play absolutely fantastic defense at the hot corner. Machado has a WAR of 5.0, which is second-best among AL third basemen behind only Cabrera. According to CSN Baltimore via Elias Sports, Machado is also the youngest player to lead the league in doubles at the All-Star break.
Machado has an amazing 39 doubles, and there is little doubt that many of those doubles will turn into home runs as he matures. Even though Machado isn't even the most-hyped player on his own team, he will be a major factor in the All-Star Game. If the American League wins, it's a pretty good bet that Machado will have hand in it.
A pitcher hasn't won the MLB All-Star Game MVP Award since Boston Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez took the honor in 1999, but New York Mets phenom Matt Harvey has a golden opportunity to break the drought. The 24-year-old righty has had a very special season to this point as he sports a 7-2 record with a 2.35 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 147 strikeouts in 130 innings. That was enough to earn him the starting nod for the NL, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
Winning MVP is very difficult for a pitcher because it's rare for one to remain in the game for more than two innings. That will probably be Harvey's limit, but he has the tools necessary to make a huge impact over the course of six outs. The MVP is his for the taking, but he'll have to mow down Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Jose Bautista and David Ortiz. It can be argued that there has never been such a fine collection of sluggers to start a lineup in All-Star Game history, but it certainly hasn't been seen in many years at the very least.
Since Harvey doesn't have to pitch long, his velocity is going to be insane. Throwing 100 mph will likely be the norm for his fastball, and that gives him a chance against the AL's top six hitters. Provided Harvey is able to have two one-two-three innings with at least three or four strikeouts mixed in, that will probably be enough to earn him the MVP Award, especially in his home ballpark.
*Rosters courtesy of MLB.com
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