These players aren't named Albert Pujols or Adrian Gonzalez, and they don't captain the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.
However, they will receive MVP consideration. All of them have an outside shot at winning their league's award with strong performances in the final 40 games. Even though none of them individually is a likely candidate, I think it likely that at least one among the collection will make the sort of charge I describe.
Each player's slide specifies a few command performance achievements that would vault said player into contention, achievements that vary based on the player's innate skills. In some cases, I specify team performance too because many MVP votes are directed towards winning teams' players.
I selected 12 players who would finish no higher than fourth in their league's MVP voting were ballots cast today and such that the players are on 12 distinct teams with six from each league and two from each division.
Jacoby Ellsbury's slide is the first on the American League half of the list, and what better place than to mention the players who are front runners for the MVP award, the three ahead of all AL challengers right now.
They are Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson and Miguel Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians.
Ellsbury has the advantage of playing for a contender, an almost sure shot for the playoffs, and an east coast team receiving plenty of media attention. Contending for the MVP will be tough because he must be favorably comparable to Adrian Gonzalez at ballot casting time, a condition not met right now.
There is also Dustin Pedroia, Ellsbury's offensive clone on the team. Pedroia is hitting .310 with 23 stolen bases and 16 home runs. Ellsbury is hitting .314 with 31 stolen bases and 20 home runs. Pedroia makes up for these gaps with 30 more walks.
Assuming Pedroia and Gonzalez maintain their season-long hitting rates, Ellsbury can pass them by hitting .360 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI, lifting his batting average over .325 and giving him 30 home runs and over 100 RBI, all common benchmarks for MVP voting.
Robinson Cano needs only pass Curtis Granderson to gain serious MVP consideration, an unusual situation for a New York Yankee, a team usually powered by a handful of contenders.
Unlike Ellsbury in Boston, Cano has a bigger gap to close in order to be considered the leading contributor on the team. Cano has scored 30 fewer runs than Granderson and driven in 13 fewer. Granderson also has more home runs and stolen bases.
Given Cano's slim chances of catching Granderson in any of these metrics, he may need to perform in a way that transcends such comparisons. Cano probably needs a Yastrzemski-esque end-of-season hitting binge coupled with a late season Yankee charge which delivers the New Yorkers a division title.
Should he crush out a September like the one Yastrzemski had in 1967, his relatively small regular season numbers would be lost in a fog of voter emotion.
Victor Martinez is maybe the longest of my American League long shots. He trails both Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta on his own team.
Not only are Cabrera and Peralta out-hitting Martinez, at least in terms of the batting average, on-base percent, slugging percent triple slash, they play the field while Martinez plays DH. Martinez owns a .322/.374/.434, which is great but not as great as those of Cabrera and Peralta, .319/.423/.555 and .309/.354/.501, respectively.
Victor Martinez needs to emulate the other Martinez, Edgar Martinez. While Edgar never won an MVP award, he finished third in 1995, the year he lead the booming Mariners to their first playoff appearance.
For Victor to join the top three vote getters in he league, not just his team, he will need a .400/.500/.600 charge all the way to October coupled with an Tiger division title.
Paul Konerko stands in good stead as far as White Sox receiving MVP votes; he has no competition on the team. Konerko's challenge, even with his .311/.395/.555 line, will be to gain American League relevance.
Unlike the other hitters listed so far, Konerko does not need to hit a lot more so much as he needs the White Sox to win a lot more—enough to win the division—otherwise he will be lost amongst the Bostons and New Yorks and the other two division winners' players.
Ian Kinsler could make a charge at MVP contention—with at least 12 home runs and 40 runs scored. He needs to pass Michael Young for contention and beat out Nelson Cruz, the two other potential Texas Ranger vote magnets.
I say 12 home runs and 40 runs scored because those feats would give him 30 home runs and a safe lead in runs scored, two beloved figures for MVP voters.
Kinsler has no hope of recognition via rate statistics, none of his are remotely close to the team leaders; Kinlser is hitting .241 while Young is hitting .333 and Cruz is hitting .267.
Kinsler has some secondary counting stats that could help him—walks and stolen bases. Right now Kinsler has 22 stolen bases, a number that could jump to 30, a total that pairs well with 30 home runs.
Less vote-swaying but more important to run forecasting are Kinlser's walks, of which he now has 70 going on 100, another benchmark working in a hitter's favor. It's almost always good to have 100 of something.
The Los Angeles Angels don't have any good MVP candidates, at least by conventional triple-crown metrics. The Trumbo candidacy* benefits from his lack of intra-team competition and the proximity of the Angels to the Texas Rangers in division standings.
He probably needs the Angels to stick in the race to the end, and he might need to gain some benchmark numbers along the way as the competition from the beasts in the east will be tough.
He is a long way from the slugger bench marks of 40 home runs and 100 RBI, both numbers he needs to achieve as he doesn't do anything else impressive that is easily measured.
Right now, Trumbo stands at 22 and 64, so he has his work cut out for him.
*Possible Robert Ludlum title?
Shane Victorino needs to beat out fellow Philly Ryan Howard, and that will be hard.
Howard owns the flashy real estate, home runs and RBI, while Victorino stakes out obscure yet more valuable territory by playing a demanding position and avoiding outs, two aspects of baseball that are under-appreciated at MVP-voting time.
Another eight home runs and 26 runs scored will get Victorino to 20 and 100 in those categories, respectively. Finishing the season as the only Philly regular with a .300 batting average wouldn't hurt either, especially if he raised that average from .313 to .325.
Dan Uggla needs another 33 games with hits, consecutive or otherwise, to claw past Brian McCann for top spot just among Atlanta Braves MVP contenders. Freddie Freeman is another Brave Uggla will need to outhit though he is out-hitting Freeman right now.
Fortunately for Uggla the Braves are a good bet for the playoffs. He merely needs to get noticed, which at this point might take 13 home runs and 38 RBI, bringing him to 40 and 100 on the year. His rate statistics are beyond repair.
If he could get on base at a rate exceeding his current on-base percent of .297, he might have a shot at 100 runs scored which would help him a lot in gaining MVP consideration.
Holliday's situation is like Jacoby Ellsbury's situation: he needs to beat two excellent team mates. So far this year, Holliday is triple-slashing .311/.416/.556 with 18 home runs, enough to be the best hitter on the Atlanta Braves, but he is a Cardinal, and his St. Louis team includes two similar hitters with more eye-catching numbers.
Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman are banging out triple slash lines of .288/.353/.544 and .295/.405/.586, respectively. While Holliday's numbers in this regard are better than Pujols,' Pujols also has 29 home runs and 75 RBI to Holliday's 18 and 63.
In Holliday's favor are runs scored, a category in which he leads all Cardinals. He should easily cross 100 runs scored this season, and if he also finishes ahead of both Pujols and Berkman in RBI, he might get the majority of votes going to Cardinals this year.
Joey Votto either needs some Cincinnati wins or a herculean hitting spell to get into the National League MVP race.
Votto has not much competition on his team, but his team is below .500. On the bright side, the National League Central is not a power-packed division, so a small charge by the Reds could put them into second place and within hailing distance of first.
If the Reds do ascend the NL Central ranks one rung and do it on the back of Votto, there may be some MVP votes waiting for him at season end, especially if he finishes with at least 100 RBI, 100 runs and 30 home runs.
He needs 28 RBI, 11 home runs and 22 runs to get there.
Aubrey Huff has his work cut out by the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team leading the Giants and a team lead by a great player, Justin Upton.
Huff probably needs a San Francisco division title to go along nine home runs and a triple slash line of .350/.400/.600 down the stretch to vault him past Upton and demonstrate to voters that he dragged the Giants into the playoffs.
Failing this, watch the National League West votes go to Upton and perhaps Matt Kemp.
Andre Ethier is a super long shot, needing both a Los Angeles Dodger resurgence and a slow down from Matt Kemp, things that probably can't happen simultaneously.
Ethier is hitting .299/.371/.435 with 10 home runs, not bad until Kemp is considered with his 28 home runs and .320/.394/.581 hitting line.
Kemp would need at least a .400/.500/.600 finish with 10 home runs to bring him up to .325/.410/.490. That would be nearly impossible and probably not enough.
I bet you thought I forgot something. The top four National League MVP contenders right now are Ryan Howard, Justin Upton, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.
The National Leaguers in these slides are longer shots than their American League peers because there are more clear leaders in the senior circuit, at least at this point in the season.