An epic 2014 World Series is fresh in the books, which means the next major order of business is deciding the worthy winners of Major League Baseball's Most Valuable Player awards.
San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner staked his claim as the most clutch player in baseball en route to World Series MVP honors, but the league MVP awards aren't won in the postseason. The votes are cast prior to October, but with 162 games to draw from, more than a few candidates are capable of taking home the award.
The winners won't be announced until November 13, but the last pitch of 2014 has been thrown—so let's go ahead and predict how things are going to shake out.
National League MVP Predictions
1. Clayton Kershaw, P, Dodgers
It's almost impossible for a pitcher to completely lock up a league's MVP award. Then again, Clayton Kershaw is no stranger to defying the odds.
The Los Angeles Dodgers ace had one of the most impressive pitching seasons in MLB history. In Kershaw's 25 starts, he allowed more than three runs just one time.
He led the NL in wins, ERA, strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP. His 1.77 ERA for the season was sparkling. He finished the 2014 season with a 21-3 record.
Ace of MLB Stats uncovered another achievement for Kershaw:
As tough as it is for a pitcher to win the league MVP award, Justin Verlander did it just a few short years ago. Kershaw had an even better ERA and WHIP in 2014 than Verlander did in 2011, and nobody's resume in the NL can match his.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins
Giancarlo Stanton's season was cut short due to a horrible injury stemming from a pitch to the face, but that didn't do much to negate his spectacular season.
Appearing in just 145 games on the year, Stanton led the NL comfortably in home runs with 37—only two others passed 30. His 105 RBI are only 11 short of Adrian Gonzalez, and he finished second in on-base percentage.
The Marlins are trying hard to lock down Stanton with a long-term contract, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden, and it's not hard to see why:
The Miami Marlins made huge strides in 2014, finishing with a 77-85 record after constantly emerging as one of the MLB's worst teams, and that was largely due to Stanton's big year. He'll be rewarded with a top-two finish in the MVP race.
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen didn't do enough to repeat as the NL MVP winner, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort.
Nobody in the NL got on base more often than McCutchen, and it wasn't even close. With a .410 OBP, he was trailed closest by Stanton's .395 average.
He also finished second in slugging percentage in the league and hit 25 home runs—noticeably high for him and even higher than last year, when he took home the award.
Pittsburgh squeaked into the playoffs with a wild-card berth, and that should help McCutchen's case even more.
American League MVP Predictions
1. Mike Trout, CF, Angels
In 2014, Mike Trout will finally break through and win the AL MVP award.
As two-time reigning MVP winner Miguel Cabrera saw his numbers regress, Trout continued putting up big stats. He smashed a career-high 36 home runs and 111 RBI, ranking in the top five in the former and leading the AL in the latter.
Trout was already given the AL's Hank Aaron Award, and he should win the MVP award rather easily, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman believes:
What will definitely take Trout over the top is the fact that his Los Angeles Angels got into the postseason rather easily at the end of the year.
2. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners
When it comes to one player sparking the turnaround of a team and serving as a hugely valuable player, few boast the importance of Robinson Cano.
He signed a big-money deal to join the Seattle Mariners and took on huge expectations, and he delivered. He posted a .324 batting average, hit 14 home runs and notched 82 RBI.
The Mariners' inability to lock down one of the AL wild-card spots at the end of the season will hurt Cano's already remote chances of overtaking Trout, but he'll finish in second to validate his impressive year.
3. Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers
You have to put up gaudy numbers to contend for the MVP award as a designated hitter, but Victor Martinez did just that in 2014.
With Cabrera struggling to carry the lineup, Martinez filled in beautifully. He notched an impressive .335 batting average, second in the AL. He was also responsible for 103 RBI.
Leading the AL with a .403 on-base percentage also helps Martinez's case, and playing an integral role in the second-best offensive team in baseball doesn't hurt.
The Detroit Tigers fizzled out in embarrassing fashion in the postseason, but that won't matter at all when it comes to Martinez's MVP status. His numbers speak loudly enough.
Stats according to Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.