MLB: Top 10 AL MVP Candidates

TJ ZielmanContributor IINovember 15, 2011

MLB: Top 10 AL MVP Candidates

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    The race for the American League MVP couldn't be closer in 2011.

    There is debate about whether an MVP award can go to a player that did not participate in the playoffs (i.e. Jose Bautista) or whether it can go to a pitcher who dominated, but only played one fifth of the season (i.e. Justin Verlander).

    Here are the top 10 candidates, according to my personal ranking.

Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)

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    Jose Bautista wins my vote for AL MVP.

    His stats speak for themselves. He led the majors in home runs (43), walks (132), slugging (.608), on-base plus slugging (1.056) and was second in on-base percentage (.447).

    But does he get the award?

    Well, there's no doubt that he was probably the best offensive player in 2011, but was he the most valuable player? On his team, definitely.

    In the AL, I also think so.

    It's hard to imagine the Blue Jays at .500 without Bautista's 43 homers, and his 132 walks also say he was one of the most feared players in Major League Baseball.

Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)

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    This 100-mph hurler was a threat every time he stepped on the mound this year.

    He led the MLB in wins (24), strikeouts (250) and WHIP (0.92). He also led the American League with a 2.40 ERA.

    The Detroit Tigers starter was definitely the most dominant starter in the AL and is a lock for the AL Cy Young winner, but will voters be voting for Verlander for the MVP?  

    He should garner some first place votes and could unseat Jose Bautista for MVP, so we will have to wait and see.

    But, I don't think he will get strong enough consideration for this award considering Miguel Cabrera is on the same team and fans will be split between the two players.

Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston Red Sox)

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    Jacoby Ellsbury destroyed the Green Monster in the second half. He was widely considered the Boston Red Sox's best performer of the season.

    He led the majors in home runs (21) after the All-Star break. He was also in the Top 3 of the majors in RBI, hits and runs (post All-Star break).

    Along with his offensive outburst this year, Ellsbury has always been a stellar defensive outfielder. That should earn him a couple of first-place votes, but will fans have a heart for a player who just played well in the second half?

    I think he has a legitimate chance.

Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)

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    Miguel Cabrera was so close to earning the his first AL MVP award last year, but he lost to the Texas Ranger's Josh Hamilton.

    This year, he is up for the award again with another solid season. And this year, he led the league in on-base percentage, batting average and doubles.

    Cabrera was also a solid contributor to the Tigers making the postseason, and he was similar to Jose Bautista in contributing offensively, but I think Cabrera will come up short again in the voting with Verlander (his teammate) also getting consideration.

Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees)

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    Curtis Granderson sure found his stride in his second year in the Bronx.

    Granderson set career highs in runs, home runs, RBI, walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

    Some say that Granderson benefited from Yankee Stadium's small ballpark. Most of Granderson's home run production came from using the right-hand side of the park.

    But, Granderson was also contributing by stealing bases and using his speed which changed the course of the game in some cases.

    Granderson's chances are realistic, but he will most likely not get enough first-place votes to win this year.

Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)

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    While Dustin Pedroia didn't lead any categories in the majors, he is arguably the best second baseman in the league.

    His contributions defensively have always made him a candidate for MVP.

    The former MVP was once again reliable with the bat and the glove, which makes him a threat—but having three Red Sox teammates as candidates will hurt his chances.

Adrian Gonzalez (Boston Red Sox)

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    Adrian Gonzalez was a monster in the first half of the MLB season.

    Before the All-Star break, Gonzalez put up premier numbers and led the American League in batting average, hits, doubles and RBIs.

    However, Gonzalez's performance tailed off in the second half of the season. His play was overshadowed in the second half by Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia.

    Gonzalez was too dormant in the second half to win this year. Consistency is the key that will do Gonzalez good in the years to come.

Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    Evan Longoria was a man on a mission in the second half of the season.

    Longoria was simply on fire. He ranked second in HR after the All-Star break with 20, and he ranked second in RBIs with 57.

    Longoria's heroic moment also came in the bottom of the 10th inning in the last game of the regular season, as he hit a home run propelling the Rays into the postseason.

    But, is Mr. Clutch also Mr. MVP?

    Not this year.

Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers)

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    Ian Kinsler is considered the "Lone Ranger" on the team that was a win away from winning the World Series.

    Kinsler was great leading off, and once he was on base, he let his speed do all the damage.

    His 30 stolen bases shows he was a threat. Some might say that's nothing compared to Michael Bourn's 61 bags, but Kinsler was precise in stealing bases. He was only caught four times.

    He also ranked second in runs, behind the Yankees' Curtis Granderson.

    However, Kinsler will most likely come up short in voting, just like the in World Series.

Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)

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    Widely considered the best offensive second baseman in the league, Robinson Cano was a powerhouse, especially in the second half of the season.

    He led the majors in RBI (in the second half) and was second only to Jacoby Ellsbury in extra-base hits. However, his performance was overshadowed by Curtis Granderson's breakout year.

    Despite a decent season overall, Cano didn't lead or even come close to leading any of the major categories taken into consideration for the AL MVP, so Cano shouldn't end up with the prestigious award this year.