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AL MVP: Ranking the Top Five Preseason Favorites

Joe BlairContributor IFebruary 24, 2011

AL MVP: Ranking the Top Five Preseason Favorites

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With spring training just starting up, optimism about the upcoming season is at its highest. There is not a better time to make predictions about the upcoming season, which should be a great one.

    The American League MVP award is awarded annually to the player who is considered most valuable to his team throughout the year. Recent recipients of the award include Josh Hamilton and Joe Mauer.

    In anticipation for the 2011 season, I have decided to rank the five American League preseason MVP favorites.

5. Justin Morneau: First Baseman, Minnesota Twins

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    Justin Morneau has been one of the best players in the America League over the last few years, receiving the MVP award for the 2006 season.

    Last year, Morneau was putting up MVP numbers until July when he received a concussion that caused him to miss the rest of the season. At that point, Morneau was batting .345 with 56 RBI and 53 runs through 81 games.

    Without question Morneau has the ability to pile up top-five numbers, but his concussion has been lingering with him throughout the offseason. Actually, he did not pick up a baseball bat until earlier this month.

    If Morneau can stay healthy he is surrounded by an above average lineup that consists of Joe Mauer, Jim Thome and Delmon Young. If healthy, I expect Morneau to have a great year.

4. Evan Longoria: Third Baseman, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Rays’ third baseman has put up All-Star numbers in his first few seasons in the big leagues and is one of the best young hitters in baseball.

    In 2010, Evan Longoria hit .294 with 104 RBI to go along with 96 runs. These numbers are very good, but they are not great. Longoria is only 25 and should just be starting to hit his prime, so I would expect him to improve on those numbers.

    Another challenge Longoria has facing him is the loss of Carlos Peña and Carl Crawford. These losses may be a good thing for Longoria, because it gives him a chance to step and take over the team.

    The key for Longoria’s MVP chances lies in a playoff bid for the Rays. I expect Longoria to put career highs across the board.

3. Robinson Cano: Second Baseman, New York Yankees

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Yankees' best player is second baseman Robinson Cano. Cano has put up MVP numbers in the past, but never at the right time. Could this year be different?

    Last year’s AL Silver Slugger award winner batted .319 with 109 RBI and 103 runs. Cano is currently only 28 years old, meaning that he should have the best season of his career in 2011.

    One big difference for the Yankees this year is that their lineup is not as good as it has been in recent years. Outside of Cano and Teixeira last year, no one put up good numbers. Yes, A-Rod and Jeter are still both there, but they are aging and Jeter is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro.

    The added importance of Cano, plus the fact that he is coming off a Gold Glove award sets the stage for Cano to have a MVP chance in 2011.

2. Josh Hamilton: Outfield, Texas Rangers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The defending AL MVP is prime for another great season on the ball field for the Texas Rangers.

    Josh Hamilton is coming off of what is his best overall season in the big leagues. Besides winning the AL MVP and leading his team to the World Series, Josh led baseball with a .359 average while driving in 100 runs and scoring 95 times.

    Hamilton’s importance grew as they lost both Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero in the offseason. Hamilton’s biggest question is his durability and consistency. He has been hurt off and on over his career, and only has put up two good years: 2008 and last year, of course.

    The former No. 1 overall pick has a great shot at repeating if he can remain healthy throughout the year and if the Rangers can make the playoffs again.

1. Adrian Gonzalez: First Baseman, Boston Red Sox

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Adrian Gonzalez is coming off a ridiculous year with San Diego and was traded to the Red Sox in the offseason.

    Gonzalez is coming off a season where he hit .298 with 101 RBI and 87 runs scored in the middle of a very mediocre Padres lineup. It is expected that his numbers can only improve, batting in the Red Sox’s juggernaut of a lineup.

    Gonzalez’s biggest benefit may be going from a pitcher’s park at PETCO Park to a stadium that favors a left-handed hitter like Gonzalez with that shallow right field fence. Gonzalez’s other positive may come from the fact that teams cannot afford to pitch around him like they could at San Diego, which means he will see more hittable pitches.

    Adrian Gonzalez has the potential to put up one of the best seasons in Boston history, if he can find his All-Star swing in the middle of arguably the best lineup in baseball.

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