Written by Bobby Mette
@kjackmansports, facebook.com/jackmansports, firstname.lastname@example.org
We are a couple of weeks into the 2011 MLB season, and it is now time for the Willie Bloomquists to step aside and let the big boys shine. No, one of those big boys is not named Albert Pujols. The NL could see an epic MVP race down to the end this year. Going in the favorites were Pujols, reigning champ, Joey Votto, and Ryan Braun. Here are some guys that could very well steal their thunder and take home the hardware.
Troy Tulowitzki, COL, SS- Tulo currently leads the league with 7 home runs. That also includes 14 RBIs, and an early season .364/.486/.836 stat line. While those averages should go down a bit, expect Troy to continue producing throughout the year for the first place Rockies. He has the luxury of playing in Denver, and the long balls may be flying out left and right. If the Rockies are going to need to make a playoff push, he is their guy since he had an unbelievable September last year. The one concern for Tulo, Rockies fans, and fantasy owners for that matter is his health. He has had a few problems in the past, but if he can avoid some DL stints, we could be due to see a historic year from the young shortstop.
Matt Kemp, LAD, OF- This guy is flat out fun to watch, and he could be even more fun to watch if he keeps up the pace he is at right now. A .474/.545/.719 line is unreal for now, but truly remarkable to say the least. He is not going to hit 35 home runs so the fact that he won’t keep up with the leaders will not be a surprise. His 8 stolen bases so far are tied for the league lead with Jose Tabata of the Pirates. Batting behind Andre Ethier will give him many RBI opportunities as well as some good looks at the plate. The sky is the limit for him. He had a down year last season, but the early season success is a good sign for things to come.
Prince Fielder, MIL, 1B- Some may think The Prince is a top candidate for the NL MVP, but certainly not after his 83 RBI .261 average year in 2010. Braun’s partner in crime is off to a hot start with a league leading 16 RBIs to go along with a .321 average and a .571 slug. Fielder signed a one-year deal with the Brewers and avoided arbitration so that only means one thing. The Prince could become the King. Actually, on second thought, no one can take that title from King Felix himself, but you get the idea. While Pujols, Votto, and even Howard remain the top picks for first basemen in the NL, Fielder could steal the show at Miller Park in a stacked lineup.
Now for the real pick to click…
Joey Votto, CIN, 1B- While Marlon Byrd may object to this, you cannot go wrong with the current holder of the MVP crown. He is so young and already such a great hitter, and is poised for another big year. The NL Central could be a four-team race this year, so Votto has every reason to hit even more monsterly down the stretch. Only two home runs so far to start the season, but any knowledgeable fan knows that baseball is a game of streaks. And if Joey Votto’s “early season power struggles” come with a .444 average, .544 on-base, and a .667 slug, then just wait for the homers to come.
Maybe if Pujols weren’t so greedy and made a deal with his life long team, then he would be hitting well to start the season. The fact is that he didn’t and even though the Cardinals say it won’t get in the way, it already has. The three-time MVP champ may never play again in St. Louis and may never see the MVP again. But then again I am just dreaming. Pujols is still Pujols and he will always be in contention for the MVP.
*Stats as of April 17, 2011