AL) Albert Pujols- He’s motivated to show St. Louis and everybody else that his 10-year contract won’t become the disaster that A-Rod’s is, he’s completely healthy, and he’s been hitting the crap out of the ball all spring. Plus, by moving to the AL Pujols can use the DH spot to stay rested, stay healthy, and still be able to contribute offensively if he does get banged up. The Angels’ lineup is full of guys who are either marginal offensive players, aging, injury-prone, or a combination of those 3. If a few guys go down, Pujols is going to have to pick up the slack, and I expect he will do just that. He’s still the best hitter in baseball and at 32 he’s still got some elite-level years left in his bat. I say .320/.420/.590, .410 wOBA, 40 HR, 130 RBI, solid D at first base, and his 4th MVP award.
NL) Justin Upton- Pujols and Fielder have left the league, Braun is going to experience voter backlash from the drug test situation, and Matt Kemp is stuck on a crummy team. I was leaning Joey Votto, but he’s won before and he’s going to have more help in his lineup than Upton is. Upton is the only true threat in the D-backs order, and despite the addition of Cahill I think their rotation is going to regress a bit from last season. Upton is a true 5-tool talent who will put all the tools together this season and be the #1 reason the D-backs make the playoffs. .285/.390/.550, .395 wOBA, 30+ HR, 30 SB, 110 R, 115 RBI, and a Gold Glove for good measure.
AL: Albert Pujols (runners up: Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera)
Pujols may have some early struggles transitioning to a new league, but there is little doubt in my mind that he will continue to rake in 2012. He’s far and away the biggest threat in the Angels’ lineup, and he will get major credit if he can help the Angels beat out the Rangers for the AL West title. Getting the opportunity to DH occasionally should help keep him healthy too.
NL: Troy Tulowitzki (runners up: Joey Votto, Matt Kemp)
The departure of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder the AL opens up the field significantly. The Rockies are a young team on the rise, and if all goes well this year they could make a run at the weak NL West. If Tulo puts together a strong season, he will get a lot of the credit for Colorado’s success. At 27, Tulowitzki is in his prime, and poised for a big season. The combination of big production, good defense at an up-the-middle position, and a compelling storyline will help Tulo bring home some hardware.
AL: Miguel Cabrera (Runners up: Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols)
Miguel Cabrera is either the best hitter in the American League, or very close to it. Unlike Pujols, he is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and gets to sit in the lineup next to Prince Fielder. Somehow, Cabrera has never won an MVP award. One day, that has to change.
NL: Ryan Braun (Runners up: Joey Votto, Troy Tulowitzki)
With Fielder and Pujols gone, Ryan Braun’s competition just got a lot thinner. Braun won the MVP award in 2011, and is still just 28 years old. Joey Votto is his closest competition as far as all-around sluggers go, and Troy Tulowitzki is a top performer at a weak position. Braun may have to look out for young darkhorses in Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton or even Hanley Ramirez as well.
AL: Albert Pujols (runners up: Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano)
Pujols gets to mash back of the rotation AL West pitching. Need I say more? Cabrera will have a better season but Prince Fielder will split the vote. I actually think Robbie will have a season on par with 2010, but his lack of on-base skills will keep him from being a true MVP contender.
NL: Joey Votto (runners up: Matt Kemp, Justin Upton)
The king is dead. Long live the king. With Pujols gone Votto could win the next three MVPs (it doesn’t hurt that Ryan Braun will have a lingering steroid taint on him). Kemp will supply the numbers but the Dodgers won’t provide the wins. Justin Upton wins one no later than 2014.
AL: Mark Teixeira
Kevin Long’s work with lefties created the monsters that were Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson last year. This year, Long has worked with Mark Teixeira hitting lefty, and I expect even bigger results. He seems to have a better ability to hit the ball the other way thus far, and with that we have higher contact rates, but I also expect a higher homerun rate. After Cano and Granderson saw massive power spikes, Mark Teixeira’s talent could mean he sees the biggest.
NL: Dan Uggla
After a somewhat disappointing 2011 season where the 2B hit .233/.311/.453, Uggla went to work this offseason. He’s added a tremendous amount of muscle and is hitting the ball extraordinarily hard. It isn’t good to take much from spring numbers, but 9 of his 16 hits have been extra base hits, and 6 of those 9 have been homeruns. I expect a rebound from his .253 BABIP last year , causing him to hit .300, and improving upon the career high 36 homeruns from 2011.
It pains me to say this, but I can certainly appreciate the “shoulder discomfort” narrative as several analysts noted a different swing for Gonzalez last season … and I did notice subtle alterations myself. A fully healthy Gonzalez in that lineup in that park is a scary proposition, and he wasn’t too far removed from MVP level production last season.
NL: Matt Holliday (Runners up: Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton)
This is something of a shot in the dark, as I simply don’t see a dominant offensive force in the NL in 2012, and I think the elite pitchers will be too balanced to make much noise. The Cardinals return a great lineup, and Holliday has been ohsoclose a few times before. I can see him putting up a borderline Triple Crown season in 2012, along with his normally stellar peripherals.
I am buying into retro-Mark Teixeira. It was just two years ago that Teixeira finished runner-up in the MVP balloting, so if he really can dial it back to when he was more of an all-field hitter, the Yankees’ first baseman could once again approach that level of acclaim. Although, I don’t think Teixeira will have the best season in the American League, .290/40/120 seems possible, which, combined with his gold glove reputation and the likelihood the Yankees will have a successful season, would be right in the typical voters’ sweet spot.
He may only be 22 years old, but no player in major league baseball excites me more than Stanton. Considering the significant improvement made between 2010 and 2011, the Marlins right fielder seems to be on the cusp of greatness, and I betting he gets there in 2012. If he can avoid injuries and the Marlins enjoy even modest success, an MVP for Stanton isn’t a matter of if, but when. So, why not now?
AL: Robinson Cano. Average? Check. Power? Check. Good team? Check. Narrative? Check. Do it, Robbie.
NL: Joey Votto. There might be someone in the NL who has a stronger season in the NL (though it’s not likely, considering the gaudy numbers Votto puts up on an annual basis), but Votto will probably have a nice narrative behind him to assist him in his quest for a second MVP. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder departing for greener pastures, the NL Central is there for the Queen City’s taking, and who better to lead it than Votto?
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