The MLB season is a long, tiresome, and mentally strenuous 162-game schedule with extreme highs and the lowest lows (if you don’t believe me, ask Alex Rodriguez). Some players hit the ground running right out of spring training, and some wait until the weather gets nice to maximize their contributions on the field. Still, what a player does in the first third of the season will not define his career, and may not even define this season. Having said that, it’s never too early to jump the gun and hand out early season awards. Cue the trumpets!
Miguel Cabrera either took LenDale White’s advice and stayed away from the Patron, or gave Dan Marino a call to hop on the NutriSystem diet. Whatever he did, it’s paying off. Miggy is sporting a .343 average with 18 homers and 53 RBI’s and as long as Jose Batista’s power surge doesn’t continue, Miggy can be considered one of the true Triple Crown threats in the last decade. He has the power to flourish even in a pitchers park, patient enough to find his pitch (only 33 K’s) and loves runners on base. In addition, the reincarnation of Magglio Ordonez keeps Cabrera protected leading to more pitches and less walks for him. If he keeps it up, I don’t seen any AL candidate touching him and will surly get his hands on his MVP first trophy, one that many predicted when he helped bring a championship to Florida in 2003.
Whaddya Know, Robbie Cano
Just cracking the top ten on the Yankees Payroll list, the only one deserving of ARod’s, or CC’s (this list could go on forever in Yankeeland) contracts has been none other than the slick, cool, and jazzy sounds of Robinson Cano. Previously known for his strong arm, cheesy smile, and inability to hit with runners in scoring position, Robinson Cano has taken the league by storm, almost single handedly carrying baseballs biggest powerhouse. Coinciding with his good buddy Melky Cabrera leaving town through a trade with the Braves, Cano’s improved work ethic this past off-season has projected him into the top 5 of almost every category. A perennial batting title contender is seeing the likes of his best season, continuing to hit every pitch thrown at him, leading to his .376 average with twelve longballs, 46 RBI’s and a league leading 88 hits. Coming off a late May, early June 17-game hitting streak, hitting .465 over that span some may say it could be time for Cano to cool down. Too bad, Cano is notorious for turning up the heat once the All-Star break comes around and look for him to establish himself as the best second baseman in the game.
Close but no cigar: Justin Morneau(13, 41, .362 ,.475) Evan Longoria(11, 47, .326, .395)
Machiavelli once analyzed a Prince who dominated with pride and displayed his immense power over others. I am not sure if I have my references right, but I am pretty sure he was speaking of Prince Albert Pujols. With the rest of the National League deciding that hitting is not that important in 2010, Pujols gets the my nod for his 5th MVP award. It's not easy to defend a player for a slot as MVP while he is in the midst of his worst season to date, but let's take off our “Pujols Glasses” and look at the numbers. One third of the way through the season he has 14 homers and 44 RBI’s followed by his most disheartening stat, his .306 average. These stats still translate into a 35 homer season, with just around 120 RBI’s. Those who say his average is too low are correct, for him it is, but that being said, he has a .421 OBP and leads the league with 44 walks. He is still clearly the most dangerous player in baseball, and pitchers around the league know it. Give Prince Albert a break, after years of providing us with numbers straight from the 1930s baseball almanac his numbers have slightly decreased but not enough to take away the title of “best player in baseball”. Give Albert the month of July to recoup, and look for his average to raise about 10-15 points by the end of the season. When that happens you can see him sitting on his throne while you kiss the ground he walks on.
If I Had a Hammer
Ryan Braun is hammering the ball in the morning evening and all over this land. Since breaking into the league in his 2007 campaign for Rookie of the Year, the 26-year-old phenom Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun has been one of the most consistent players in the league. While not living up to his maximum capabilities in the run producing categories( 8hr 36 RBI’s) he is still hitting .305 and his 11 steals makes him on pace for around 25 stolen bases. This makes Braun one of the few 5 tool players left in the league (since Grady Siezmore decided to start a figure skating career) and really proves his all around worth to the Brewers. In addition he strikes out a good amount less, and while I don’t believe he will pass Prince Albert for MVP, Braun continues to be one of the most consistent players in the game.
Almost There- Joey Votto(11 36 .308 .405), Andre Ethier(11, 40, .364, .422)
Nothings Bigger in Teixeira
After a promising, victorious first season with the New York Yankees, Mark Teixeira looks completely lost. His 9 homers and 35 RBI’s do not look awful, but his .224 average moving into June couldn’t be lower. Teixeira is consistently fooled at the plate, doesn’t have the pop in his bat that was around last year, and isn’t getting it done in big situations. During his recent series with Toronto Blue Jays he displayed a platinum sombrero going 0-5 with 5 strikeouts prompting him to have a personal “lesson” with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. Hopefully that lesson can get him out of the funk and with patience we can see a second half that resembles his MVP-esque season from last year. With that said, he shouldn’t expect the fans in New York to be patient much longer, because if he keeps this up much longer, there will be boo birds flying around Yankee Stadium as he steps to the plate. (Once again, just ask A-Rod)
Despite losing in the World Series last year, no one stepped up in quite a big of a spot than Chase Utley. He crushed the Yankees in the fall classic by batting .286 with 5 home runs and 8 RBI’s in 6 games. This season was supposed to be extremely promising for the young infielder who began to establish himself as one of the leagues best second basemen. Something has fallen apart and that sweet lefty swing just isn’t getting it done. He has hit 10 home runs, which shows that his power is not deteriorating, but his 26 RBI’s and .260 batting average have mirrored the Phillies struggles in scoring runs. In addition, Utley only has 2 stolen bases, far off the pace of his 23 from a year ago. With the depth of the National League East increasing this year, the Phillies can’t afford to live as comfortably as they did last year. In order for them to be successful and step their game up for the second half of the season, we have to see the Chase Utley that shined last year, and so far he has not delivered.
Big Daddy Vladdy
Vladimir Guerrero couldn’t have made a better choice in his free agency than to go to Texas. His career in Los Angeles came to an end after a couple of seasons struggling with injuries and lack of production. If you looked at his numbers from his best years you would not be surprised how well he is doing in Texas. He notoriously destroyed Texas when he would visit Arlington Park as an Angel, and has continued to do so in a Rangers uniform. He is hitting .336 with 12 homers and 51 RBI’s, has only struck out 21 times. His durability was a factor for leaving the Angels, but he has stuck in there the whole season reaching around 220 at bats, with no signs of slowing down.
Glaus the Boss
I thought we had seen the last of Troy Glaus but his appearance with the Braves has certainly got people turning their heads to make sure that’s the same player from the ’02 World Series with the Angels. A player mired with injuries throughout his career, including last years shoulder surgery, Glaus has found a home in Atlanta, leading the rejuvenated Braves posting a .275 average with 11 round trippers and 45 RBI’s. His switch from Third to First has helped him out by giving him less of a fielding burden. It's always good to see a once great player come back from injuries to find his swing and make a difference in a close division race. Look for him to be a big player in the NL East and Wild Card races the rest of the year.