There really isn't a frontrunner for the NL MVP award. And honestly, I don't think there really should be. David Wright leads the league in fWAR, but he plays for a terrible team. Carlos Gomez is second in the league in fWAR, and that value is based primarily on his defensive superiority. The players with the league's three highest wOBAs all play in hitters parks. So…where do you go from there?
TOC's midseason winner of the NL MVP award is Yadier Molina of the Cardinals.
Molina has built on a strong campaign in 2012 with another great year in 2013. The St Louis backstop is hitting .341/.386/.489 this season with seven homers and his usual top notch defense behind the plate. His .341 average is tops in the NL, eight points ahead of teammate Allen Craig. However, while Molina is putting together a pretty good year so far, he doesn't have the award locked up. He wasn't a slam dunk choice like Miguel Cabrera was in the AL. If Molina plays like he did in the first half after the All-Star Break, he can lock down the award…but it's not a sure thing by any means.
Our runner-up was Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates. McCutchen got off to a slow start for the Pirates, and he hasn't thrown the team on his back…yet. In July, Pittsburgh's center fielder has hit .372/.481/.535, and looks to be gearing up for the stretch drive with his team on his back. Even if McCutchen doesn't crank 31 homers like he did a year ago, he's still on pace to steal 30 bags and have his third straight 20/20 season. You can't argue with that kind of production at a premium position up the middle.
In third place is Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, but if Colorado continues to sink in the NL West standings, Gonzalez will likely be unfairly punished. It's a shame that Gonzalez is consistently stigmatized by his home park and the Rockies' terrible pitching staff, because he truly is an amazing player. This year, Gonzalez already has 25 homers (his career high is 34) and 16 stolen bases (while only being caught once) while hitting .302/.370/.610 and providing top notch defense in left for Colorado. At only 27 years old, Gonzalez reminds me a lot of Matt Kemp, and it'll be interesting to see if he's able to get to 40/40 in the future. 30/30 seems like a good possibility in 2013.
Finishing just behind Gonzalez in our voting is another one of those players who gets demerits against him because of his hitter-happy home park: Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt has hit 21 homers this year, already surpassing his total from 2012, and has also sent his strikeout and walk rates in the right direction. The man they call Goldie has also stolen nine bases, and has an outside shot for a 20/20 season of his own (a true rarity for a first baseman). Goldschmidt has gone from a guy that looked like a platoon bat into a legitimate middle of the order masher for years to come, and a solid MVP candidate.
Buster Posey, last year's NL MVP, finished fifth in our voting, but he has a real chance to make a leap in the second half. Posey has been the saving grace of a miserable first half for the defending World Champion Giants, and he's having a year very similar to last year's campaign. In fact, it's almost funny how close the seasons are. Posey's batting average is 11 points lower this year, while both his OBP and slugging percentage are 13 points lower. But because of league variations year by year, Posey's wRC+ is 162 this season compared to 163 last year, and that's good for the top mark in the NL this season (just like it was last season). With 25 homers and a slash line looking like it does now, it would be extremely hard to deny Posey his second straight NL MVP.
Four other players also received votes in our balloting. David Wright of the Mets is having another brilliant year for a miserable team, and he'll probably reach 20/20 by the end of August. At the very least, Wright should take home another deserved Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at third base. Freddie Freeman has been the glue that's held the Braves offense together this season, but his nine homers are a bit low for a first baseman. However, his .308/.386/.468 line is impressive, and a healthy Atlanta offense can help spur his production to new levels and make a push for individual honors. Finally, there's the Brewers duo of Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, both of whom are terrors on the basepaths and are showing surprising pop as well. Both players will have 20/20 seasons when all is said and done, and Gomez has an outside shot to go 30/30. With Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Aramis Ramirez all having injury issues this season, it's a little depressing to think of where Milwaukee would be without either of the two.
BALLOTING RESULTS (5-4-3-2-1 point system)
Molina (38 points, seven first place votes)
McCutchen (28 points)
Gonzalez (21 points, two first place votes)
Goldschmidt (19 points)
Posey (15 points)
Wright (9 points)
Gomez (3 points)
Freeman (1 point)
Segura (1 point)