2011 MLB MVP Predictions: Ranking the Top 3 Candidates in the AL and NL
With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, baseball's best have asserted themselves in the MVP races, leaving fans to speculate as to who deserves to win the award in each league. The National League is led by three outfielders with elite power and speed, while the American League is headlined by a trio of AL East players.
Justin Verlander, who has had perhaps the best season of any player, regardless of position, was not included in this list. In the history of the game, pitchers have very rarely been awarded the MVP award.
The top three hitters have been ranked in each league, taking into account StatSheet.com's Batter StatRank metric, which includes many of the basic stats (home runs, RBI, etc.), as well as advanced statistics such as wOBA in the calculation.
All StatRank grades are subject to change as the rankings are updated daily after each game played.
NL Third: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
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The first of the three power-speed outfielder MVP candidates in the National League, Justin Upton is also the youngest at just 24. Upton, an MVP sleeper, is the leader of a surprise Diamondbacks team that has run away with the AL West.
2011 has truly been a breakout campaign for the former No. 1 overall draft pick, posting a .295 average with 100 runs, 30 home runs, 86 RBI and 21 stolen bases, good for 16th in Batter StatRank (88.9).
While he may not be a household name just yet, he is well on his way, as the Arizona Diamondbacks' surge into the playoffs behind the play of their young superstar.
Like the other two candidates in the National League, Upton is a player who will be in the mix for the MVP award year for a long time.
NL Runner-Up: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Resisting the urge to blame Rihanna, Matt Kemp suffered through a down 2010 year for reasons that are unknown and obviously have nothing to do with a certain celebrity. Those days, however, appear to be long gone.
Entering 2011 with a clear head, Kemp has been absolutely lights-out for the mediocre LA Dodgers.
Currently batting .319 with 97 runs, 33 home runs, 109 RBI and 38 stolen bases, he has done everything the Dodgers needed and more, despite a woeful offense around him that ranks in the bottom half of the league in just about every offensive category. He ranks third behind only Bautista and Braun in Batter StatRank, with a 96.1.
In the MVP race, Kemp is the victim of a struggling baseball team, with his chances at winning the award hindered by the team around him. However, at only 27 and with his offseason troubles behind him, there is no doubt he will be in the running for the MVP award for many years to come.
NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
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Ryan Braun has been an elite offensive player since the day he was called up. 2011 has been no different, with Braun leading a Brewers charge that will likely end with an NL Central division title. His latest heroics came Tuesday night when Braun blasted a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th off Colorado reliever Matt Lindstrom.
The walk-off shot was his 28th home run of the season, leaving him just two shy of his first career 30-30 campaign. Braun currently has 98 runs, 97 RBI and a .329 batting average.
With two weeks remaining in the season, Braun will likely post a .330-100-30-100-30 season for the Brewers. He is currently second overall in Batter StatRank with a 97.7.
With the impending free agency of Prince Fielder, the Brewers on the verge of the playoffs and a “down” year for Albert Pujols, now has never been a better time for Ryan Braun to win the MVP.
AL Third: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
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When the Boston Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the offensive sinkhole that is San Diego this past offseason, they did so with the hopes that he could be the middle-of-the-order bat they so desperately needed in 2010.
Offensively, Boston has plenty of talent, but Gonzalez is the bat that makes this offense click. The Red Sox suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for the AL Wild Card and will need Gonzalez to continue to play at an MVP level if they are going to hold off Tampa Bay.
AL Runner-Up: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
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Entering 2011, questions surrounded Jose Bautista after a year in which he came out of nowhere to hit 54 home runs. Many felt it was a fluke, Brady Anderson-esque season he would not repeat.
They were right. He got better.
In 2011, Bautista has become a more complete hitter, improving upon his batting average (.260 compared to .304), his OPS (.995 to 1.073) and his ability to draw a walk (100 to 115). With 42 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 runs, Bautista is currently No. 1 in Batter StatRank with a 97.8.
Pitchers have had time to make adjustments, figure him out and pitch to his weaknesses. It doesn’t matter. Bautista has the bat speed to handle whatever pitchers decide to throw his way.
The Blue Jays are a mediocre baseball team with a .500 record (74-74). This hurts Bautista’s chances to win the award in 2011, but he is no doubt among the game's elite. You can bet this won’t be the last season Bautista is in the discussion for MVP.
AL MVP: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
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This is the Curtis Granderson everyone expected to see when he was acquired from Detroit before the start of 2010 season. Correction—this is better than the Curtis Granderson everyone expected to see when he was acquired before the start of the 2010 season.
He is crushing left-handed pitching, taking advantage of the short porch in right and scoring a ton of runs at the top of a loaded Yankees offense. His 128 runs leads the MLB by 20, he is second to only Bautista in home runs with 39, tied with teammate Cano for the AL lead in RBI with 111, has 24 stolen bases and a .933 OPS. His Batter StatRank is fifth overall (93.4).
With Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both missing time this season because of injuries, Granderson has been a staple at the top of the lineup for New York.
Gonzalez and Bautista have been great this season for their respective teams, but Granderson has been every bit as good and the Yankees are in first place with the best record in the AL (90-57). He deserves the MVP award.