As with the pitchers in the National League Central, there is no shortage of talent on the position player side. In fact, five of the last seven Most Valuable Players came from the N.L. Central. Andrew McCutchen (2013), Ryan Braun (2011), Joey Votto (2010), and Albert Pujols (2008, 2009) were all tabbed as the top player in the Senior Circuit in recent years.
This year should be no different, as one of the quintet listed below could make a realistic run at the MVP crown.
5. Joey Votto, 1B (Cincinnati)
The Reds first sacker is no stranger to the MVP voters, having won the award in 2010 and finishing in the top-10 two other times. His 2014 season was a disaster (.255 in 62 games) due to a left distal quadriceps injury that wiped out every game after July 5. That left Reds fans questioning the injury, especially since Votto missed one-third of the 2012 season due to a pair of knee surgeries.
If healthy, the 31-year-old Votto could post a 25 HR, 100 RBI, .320/.420/.550 slash line and lead the Reds to a Central title or a playoff spot. If he struggles or gets re-injured, watch for the Reds fans to lose patience with the southpaw slugger.
4. Jason Heyward, RF (St. Louis)
The newest addition to the N.L. Central talent pool has a ton of upside but hasn’t come close to matching those expectations, as his best season was his rookie season of 2010, when he posted an impressive 6.4 WAR. He has missed an average of 25 games per year, while banging out more than 25 homers (27) only once–in 2012.
Heyward, 25, has a pair of Gold Gloves and a Rookie of the Year runner-up to show for his career, and with a move west from Atlanta, this is the year he needs to produce like he is capable of doing. In his first year with the Cards–and last contract year, expect 25 HR, 90 RBI and a slash line of .270/.360/.490 in helping the Cards compete for the N.L. Central crown.
3. Carlos Gomez, CF (Milwaukee)
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‘Go Go’ has been an excellent addition to the Milwaukee Brewers line-up since 2010 and has been a superstar the last two seasons. He earned two All-Star berths, a Gold Glove, and a top-10 finish in the MVP balloting in that time. He is a candidate for a 30-30 season, and has upped his batting average to the .285 range the last couple years.
Don’t expect a lot of RBIs since he is a natural fit for the lead-off spot (think Rickey Henderson without the huge walk total), but look for 25 HR and a slash line of .290/.360/.490. Add 30+ stolen bases and superior center field defense, and the Brewers once again have a solid MVP candidate in the 29-year-old Gomez.
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Chicago)
The 25-year-old is becoming a star on the North Side of Chicago. His HR numbers have increased to the point where he could legitimately become a 35 HR guy at Wrigley. His batting average increased by 53 points, up to .286 last year. He was a first-time All-Star last year and finished tenth in the MVP voting.
The Cubs appear to be the real deal this year, although time will tell if they are capable of finishing near the top of the Central. If they do, the lefty-swinging Rizzo will be one of the leaders of the Cubs charge. Watch for 35 HR, 100 RBI, and a slash line of .290/.380/.540 and top-5 MVP finish.
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF (Pittsburgh)
The 28-year-old fly chaser is one of the top performers in baseball. In the last four seasons, he was named to four All-Star teams, won an MVP (2013), finished in the top-3 two other times, won a Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger awards. There’s not much he can’t do.
McCutchen effortlessly churns out 20-20 seasons while hitting around .315 or better. Last year’s OPS of .952 was the best in the National League.
This year, expect 25 HR, 90 RBI, 30 SB, and a slash line of .320/.410/.530 and his second National League MVP trophy while leading the Pirates to a possible play-off spot.