Last season, Ryan Braun won the NL MVP award, barely edging out Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. Many people, including the staff of this site, thought the award was Kemp’s to lose. Alas, it wasn’t to be after Braun’s Brewers won the NL Central. Things could be a little different this year, with Braun’s season clouded by steroid speculation after a failed test that was later overturned and the loss of his main hitting buddy in the Brewers order, Prince Fielder.
Favorites: Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp were the two favorites last season, and they’re going to be contenders for the award again this year. Joey Votto of the Reds just got a huge contract extension, and it could be argued that he was just as good during the 2011 season as he was during his 2010 MVP season. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who is getting better and better as his career goes on and is going to win this award one of these days.
Great Players, Bad Teams: Andrew McCutchen is going to be in Pittsburgh for at least the next five years, and he’s one of the brightest stars in the game that no one really talks about all that much. Rockies teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez might be the best teammate duo in the league, but Colorado probably isn’t going anywhere because of their underwhelming pitching staff.
Redbirds Needing Attention: Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Lance Berkman of the Cardinals were all fantastic hitters last season, but didn’t get a lot of MVP love. With Albert Pujols no longer in St Louis, maybe the spotlight in the heartland can widen a little bit. Berkman’s defensive struggles will be minimized with his placement at first base, while Holliday and Beltran flanking the outfield corners should give them a lot more attention on the defending World Champions.
Marlins Breaking Through: There are three members of the Miami Marlins who could get MVP love this season: Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Giancarlo Stanton. Ramirez had previously been doomed during his prior awesome seasons due to playing in relative anonynimity in Miami, while Reyes played in a large market in New York, but had bad teams largely surrounding him. As for Stanton, he’s become one of the best power hitters in the game during his brief career, and with Ramirez and Reyes on base in front of him for much of the season, he’ll get plenty of pitches to hit.
Dark Horses: Braves right fielder Jason Heyward had a down year last season, but has one of the brightest futures in the game and a rebound season could bounce him to the top of the NL East mountain. The Phillies are really banged up right now, but free swinging right fielder Hunter Pence is healthy, and has become beloved by the Philly fans. He’ll likely be powering the offense with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out. Buster Posey of the Giants returns after a broken ankle last year, and he can get some attention as one of the few talented hitters in San Francisco’s depressing lineup.
The Verdict: I’m going to go with Joey Votto. The Reds assembled their teeam perfectly this offseason, and are primed to pounce on a wide open NL Central. I think Votto is the best hitter in the division, and I think he’s going to win his second NL MVP this year.