MLB: Lance Berkman and the Top 10 Leading 2011 AL and NL MVP Candidates

Lake CruiseAnalyst IMay 7, 2011

MLB: Lance Berkman and the Top 10 Leading 2011 AL and NL MVP Candidates

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Baseball's 2010 American League MVP Josh Hamilton was injured the first week of the season. 

    Joey Votto, who won the 2010 National League MVP, is still doing his thing.

    There are other players in both leagues who are off to fast starts and pushing for 2011's top spot. The MVP tracking system will keep you entertained all season long.

    Join me for this edition of the MVP Whisperer... 

American League: If Not Josh Hamilton, Then Who?

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    DETROIT, MI - APRIL 12:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers slides into home plate during the third inning while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 12, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Hamilton was out from a tag by Victor Martinez  (Photo
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Hamilton hurt his shoulder sliding head first into home plate, jamming himself and the team; the Texas Rangers proceeded to fall out of first.

    Several players are ready to take his place at the podium, but he should be back this season. Even though they have the jump on him, I wouldn't count him out of the MVP race just yet. Hamilton is that good, although shaky, but there is a long way to go in the season.

    Here are the current AL MVP front-runners.

5. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees bats against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on April 26, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The White Sox defeated the Yankees 3-2.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Leading the Yankees with a .305 average, Cano is carrying the first-place Yankees, along with Curtis Granderson's help.

    New York relies on the long ball, and Cano has been providing both homers and RBI. He had an outstanding season in 2010, and we'll be watching to see how he responds.

4. Jeff Francouer, Kansas City Royals

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 12: Jeff Francoeur #21 and Brayan Pena #27 of the Kansas City Royals celebrate Francoeur scoring against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning of their game on April 12, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Francouer has been the cure for any of Kansas City's offensive woes early this season.  The Royals have been playing well and hovering around the .500 mark.

    I've marked Francouer as one to watch.

3. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

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    MESA, AZ - MARCH 09:  Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals plays against the Chicago Cubs during the spring training baseball game at HoHoKam Stadium on March 9, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Batting .320 and among the league's leaders in hits, home runs, RBI and runs scored, Gordon is leading the Royals on offense.

    The 27-year-old Nebraskan is for real this season.  It's still early, but I've got him on my watch list.

2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    DETROIT, MI - MAY 03: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a 4-2 victory over the New York Yankees with teammates at Comerica Park on May 3, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Cabrera is having his usual MVP-type season. He had his problems before the year started, but he has been lights out since.

    The Tigers have a losing record, but they swept the first-place Yankees this week. Cabrera is batting around .340 with 27 runs scored, seven home runs and 23 runs driven in.

    Don't try drinking and driving at home. 

1. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19:  Jose Bautista #19 (L) of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with coach Brian Butterfield #55 after Bautista's first inning home run during their game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on April 19, 2011 in Toronto, Canada
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    He hit, what, 85 home runs last year? 

    Actually, it was closer to 50. 

    It was 54 to be exact. 

    Bautista has nine homers already this year—only two behind the league leader, Alfonso Soriano.  Batting around .360, Bautista has impressed me with his hitting ability this season.

    His 25 runs scored are also good. 

National League: Can Joey Votto Repeat in a Stacked League?

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    CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 04:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds swings at a pitch during the game against the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park on May 4, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Joey Votto took home the MVP hardware last season, and he's in the game this year too, proving he's a legitimate perennial All-Star.

    Of course, Albert Pujols will have something to say about that.

    Here are the other top contenders for the NL MVP.

5. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 09:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds warms up on deck during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 9, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Votto is leading the Reds in almost every offensive category.

    The defending NL MVP is back in the race this year. If he keeps this up, will people start talking about him as the heir apparent to Albert Pujols?

    Nah. Votto is being watched, though.

4. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: Catcher Wilson Ramos #3 of the Washington Nationals looks on as Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers follows his hit during the second game of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on April 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Ro
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Braun is a fantasy baseball owner's dream. While playing on a losing team, he is posting MVP-caliber numbers in Wisconsin.

    Already recognized as a fantasy stud, could his peers in the majors—along with the press—start labeling him the best hitter in the NL?

    Nah.  Braun is good, though.

3. Matt Kemp, L.A. Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after he was called out at first base duriing the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on April 30, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/G
    Harry How/Getty Images

    With 21 runs scored, six home runs and a .352 batting average, Kemp has been the man for the Dodgers.  Add his 20 RBI and 10 steals, and I'm sure you'll agree with a brother.

    His teammate Andre Ethier has the longest hitting streak in the majors so far this season, but his overall production can't match Kemp's.

    I guess dating (and splitting with) entertainer Rihanna did Matt some good.

2. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 5: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a game-tying RBI single against the Florida Marlins at Busch Stadium on May 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The third-year Cardinal is leading the league in hitting, and scoring a ton of runs in baseball's best lineup so far.

    Batting behind Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols and in front of Lance Berkman, Holliday is taking full advantage. We'll be watching to see how long he can bat over .400.

1. Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 5: Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals rounds the bases after hitting the game-winning three-run home run against the Florida Marlins at Busch Stadium on May 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Ima
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Berkman is the only player in the league batting in the top 10 in home runs, RBI and average. He's really making the Houston Astros pay for not signing him.

    Berkman went off against Houston in the Cardinals' series win earlier this season. Lance is healthy, motivated and batting in a strong lineup, so there is no reason he can't keep up this pace all year long.