MLB Awards Predictions 2014: 1 MVP Candidate from Each Team
With Opening Day just over a month away, baseball fans everywhere are asking the same question: Who's going to be my team's MVP this year?
Baseball writers and analysts, meanwhile, are asking a slightly different one: Who's going to be the league's MVP this year?
Well, I've decided to ask both questions.
Instead of presenting you with the same top five list you've seen over and over (the one projecting the top AL MVP candidates to be Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera and the top NL MVP candidates to be Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen), I've chosen one player from each MLB team with the best chance of winning the award in 2014.
As a baseball fan, I understand the frustration that comes with constantly hearing about the same big-name players, while guys you watch on a nightly basis get completely ignored. We all want our favorite players to get some recognition, and that's what I've tried to do here (making an incredibly early MVP projections list is the best kind of recognition, by the way).
Each player was labeled as one of the following types of candidates:
- Front-Runner: The most likely player to win the award at this point
- Top 5 Contender: One of the top five candidates in his respective league
- Contender: A solid argument could be made as to why this person should be in the MVP conversation heading into April
- Long Shot: I'm not willing to bet any money on this player winning the MVP award in 2014, but he's the most likely candidate on his team
- Extreme Long Shot: Little to no chance of winning MVP, but he's on the list for a reason
I've also included one dark-horse candidate for both the AL and NL. This is the player that I feel is currently flying under the radar and is poised to have a huge 2014.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt
2013 Stats: .302/.401/.551 with 36 home runs, 125 RBI and 36 doubles
Paul Goldschmidt finished second in the National League MVP race in 2013, and I expect him to be in the conversation once again this year.
He's one of the game's elite power hitters, he hits for average and the fact that he won a Gold Glove last season doesn't hurt, either.
After playing on a team with absolutely no power threats outside of himself last season (Martin Prado's 14 home runs were second-most of any Arizona Diamondback), Goldschmidt should greatly benefit from the addition of Mark Trumbo (34 homers last season).
Wait, so Goldy could be even better this year? Yikes.
Mark Trumbo: He has scary power and is just entering his prime.
Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman
Top 5 Contender
2013 Stats: .319/.396/.501, 23 home runs, 109 RBI and 17 doubles
Freddie Freeman had a breakout year last season, highlighted by his fifth-place finish in the MVP voting. If he matches that production in 2014, let alone improves it, he'll have earned every penny of the eight-year, $135 million contract he just signed with the Atlanta Braves (the longest contract in Braves history, according to ESPN).
Oh, and did I mention that he's just 24 years old?
Andrelton Simmons: Slick-fielding shortstop with legit shot at 25 homers.
Justin Upton: Cooled off last year after a hot start; has an incredible amount of pop.
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis
Top 5 Contender
2013 Stats: .285/.370/.634, 53 home runs, 138 RBI and 42 doubles
Few had Chris Davis on their MVP watch list prior to 2013. They'll never make that mistake again.
Coming off an absolutely incredible season, Davis will look to lead what is looking to be one of the most dangerous lineups in Major League Baseball. If he hits in the No. 3 spot, he'll be protected by Adam Jones. Slide him down to the cleanup position, and he'll have the newly acquired Nelson Cruz hitting behind him.
In other words, Crush could very easily hit the 50-home run mark yet again. In fact, fans of Baltimore Orioles might have even higher expectations than that.
Adam Jones: Jones has the speed, the power, the glove and he's starting to hit for decent average. If he can improve his plate discipline...watch out!
Manny Machado: Machado is the best fielder in baseball, and he also led AL in doubles in 2013. He is of the most exciting young players we've ever seen.
Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
Extreme Long Shot
2013 Stats (in 18 games): .250/.320/.364 with a 1.000 fielding percentage
Xander Bogaerts isn't entering 2014 with any eye-popping statistics to look at, but he did perform quite well for the Boston Red Sox during their World Series run (.296/.412/.481 in the playoffs). That performance will be important for Bogaerts' confidence heading into 2014.
Could he be the next Boston superstar in five years? Absolutely. This year? Superstardom won't come immediately, but he could easily be the Red Sox's best player heading into September.
Dustin Pedroia: His 6.5 WAR was sixth in the AL last season; obligatory inclusion.
David Ortiz: No explanation necessary.
Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo
2013 Stats: .233/.323/.419, 23 home runs, 80 RBI and 40 doubles
Anthony Rizzo was a doubles machine for the Chicago Cubs last season, finishing 10th among all MLB players with 40. He also led the team in home runs and RBI.
If the Cubs hope to have a successful 2014, they'll need Rizzo to produce from that No. 3 spot.
Starlin Castro: The only other Cubs player capable of finishing in the top five in something (hits).
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu
Extreme Long Shot
2013 Stats (in 83 games in Cuba): .344/.479/.604, 19 home runs, 60 RBI and 19 IBBs
Remember the show that Yasiel Puig put on early last season? If any first-year player is going to replicate that output, it's Cuban sensation, Jose Abreu.
Abreu hits for average and has incredible power. Cuban pitchers were absolutely terrified of him, as evidenced by his 19 intentional walks in just 83 games (that would have tied him with Joey Votto for third place in the MLB and Votto played almost twice as many games).
If his game translates the way the Chicago White Sox are hoping it will, the entire AL Central is in trouble.
Chris Sale: Hands down the most valuable player on this roster.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
Top 5 Contender
2013 Stats: .305/.435/.491, 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 135 walks (compared to 138 strikeouts)
The 2010 NL MVP had another great year last season, finishing sixth in the MVP voting. While his doubles were down (30 in 2013 versus 44 in 2012 and 40 in 2011), he had a career-high and league-high 135 walks.
As long as he's healthy, Joey Votto will be in the MVP conversation. He's just way too good of a hitter at this point to leave him off the list.
Jay Bruce: Big bat who finished 11th in home runs, fourth in RBI and fifth in doubles last year among all MLB players.
Aroldis Chapman: Anytime a pitcher is as dominant as Chapman has been, you can usually back up even the craziest of predictions (like a closer winning the MVP, for example).
Cleveland Indians: Jason Kipnis
2013 Stats: .284/.366/.452, 17 home runs, 84 RBI and 30 stolen bases
I doubt many people know too much about Jason Kipnis, and that's too bad. In addition to finishing 11th in MVP voting last season, he's also won the Heart and Hustle award each of the last two years. What more could the Cleveland Indians ask for?
If he can improve his plate discipline (143 strikeouts), he'll be an MVP contender for sure.
Carlos Santana: Santana a career-high .268 last season. Can he bump that up to .285?
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
Top 5 Contender (Dark Horse)
2013 Stats: .312/.391/.540, 25 home runs, 82 RBI and a .986 fielding percentage
Troy Tulowitzki has finished in the top 20 for the NL MVP in five of his eight seasons as a big leaguer. So I think it's safe to predict he'll finish in that group yet again.
Who wants to play it safe, though? No way. I'm going bold: Tulowitzki will win the NL MVP this season.
Convince me otherwise. Seriously, I want to hear it.
Carlos Gonzalez: He would be the best player on most MLB teams.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
2013 Stats: .348/.442/.636, 44 home runs, 139 RBI and 40 doubles
Miguel Cabrera ain't human, man. I mean, those numbers are just silly.
Justin Verlander: Yup.
Max Scherzer: Scherzer finished 12th in the MVP voting last season. Can he do it again?
Houston Astros: Jose Altuve
Extreme Long Shot
2013 Stats: .283/.316/.363, 5 home runs, 53 RBI and 35 stolen bases
Jose Altuve isn't going to be an MVP candidate, but he's the closest thing the Houston Astros have to one. If he can continue to steal bases and hit doubles (31 last year) regularly, though, there's no reason why he can't be an All-Star starter for the next half decade.
Chris Carter: Total reach here, but he's got serious power and hopefully will improve on his strikeout rate (led the league last year).
Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer
2013 Stats: .302/.353/.448, 17 home runs, 79 RBI and 34 doubles
Eric Hosmer exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2011, batting .293 with 19 homers and finishing third in the Rookie of the Year race. 2012 was a rough year, but he bounced back last season and ending up batting over .300 and earning his first Gold Glove Award.
Look for Hosmer to have an even better 2014 on a vastly improved Kansas City Royals squad that's looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985.
Alex Gordon: The former top overall pick is looking to build off of a very solid 2013.
Billy Butler: If he can get his home run swing back (15 in 2013 after 29 in 2012), Butler will be an MVP candidate, especially if the Royals push for a playoff spot.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout
2013 Stats: .323/.432/.557, 27 home runs, 97 RBI and 33 steals
Pretty good ballplayer, that Mike Trout kid.
Albert Pujols: Don't sleep on the King.
Josh Hamilton: I had to do it. Plus, if you take a look at the Los Angeles Angels' projected lineup for 2014, who else do you pick? Looks a little bit weak without Trumbo's bat.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
2013 Stats (in 104 games): .319/.391/.534, 19 home runs, 42 RBI and 21 doubles
I love Puig.
I think this guy could be absolute dynamite in this league (he already kind of is). Unfortunately, his antics and the media exposure that comes with playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers have brought about all sorts of questions heading into 2014.
Is he overweight? Does he have an attitude problem?
Well, how about a new one: Is he the single most exciting player in baseball? My answer is yes.
So while guys like Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp (if healthy) might be better all-around ballplayers, Puig has one of the highest ceilings that a baseball player can possibly possess.
Hanley Ramirez: Stud.
Clayton Kershaw: Even bigger stud.
Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton
2013 Stats (in 116 games): .249/.365/.480 with 24 home runs, 62 RBI and 26 doubles
He isn't going to hit for a great average (.265 lifetime), but boy is Giancarlo Stanton going to crush the ball. Perhaps the most powerful bat in baseball, Stanton will look to remain healthy in 2014 and put up some monster numbers.
Plus, now that the Miami Marlins have guys like Christian Yelich and Jarrod Saltalamacchia ready to contribute in big ways, Stanton finally gets some help in Miami.
Jose Fernandez: Fernandez is of the front-runners for the Cy Young and is clearly a more likely MVP candidate than anybody else the Marlins have outside of Stanton
Milwaukee Brewers: Jean Segura
Extreme Long Shot
2013 Stats: .294/.329/.423, 12 home runs, 49 RBI and 44 stolen bases
While Ryan Braun might have a better chance of finishing among the leaders for the NL MVP, there's zero chance he'll actually win it.
Sorry, Braun fans, but barring some PR miracle or record-breaking season (that might not even be enough), he won't be taking home any hardware.
Now, back to the non-steroid-using Milwaukee Brewer with a shot at the MVP: 23-year-old shortstop Jean Segura. In his first full season as a starter, Segura really impressed—enough so to be named an All-Star. Blessed with blazing speed, he is going to be a huge weapon for Milwaukee in 2014.
Ryan Braun: Like I mentioned above, there's no chance he actually wins the award. As unfair as that might seem, it's the reality of the situation.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
2013 Stats: .324/.404/.476 with 11 home runs, 47 RBI and 35 doubles
The 2009 AL MVP could see a serious jump in offensive production this year, as he'll be relieved of most of his catching duties.
Although he's lost most of his power, Joe Mauer is still one of the most consistent hitters in all of baseball.
Byron Buxton: Never going to happen, but might as well throw his name out there when the rest of the Minneosta Twins lineup looks the way it does.
New York Mets: David Wright
2013 Stats (in 112 games): .307/.390/.514, 18 home runs, 58 RBI and 17 stolen bases
The addition of Curtis Granderson could really help David Wright out this season. When was the last time the New York Mets had a legit power hitter to protect Wright?
We should expect a solid year out of Wright, but an MVP-caliber season at 31? That might be a stretch. So I'll list him as a long shot for now.
Curtis Granderson: Typically, guys do well after moving from the AL to the NL.
New York Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury
2013 Stats: .298/.355/.426, 9 home runs, 53 RBI and 52 stolen bases
Though his 32 home runs in 2011 are looking like a fluke, the rest of Jacoby Ellsbury's game is for real. He's led the league in stolen bases three times already and will be a threat to do so again this season.
Can you imagine if he wins MVP in his first season in New York? Manhattan will throw him the biggest party he's ever seen, and every fan in Beantown will curse his name.
Brian McCann: The New York Yankees haven't had a catcher this good since Jorge Posada (circa 2007).
Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes
Contender (Dark Horse)
2013 Stats: .240/.294/.442, 26 home runs, 80 RBI and 21 doubles
Yoenis Cespedes's average took a hit last season (down from .292 as a rookie in 2012), but did you watch the Home Run Derby? Anytime you have David Ortiz calling your power "unbelievable," you're doing something right.
I have Cespedes as my dark horse to win the AL MVP this season, with a stat line that will look something like this: .315/.395/.590 with 40 home runs, 119 RBI and 40 doubles.
Josh Donaldson: He had an 8.0 WAR in a breakout season last year, but can he repeat that?
Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown
2013 Stats: .272/.324/.494, 27 home runs, 83 RBI and 21 doubles
It was a heck of a year for Domonic Brown last season. However, what happened after the All-Star break? After hitting 22 homers in the season's first half, he had only five the rest of the way.
If Brown wants to make a case for MVP in 2014, he'll need to maintain his level of production all season long. His aging Philadelphia Phillies teammates wouldn't mind a full season of All-Star-level numbers, either.
Cole Hamels: Who else am I going to put here?
Cliff Lee: Who else am I going to put here?!
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen
Top 5 Contender
2013 Stats: .317/.404/.508, 21 home runs, 84 RBI and 27 stolen bases
How is the 2013 NL MVP not a front-runner heading into this season? Personally, I feel like Andrew McCutchen's MVP, though he was definitely worthy of it, had as much to do with the Pittsburgh Pirate's success as a team as anything else.
This year, McCutchen won't have the feel-good Pirates storyline to aid his candidacy. Can he outpace Bryce Harper and Goldschmidt? We shall see.
Pedro Alvarez: One of the few hitters capable of hitting 50-plus homers.
San Diego Padres: Jedd Gyorko
Extreme Long Shot
2013 Stats (in 125 games): .249/.301/.444, 23 home runs, 63 RBI and 26 doubles
Jedd Gyorko isn't a legit MVP threat in the least, but he's the San Diego Padre with the highest ceiling.
He should start the year in the No. 6 or 7 slot, but could easily bump up to the No. 2 or 3 spot if/when he gets hot and Will Venable and Chase Headley prove their mediocrity.
Carlos Quentin: His entire MVP candidacy hinges on whether or not Headley, who hits in front of him, can get on base this year; if he can, expect a ton of RBI from Quentin.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
2013 Stats: .294/.371/.450, 15 home runs, 72 RBI and 34 doubles
The 2012 MVP winner is as consistent as they come. Buster Posey will prove his value both at the plate and behind it once again this season.
Pablo Sandoval: Will his recent weight loss translate on the field?
Hunter Pence: The San Francisco Giants brought him back for a reason. He's a really underrated player.
Seattle Mariners: Robinson Cano
2013 Stats: .314/.383/.516, 27 home runs, 107 RBI and 41 doubles
Robinson Cano seems to find himself in the MVP conversation every year, so why shouldn't he now that he's with the Seattle Mariners? The ballpark's too big? He's a doubles hitter, anyway (he's averaged 44 doubles a year for his career).
Plus, like usual, the two-time Gold Glove winner will provide great defense at second base for the Mariners.
Felix Hernandez: KING FELIX FOR MVP!
Kyle Seager: He's been the best player on the Mariners the last two seasons, so who's to say he won't be again this year?
St. Louis Cardinals: Allen Craig
Extreme Long Shot
2013 Stats: .315/.373/.457, 13 home runs, 97 RBI and 29 doubles
After a fantastic 2013 season and an even better postseason (.375 in six games), I predict that Allen Craig will make another jump in 2014.
After playing first base, left field and right field last season, Craig looks to be the St. Louis Cardinals' everyday left fielder. That kind of stability can do wonders for a guy mentally.
Matt Carpenter: He was the league-leader in doubles last season and is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
Yadier Molina: No explanation necessary.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
2013 Stats: .269/.343/.498, 32 home runs, 88 RBI and 39 doubles
Evan Longoria will be an MVP candidate until the day he retires. It's that simple.
Will Myers: I've got to show the reigning ROY some love.
David Price: He is absolutely dominant at times (most of the time).
Texas Rangers: Prince Fielder
Top 5 Contender
2013 Stats: .279/.362/.457, 25 home runs, 106 RBI and 36 doubles
2013 was a down year for Prince Fielder, which is pretty hilarious because he still put up numbers that most guys only dream about.
Stepping into a new environment with the Texas Rangers could be beneficial for him. Though he might not have as many RBI chances this season without Miggy hitting in front of him, he'll be batting in front of ageless wonder Adrian Beltre.
According to Beltre, per the Dallas Morning News' Gerry Fraley, Fielder's a lock to win the AL MVP: "He's going to get the MVP. It's his time to win it. My job is to protect him so that he gets there."
Love that confidence.
Adrian Beltre: He's finished in the top five in batting average three of the past four seasons and is still one of the best hitters in the game.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Reyes
2013 Stats (in 93 games): .296/.353/.427, 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 15 steals
A healthy Jose Reyes is extremely dangerous. According to Reyes himself, via Shi Davidi of SportsNet (h/t KFFL.com), he'll be 100 percent heading into 2014, so maybe we'll see a complete Blue Jays team this season.
Jose Bautista: If he can get back to his 35-plus homer output, the Toronto Blue Jays could be a legit threat to win the AL East.
Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper
2013 Stats (in 118 games): .274/.368/.486, 20 home runs, 58 RBI and 24 doubles
Bryce Harper came into the majors with about as much hype and fanfare as is humanly possible, and the scary thing is, he's looking like he might live up to it (which is always hard to do).
Blessed with the rare mix of power and speed, Harper is truly a star on the rise. I'm getting the feeling 2014 might just be his year, and a few of B/R's Lead Writers seem to agree.
Stephen Strasburg: Strasburg is another game-changing talent. He is as likely as any pitcher to end up in the MVP conversation at the end of the year.
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