MLB Awards 2011: Power Ranking the Top 25 MVP Candidates

Geordy BoverouxCorrespondent IISeptember 29, 2011

MLB Awards 2011: Power Ranking the Top 25 MVP Candidates

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    After a tumultuous 2011 baseball season, it's time to reflect on the year.

    A big part of that is the MVP award.

    There have been big years from lots of players. Three players reached 30-30 seasons, and plenty more made strong cases for the award in their respective leagues.

    While we could debate who should be the winner to no avail, I have compiled a list ranking the top 25 MVP candidates across both leagues.

25. Melky Cabrera, CF Kansas City Royals

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    Stats: .305/.339/.470 18 HR 87 RBI 20 SB 122 OPS+

    Believe it or not, Melky Cabrera actually had one heck of a season in Kansas City.

    Normally, one would never mix "MVP Candidate" and Melky Cabrera in the same sentence, or any Royal for that matter, but this year is different. 

    It may not have done much for the standings, but Cabrera did have a strong season his first year as a Royal.

    The only issue is that his OBP isn't too impressive at .339. For a player that is expected to bat at the top of the order, Cabrera has to raise that to take the next step forward.

24. Robinson Cano, 2B New York Yankees

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    Stats: .304/.352/.536 28 HR 118 RBI 8 SB 130 OPS+

    Ho-hum. Another season of batting .300 with close to 30 homeruns for the Bronx Bomber's second baseman.

    Normally, a statistical season such as Cano's at a position like second base would raise more eyebrows, but the entire baseball community has come to see this as the norm for Cano.

    Factor in his ridiculous lineup protection, and you get a great player in a spectacular situation, not an MVP.

23. Dustin Pedroia, 2B Boston Red Sox

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    Stats: .304/.384/.468 20 HR 89 RBI 26 SB OPS+ 128

    While Pedroia is a former MVP and had arguably his best statistical season to date, with career highs in HR, SB, OBP and OPS+, 2008 lacked a clear winner.

    In 2011, Pedroia had a fantastic season, but it got lost in the Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez hype, along with the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury's power.

    Pedroia's guts will always leave him a fan favorite, but he can't seem to do enough to be considered the elite hitter he really is.

22. Lance Berkman, RF/1B St. Louis Cardinals

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    Stats: .302/.413/.550/ 31 HR 93 RBI 2SB 167 OPS+

    After a pathetic start to 2010 in Houston, then an even worse showing in the Bronx the rest of the year, the 35-year-old Berkman found the fountain of youth in St. Louis.

    Berkman was hot out of the gates and never looked back the entire year. Just when many thought he was done, he turns around to have one of the best seasons of his career, as evidenced by his insane 167 OPS+.

21. Ian Kennedy, SP Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Stats: 21-4 2.88 ERA 198 K 137 ERA+ 3.60 K/BB 

    Much of Ian Kennedy's season has gone unnoticed outside of the desert, which is utterly ridiculous.

    The 26-year-old righty built on a solid 2010 by having a phenomenal 2011 as the ace of the D-Back's staff.

    His emergence is a big reason for Arizona's success in 2011 as the NL West Champions. Kennedy's 21-4 record would be unthinkable a year ago. His winning percentage of .840 also leads the major leagues.

20. Alex Gordon, LF Kansas City Royals

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    Stats: .303/.376/.502/ 23 HR 87 RBI 17 SB 141 OPS+

    Two Royal players on a MVP list? What is this, the 1980s?

    Well maybe so, because Alex Gordon, once dubbed "the second coming of George Brett," has finally realized some of his potential.

    While he may need some more pine tar to reach George Brett status, the second pick in the vaunted 2005 draft has finally shown some signs of life.

19. Cliff Lee, SP Philadelphia Phillies

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    Stats: 17-8 2.40 ERA 238 K 161 ERA+ 5.67 K/BB

    Another year, another strong showing from Cliff Lee.

    While his numbers don't stand out much from his previous seasons, Lee had a ridiculous June where he went 5-0 with an 0.21 ERA. Lee's September was almost just as good, where he again went 5-0, this time with an 0.45 ERA

18. Roy Halladay, SP Philadelphia Phillies

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    Stats: 19-6 2.35 ERA 220 K 165 ERA+ 6.29 K/BB

    The man often named the best pitcher in baseball didn't do anything to disprove that assumption in 2011. Halladay once again held a microscopic ERA and led the major leagues in K/BB ratio.

17. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS Cleveland Indians

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    Stats: .274/.333/.462/ 25 HR 92 RBI 17 SB 120 OPS+

    At the tail end of the first half, Asdrubal Cabrera's name was being thrown around as a legitimate MVP candidate. 

    After a less than stellar second half, that talk cooled, but the 25-year-old shortstop still produced, ending the year with 25 HR and 92 RBI, which is great for a middle infielder.

    Cabrera could afford to raise his OBP and his strikeout to walk rate was terrible (117/44); that's what keeps him from moving up this list.

16. Joey Votto, 1B Cleveland Reds

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    Stats: .310/.417/.534/ 29 HR 103 RBI 8 SB 158 OPS+

    The reigning NL MVP backed up his incredible 2010 with a strong 2011, but still falls short in these rankings. 

    There isn't anything you can criticize Votto on; he's just simply a by product of incredible years from some players higher on this list.

15. Prince Fielder, 1B Milwaukee Brewers

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    Stats: .299/.414/.565/ 38 HR 120 RBI 1 SB 165 OPS+

    A free agent to be, Fielder cemented his status as one of the best slugging first basemen in the game by once again approaching 40 home runs.

    Billy Beane would be happym, since Fielder held an OBP of over .400 for the third straight year.

    With Fielder producing so much so consistently, expect him to be a top free agent target in the winter.

14. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B Boston Red Sox

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    Stats: .338/.401/.548/ 27 HR 117 RBI 1 SB 155 OPS+

    While many would call Gonzo's first season in Beantown a success, he still fell short of expectations.

    For a man who would regularly approach 40 home runs in Petco Park, Gonzalez only hit 27 in Fenway, when many thought he would easily reach 45.

    Still, Gonzalez had a spectacular year. Playing with lineup protection for the first time in his career, Gonzalez saw his batting average shoot up to .338.

    Despite the fact he failed to lead his team to the playoffs, expect to see Gonzalez take another step forward in 2012.

13. CC Sabathia, SP New York Yankees

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    Stats: 19-8 3.00 ERA 230 K 147 ERA+ 3.77 K/BB

    Sabathia has done just what you expect him to do: win a bunch of games and strike a bunch of guys out.

    What more could you ask from a pitcher?

12. Jered Weaver, SP Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Stats: 18-8 2.41 ERA 198 K 158 ERA+ 3.54 K/BB

    Weaver built upon his breakout year in 2010 with a strong 2011 campaign.

    At the beginning of the year, Weaver set the world on fire and ended the year with great stats across the board.

    Unfortunately for him, other pitchers played even better the entire season, so he falls short on this list.

11. Jose Reyes, SS New York Mets

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    Stats: .337/.284/.493/ 7 HR 44 RBI 39 SB 143 OPS+

    While injuries slowed the 2011 batting champ, there's no denying how much he meant to his team.

    The Mets were never close to the playoffs, but Reyes' performance cannot go unnoticed. In June, he was virtually unstoppable, posting a .385/.425/.598 slash line.

    Reyes had a ridiculous 16 triples in 2011 and produced day after day despite the lack of lineup protection in New York.

10. Troy Tulowitzki, SS Colorado Rockies

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    Stats: .302/.372/.544/ 30 HR 105 RBI 9 SB 133 OPS+

    Tulowitzki had another power showing in 2011, but could have done so much more.

    Thirty home runs has been the norm for the 26-year-old shortstop, along with the borderline .300 average. Tulowitzki didn't run as much this year like he has in the past, as he only attempted 12 stolen bases, sliding in safe nine times.

9. Miguel Cabrera, 1B Detroit Tigers

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    Stats: .344/.448/.586/ 30 HR 105 RBI 2 SB 181 OPS+

    Cabrera was the majority of Detroit's offense this past season, as he led the American League in both batting average and on-base percentage.

    His home run and RBI totals are actually down from previous years, so Cabrera slips a bit on this list.

8. Clayton Kershaw, SP Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Stats: 21-5 2.28 ERA 248 K 163 ERA+ 4.59 K/BB

    Kershaw started off his career in 2008 strong, and has somehow gotten better each year.

    In 2011, Kershaw led the NL in wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, all at the age of 23.

    The sky is truly the limit for the young lefty, and it's scary to think he can actually get better than he has been this year.

7. Curtis Granderson, CF New York Yankees

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    Stats: .262/.364/.552/ 41 HR 119 RBI 25 SB 138 OPS+

    It pains me to put Granderson on this list at all, let alone this high. Not because I grew up in the Yankee mania of North Jersey to the point it was sickening, but I traded the 30-year-old centerfielder at the beginning of the year in the third year dynasty league.

    For whom you ask?

    Pedro Alvarez.

    Moving on.

    Granderson had a down year his first time in New York, but made up for it in a big way in 2011. He tore the cover off the ball throughout the entire year, demolishing his previous career highs.

    Granderson hit 41 home runs when his previous high was 30. He had 119 RBI when he never even reached 80 in the past.

6. Justin Upton, RF Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Stats: .289/.369/.529/ 31 HR 88 RBI 21 SB 141 OPS+

    The former first overall pick, Upton continued to trend upward in 2011. This time, he led the D-Backs to the NL West division crown.

    His numbers don't seem too special as compared to some other candidates, but Upton was a huge part of Arizona's success this year.

    Without him in right field, the Diamondbacks don't win the division, which makes him truly define being a MVP.

5. Justin Verlander, SP Detroit Tigers

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    Stats: 24-5 2.40 ERA 250 K 170 ERA+ 4.39 K/BB

    Can someone make a case for this guy not being the AL Cy Young winner?

    The numbers speak for themselves; let's move on.

4. Jose Bautista, RF/3B Toronto Blue Jays

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    Stats: .302/.447/.608/ 43 HR 103 RBI 9 SB 182 OPS+

    Bautista proved any skeptics wrong in 2011 with another monster season, leading the AL in home runs, walks OPS and OPS+.

    While he is one of the elite hitters in the game, Toronto was far away from contention this year, which hurts Bautista's chances.

3. Ryan Braun, LF Milwaukee Brewers

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    Stats: .332/.397/.597/ 33 HR 111 RBI 33 SB 166 OPS+

    While Braun had a monster year and was much more aggressive on the basepaths, a 30-30 season doesn't guarantee you MVP in 2011.

    Braun's below-par defense in left also hurts his chances at the award.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Boston Red Sox

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    Stats: .321/.376/.552/ 32 HR 105 RBI 39 SB 146 OPS+

    Ellsbury broke out his big boy bat in 2011. After a lost year in 2010, he started swinging for the fences this year to achieve his first 30-30 year, when he never hit double digit homers in the past.

    His defense also took a step forward in center, making him the second best MVP candidate in baseball.

1. Matt Kemp, CF Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Stats: .324/.399/.586/ 39 HR 126 RBI 40 SB 171 OPS+

    Like you expected anything different.

    Kemp had a monstrous year despite the turmoil in Los Angeles. He was one home run short of a 40-40 season while falling .13 points short of the Triple Crown.

    He could afford to strike out less, but can you really take away the NL MVP from him because of that?