NL MVP Watch

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey and Joey Votto are three of many candidates for the NL MVP award. (Getty Images)

As the dog days of the 2012 grow more dogged, there is, of course, more at stake than "merely" the World Series trophy. Individual hardware also hangs in the balance. That being the case, it's time to update the races for the four major awards (i.e., MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year) in each league.

To begin, let's see how the race for National League MVP is shaping up ...

FRONTRUNNER(S)

1. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

The discussion in the NL begins and ends with McCutchen. He's having an MVP-caliber season on the basis of the numbers (.362/.422/.609, 23 HR). It goes without saying that the upstart Pirates would be far worse off if not for McCutchen's bat and plus defense in center. If trends hold and the Pirates claim a playoff berth, then McCutchen could be the first unanimous choice in the NL since Barry Bonds in 2002.

ALSO IN THE MIX

2. Buster Posey, Giants

Suffice it to say, Posey has laid to rest those concerns about his surgically repaired leg. In addition to an outstanding slash line of .332/.406/.547 (by way of comparison, the average major-league catcher this season is batting .249/.318/.404), Posey has also worked 713 innings behind the plate for the first-place Giants.

3. Joey Votto, Reds

It remains to be seen how much Votto plays down the stretch, but at the time of his injury he was the most productive hitter in all of baseball (he was also on pace to set the single-season record for doubles). A strong September could put him back in the discussion.

4. Michael Bourn, Braves

Stealth candidate! Bourn is hitting .291/.352/.425 with 30 steals. Once you take into account Bourn's stellar defensive chops, he has been the Braves' most valuable contributor. A third Gold Glove also seems likely, and he has grounded into just two double plays all season.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT

5. Matt Kemp, Dodgers

For the early weeks of the season, Kemp was the runaway favorite for MVP, but injuries took their toll. Kemp's still having an outstanding season on a rate basis (.356/.423/.644); however, he may be pressed to log a qualifying number of plate appearances. With that said, a hot stretch drive in tandem with a Dodgers playoff berth could give Kemp some traction.

6. David Wright, Mets

Wright is enjoying an outstanding renaissance season. No, the Mets aren't contenders, but he's still been one of the most productive players in all of baseball this year. With a slash line of .325/.416/.536 and improved defense, Wright's case is a strong one. Then again, MVP voters have a habit of penalizing a candidate for having inferior teammates.

7. Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Should the Cardinals mount a late run at the playoffs (highly possible), then a great deal of the credit will fall to the team leader behind the plate. In addition to authoring a strong OPS+ of 134, Molina leads the league in caught-stealing percentage and is third in the NL in catcher assists despite a widespread reluctance to run against him.

8. Matt Holliday, Cardinals

Holliday's probably in line behind Molina as Cardinals candidates go, but he's having a stellar season -- indeed, you can argue that he's headed for the best campaign of his career on a park- and league-adjusted basis. Currently, he owns a .933 OPS and is on pace for 31 homers and 39 doubles.

9. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals

Yes, another representative from the NL's top offense. Beltran is on target to eclipse 40 homers, and his league-leading RBI total, if it holds up, certainly won't hurt him with voters.

10. Ryan Braun, Brewers

The reigning MVP almost certainly won't repeat, but the numbers this time around are almost as impressive as they were in 2011. Braun currently leads the NL in homers, and he's on pace for 75 extra-base hits.

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