MLB Awards for MIPs: The Most Important Players by Team
While players like Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Josh Hamilton are accustomed to winning MVP awards, but it doesn't mean they are the most important players for their team to win.
We all know about team's most valuable players, but who really is the most important player for each team to have a successful season?
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton
On a team that is filled with young players and poor, inconsistent pitching Justin Upton is the one guy who can put the team on his back and carry them being a true 5-tool player.
At age 23 he already has some very good seasons under his belt, but he has the potential for much more and turn into a .300, 30-30, 100 RBI guy on a peak year.
Upton is already off to a great start in 2011 and should only continue to get better.
Honorable Mention: Miguel Montero
Atlanta Braves: Nate McLouth
A former All-Star and Gold Glove winner for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nate McLouth has failed to live up to the expectations since being brought over in 2009 for three prospects.
The Braves have one of the most complete pitching staffs in the National League leaving the chance for success left up to the offense.
In a lineup with filled with hitters like Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, and Dan Uggla someone is going to need to set the table for them so as long as Freddie Gonzalez continues to use McLouth in the two hole of the lineup he will be the key to them living up to the expectations fans had for them before the season.
Honorable Mention: Craig Kimbrel
Baltimore Orioles: Nick Markakis
For years Nick Markakis was the only bright star in a terrible Orioles organization.
After years of good drafting the Orioles front office felt their team was good enough to make some big splashes in the off-season bringing in names like Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, and Mark Reynolds.
While his defense has always been outstanding, Markakis has been teetering on the verge of breaking out for years. Now it is Markakis's turn to respond to the front office by putting up that All-Star season.
Honorable Mention: Derrek Lee
Boston Red Sox: John Lackey
At an annual salary of $16.5 million dollars the Red Sox are paying John Lackey to be the ace of a pitching staff — something Lackey has failed to do thus far.
The Red Sox are off to the worst start in the major leagues entering Saturday with a 2-10 record after being heralded as the unanimous World Series favorite. The poor record is due to a league leading worst 6.79 team ERA. The next closest team is the Arizona at 5.80.
There is no doubt the offense is going to score runs over the course of the year with so many potent batters turning the focus of who will carry the team back to the pitchers.
You know what you are going to get from Jon Lester, one would think Clay Buchholz is going to have some better success, Josh Beckett has been the best starter in the rotation, and Daisuke Matsuzaka is always going to be the wild card in the rotation. That leaves Lackey as the guy who could sure up the rotation and give the Sox four very good starters in an attempt for the Sox to right the ship.
Honorable Mention: Jacoby Ellsbury
Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano
At his best Alfonso Soriano has the potential to be a feared slugger in the middle of the lineup. Over the last few years in Chicago, however, Soriano has been a decent player being paid like a star.
He is in the select 40-40 club, 4 time Silver Slugger Award winner, and 7 time All-Star, but over the last two years has failed to slug over .500.
The Cubs went out this year to sign a fellow former 40 home run guy in Carlos Pena and giving up the farm for Matt Garza the Cubs are expecting to have a successful season and Soriano is going to need to be that middle of the order bat to get them there.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Zambrano
Chicago White Sox: Edwin Jackson
After bringing in Adam Dunn in the off-season a case could be made that the White Sox have the best offense of any team in Major League Baseball. Their lineup is stacked with everything you would want (speed, power, and average) from just about every batter numbers one through nine.
As always Jake Peavy's health can not be counted as he has found his way on the DL before the season even starts. The rest of the rotation has been extremely consistent over the last few years making Edwin Jackson the only question.
Jackson is uber talented (as demonstrated by his no-hitter), but has never been able to get his command under control (as seen with the eight walks in the no hitter) or find any consistency.
With the early struggles in the bullpen the starters are going to need find ways to get deep into games and make their job much easier.
He was sparkling down the stretch for the White Sox last year after coming over in the Daniel Hudson trade and could be the piece that puts them over the top this year.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Quentin
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
Sometimes the most valuable player just happens to also be the most important one as well and for good reasons.
Joey Votto is what makes the Cincinnati Reds's wheels spin. He almost single-handedly turned the franchise around by taking them from a 78-84 record in 2009 to 20 games over .500 in 2011 at 91-71.
He can really do being the are breed of superstars who can not only swing the wood, but provide above-average defense. It takes a special kind of player to be able to hit for such a high average while providing so much power.
Honorable Mention: Edinson Volquez
Cleveland Indians: Travis Hafner
When you take a lineup you will see one of the weakest group of players thrown together in the majors. That is what makes it so confusing as to how the Indians entered Saturday tied for first place in the AL Central with a 9-4 record.
On a daily basis Manny Acta is running out their players like Jack Hannahan and Austin Kearns who have had trouble producing and holding onto starting jobs in the past as well as young players like Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta who were highly regarded, but have not shown much in their limited time in the big leagues.
Along with Shin-Soo Choo, who is the most underrated star in the league, Travis Hafner is the only player on the team who has shown in the past that they can make a substantial difference in the offense.
While Hafner is four years removed from his best seasons, he has consistently battled injuries over that time which would explain his failures. If the Indians want to continue their early season success Pronk is going to have to continue to mash and go make to being that power bat from a few years ago.
Honorable Mention: Asdrubal Cabrera
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
After watching Troy Tulowitzki destroy my Mets over the last week there's is no doubt he is the heart of this Rockie's team and the closest thing to a captain I've seen since his idol Derek Jeter.
While it was his teammate Carlos Gonzalez who finished higher in the MVP voting last year it was Tulo who lead the team in September with a .322 average, 15 homeruns, and 40 RBIs to almost get the Rockies into the playoffs.
The specific incident in the series against the Mets that demonstrated by Tulo is show important, even more than a statistical reason, occurred on a misplayed fly ball by CarGo that he lost in the sun. Gonzalez had not been wearing any sunglasses so Tulo took it upon himself to go to the dugout and get sunglasses for Gonzalez mid inning. Not many players would be willing to show up a teammate like that, but all the Rockies repsect Tulo at such a young age that a fellow superstar didn't get mad because he knew Tulo was just doing what was best for the team.
Honorable Mention: Ubaldo Jimenez
Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez
The Detroit Tigers made their big free agent splash in 2011 by signing Victor Martinez to a 4-year deal for one reason — protection.
The Tigers have one of the top five hitters in baseball hitting clean up for them in Miguel Cabrera. The only problem is the Tigers struggled to find someone to hit behind him. The Tigers needed to use rookie Brennan Boesch for most of the season and then at times later in the season using Jhonny Peralta.
While the Tigers are not going to get much defensive value at catcher out of Martinez he shores up the offense by giving the Tigers a formidable 3-4-5 punch with Magglio Ordonez-Cabrera-Martinez and forces opposing pitchers to give Cabrera a little more to hit.
Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
The Marlins can only go as far as Hanley Ramirez's bat can carry them.
This is a team full of either very young or borderline starting players. Such players as Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton, and Gaby Sanchez have showed the potenital to be good hitters, but HanRam remains the only legit proven bat they have.
The Florida pitching staff seems to always find a way to get the job done, which should not be surprising while being led by someone like Josh Johnson, putting all the pressure on the offense for the Marlins to overachieve as they like to do so much.
Honorable Mention: Mike Stanton
Houston Astros: Hunter Pence
It is not that hard to tell the Houston Astros are not a very good ball club. It is going to take a few years to try to right this ship and get meaningful baseball back in Houston.
Hunter Pence is one of the few glimmers of hope on this team that make them watchable. He is a throwback kind of player that is fun to watch and gives the front office one corner stone to build around.
If not for Pence the Astros might to move to the International League in AAA.
Honorable Mention: Bud Norris (I love the name)
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon
It took Alex Gordon with my one of my last picks in my fantasy drafts because I needed a backup who was third base eligible and half jokingly, half serious said "This is the year he breaks out and shows he is not a bust". Boy how good is that making me look right now.
Gordon is off to a torrid start leading the Royals to first place tie with Cleveland Indians and the teams best start since 2003.
At the moment Gordon currently leads the American League in runs scored, hits, and doubles flashing that potential that made him the top prospect in baseball years ago.
If Gordon can continue to create runs for the offensive to go along with the Royals outstanding pen they could show that they are really a decent team and not an early season fluke.
Honorable Mention: Alcides Escobar
Los Angeles Angels: Kendrys Morales
While the Angels may be playing well right now with Kendrys Morales sitting on the DL I don't Mike Sciosia can wait for Morales's projected return in May.
The Angels starting pitching staff led by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana is what carrying the team right now with the offense struggling.
The offense finds itself tied with the Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners in the bottle third of the league in runs scored. Gaining a boost of Morales's bat in the middle of the lineup would help make up for the troubles of Vernon Wells and Tori Hunter and take some pressure of the pitchers.
Honorable Mention: Howie Kendrick
Los Angeles Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton
The Dodgers have enough issues with their offense right now with Rafael Furcal going on the DL along with other problems that worrying about the closer's role cannot be one of them like last year.
No matter what it takes Jonathan Broxton is going to need to find a way to get back to being that pitcher from 2009 who was nearly unhittable.
He has been better so far in 2011 going 5-for-5 in save chances than he was in 2010, but I do not think Don Mattingly would hesitate to remove him from should he falter again.
Honorable Mention: Clayton Kershaw
Milwaukee Brewers: Shaun Marcum
With the likes of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and an injured Corey Hart to drive in runs the offense has more than enough fire power to compete in the National League.
A 1-2 punch of Yovani Gallardo-Zack Greinke is one of the best in baseball leaving Shaun Marcum to be that piece that can put the Brewers over the top.
There is no question Marcum is a stud pitcher when healthy, but he always remains a concern to get hurt at any time. If he stays healthy the Brewers number one to three starters may not be one the level of the Philadelphia Phillies, but it is pretty damn close.
Honorable Mention: Corey Hart
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
The minute Joe Mauer has to leave the lineup the Twins chances to win probably decrease in half as one could tell right now with their last place standings in the AL Central as Mauer sits on the DL.
The Twins currently sit dead last in Major League Baseball in runs scored so no team could use a player of the DL more than the Twins.
It is just deflating for the team to lose a bat as strong as Mauer's and have to replace it with Drew Butera's. The production is going to be nowhere near the same level.
Mauer might be the most important player to his team than anyone in baseball.
Honorable Mention: Delmon Young
New York Mets: Mike Pelfery
The Mets's announcers love to say "As Jose Reyes goes the Mets go". 2011 is proving to show why that statement is false.
Jose Reyes has had a fantastic season so far playing his best baseball in a few years and yet the Mets have been terrible getting beat up every night.
All the runs Reyes creates means nothing if your pitchers can't stop the other team from scoring.
With ace Johan Santana injured for most of the year and a very shaky bullpen the Mets were counting on Mike Pelfrey to anchor the staff. Big Pelf has not been able to live up to these expectations being part of the reason for the Mets awful start.
With Chris Young finding his way on the DL it is more important than ever for Pelfrey to step up and start pitching like he did in the beginning of 2010.
Honorable Mention: David Wright
New York Yankees: A.J. Burnett
Just like the Mets the Yankees have serious concerns with their starting rotation. Outside of CC Sabathia no one is a known quantity.
Ivan Nova is just a rookie and has been smacked around thus far, from 2007-2010 Freddy Garcia made just 41 starts, and Phil Hughes has looked awful since the end of last year and is already on the DL thanks to a "dead arm" with his velocity simply disappearing.
A.J. Burnett needs to be that guy to become the number two starter and slot in behind Sabathia so somebody can hold down other teams because the offense is going to score enough runs to win ball games.
So far so good with A.J. and for the Yankees sake hopefully he continues this recent streak.
Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter
Oakland Athletics: Hideki Matsui
The Athletics MO for years has been a team that pitches well and fields its position. On the other hand they seem to have problems scoring runs and this year is no different.
Hideki Matsui is the lone veteran in the starting lineup and the only one with a substantial amount of playoff experience. He needs to lead by example on the field and drive in the runs on such a offensively challenged team.
A was tempted to put Coco Crisp here just to see a picture of the afro he was sporting.
Honorable Mention: David DeJesus
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
All the talk about the Phillies has been about the "Four Aces", which I really think is three aces and a good two, but that is besides the point.
In my opinion the biggest story surrounding the Phillies should be the troubling injury of Chase Utley. It is a complete mystery when he will be back and it kills to lose a bat like his in the lineup and put in Wilson Valdez, especially with losing Jayson Werth via free agency.
Jimmy Rollins has shown the ability to carry his team like he did in 2007 and with Utley out he will need to get back to that version of Jimmy Rollins who has the eye of the tiger and would not let his team lose.
Rollins and the offense have done a great job so far scoring runs without Utley. The pitching should be good enough alone to carry the team to the playoffs anyway.
Honorable Mention: Raul Ibanez
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen
There is a reason why the Pirates are consistently near the number one overall draft pick. They just stink. Not having a winning season in the 18 years could start paying off soon for the Pirates who have gathered some of the best young players in the majors and minors as a result.
The best of all these players could wind up being Andrew McCutchen. McCuthen is as athletic as any player currently in the game and has the potential to become a 5-tool player. His exciting defense plays alone should make up for the price of admission, but Pirates fans seem to disagree.
Things are looking up for the Pirates who entered Saturday just one game below .500.
Honorable Mention: Pedro Alvarez
San Diego Padres: Ryan Ludwick
Now that Adrian Gonzalez is no longer a member of the Padres Ryan Ludwick is the only player in the lineup who has the ability to change a game with one swing. His stats have been in a steady decline since his 37 homerun breakout season in 2008, but that is the type of production the Padres are going to need for him.
The pitching in San Diego is going to be fine, it always is. Any chance they want of repeating their success of last year will lay in the offense and on the bat of Ludwick.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Hudson
San Francisco Giants: Pablo Sandoval
A lot was made over the off-season about the weight loss of the third baseman for the defending World Champs. Pablo Sandoval had been a stud in 2009, but couldn't repeat his success in 2010 and a lot of people speculated it was being a weight gain on his already large frame.
While the lineup that won the World Series is mostly the same veterans like Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada have another year of wear and tear on their bodies that you to consider and a rookie is manning first base. Sandoval has a good enough bat to erase any and all the questions about the offensive output.
The pitching carried the team then and will surely carry the team again, but if Sandoval could find the magic again the offense could become well above-average increasing the Giants chances of a repeat.
Honorable Mention: Buster Posey
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
When a player earns the nickname "King" there is usually a good reason for it, just ask Henrik Lundqvist.
When you are the one of the only bright spots moving forward on the team that is my pic to finish with the worst record in baseball you are bound to be the most important player.
There weren't very many options to choose from, but Felix Hernandez is good enough to be the most important player on his team no matter where he is.
Honorable Mention: Ichiro Suzuki
St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Berkman
Dave Duncan does magical things with pitchers so the individual who is throwing the ball for the Cardinals doesn't really matter all that much because he will succeed. This turns the focus to the offense for most important player.
Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball at the moment and is just an absolute machine. He can't do it all, however, and needs some help.
After bringing in Matt Holliday last season to try and be the second big bat in the lineup the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs creating a need for more offense.
Their big move this season was to take a chance on Lance Berkman. So far the returns have been terrific on Berkman and while the Cardinals will need Pujols's bat if they want to do wel it will be Berkman who decides how deep they can play into November.
Honorable Mention: Albert Pujols
Tampa Bay Rays: Johnny Damon
Johnny Damon is a winner. No matter where he goes or what he does he finds a way to win baseball games and championships.
In 2011 Damon already has to his credit some game winning RBIs and late inning heroics to demonstrate what he brings to this ball club.
After losing Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena as free agents and having to deal with Evan Longoria on the DL it is Damon who has to serve as the glue and hold the team together.
Honorable Mention: Evan Longoria
Texas Rangers: Nelson Cruz
Texas is a team that is really hard to pick one for because they are so complete and with such little holes.
They have the reigning MVP in Josh Hamilton, but with his injuries and being out for two months the other bat that can really mash and carry a team when need be is Nelson Cruz.
There was so many ways to go with this one, but I think Cruz has what it takes to step up in Hamilton's absence both offensively and defensively to help the Rangers get back to the World Series.
Honorable Mention: Adrian Beltre
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind
The Blue Jays are an interesting case of a team who has the potential to stay in the race all year and compete despite being in the toughest division in baseball or just continue to be a team of mediocrity.
Despite trading Shaun Marcum over the off-season the Blue Jays still actually have a good collection of arms for the rotation and while none of them stand out they are all pretty solid.
Jose Bautista has shown me enough over the last season and a half to believe he is for real and very valuable to the team, but his success will not be the most important to the teams.
The 2011 season will be about Adam Lind showing if he is the .300 35 homerun guy he showed in 2009 or the .230 20 homerun guy of 2010. The ball is in his court and all the Blue Jays fans are hoping the Silver Slugger Award winner was not just a one hit wonder.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Hill
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
If Stephen Strausburg had not been injured or had Bryce Harper made the big league club they would be in the spot for the pure excitement the two of them will bring to this franchise with every swing of the bat or pitch off the mound.
Ryan Zimmerman is by and far the most overlooked superstar in baseball. He brings a leaders mentality to the field, hustles, plays some of the best Gold Glove defense I have ever seen, and knows how to swing the lumber.
Zimmerman has been the only consistency to the Nationals organization over the last five years and it was about time he was awarded with something.
Honorable Mention: Jayson Werth