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Stock Watch: Braun making solid run at NL MVP, but will voters balk?

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Bull Market

1. Buster Posey, Giants C

This is the NL MVP edition, at least when it comes to the Bull Market, and Posey has helped himself with big hits lately, and many of them. He has 15 hits in his last 32 at-bats over eight games with three home runs as he's started to be seen as the favorite in some circles.

As the catcher of a surefire division winner, he has a lot going for him in the race. He's also in his comeback year after suffering crushing leg injuries while getting steamrolled at home plate by the Marlins' Scott Cousins. He's back to a starring role, though, and showing no ill effects from the crash. Nice story.

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2. Ryan Braun, Brewers OF

Braun's MVP candidacy is gaining steam, thanks as much to the Brewers' surprise run for the playoffs as his own hitting, though his own production is significant. Braun himself has acknowledged he got the MVP nod last year over Matt Kemp because the Brewers won the division while the Dodgers were an also-ran. So despite stellar statistics, he was seen as unlikely to win the award this year due to his Brewers' struggles -- until lately, anyway.

However, that has all changed as Milwaukee has moved within 2½ games of the second wild-card spot, for now becoming at least a contender. Meanwhile, Braun keeps hitting. His two-homer games vs. the Mets on Sunday gave him a league-leading 40 home runs and 103 RBI (one behind San Diego's Chase Headley for the NL lead). He leads the NL with a .602 slugging percentage and .989 OPS.

While he avoided suspension when an arbiter this spring overturned a failed drug test from last October, it'll be interesting to know whether some voters might count the original test results against him. On the numbers alone, he looks like a winner at the moment.

3. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates OF

McCutchen is back on a tear, even as the Pirates fade. Over the last four games (three of them losses), he has a 1.540 OPS, with seven hits in 14 at-bats, plus four walks and two home runs.

McCutchen leads the Pirates in every category in his monster year, but the team's characteristic slide -- they've lost eight of nine -- could hurt him in the MVP chase. He's still in the middle of this fascinating derby, but his team isn't helping him.

As far as some baseball people are concerned, the more interesting race for him may be for the batting title. McCutchen is back up to .343, now trailing only clubhouse leader Melky Cabrera by three points. Cabrera's season is over thanks to his drug suspension, but unfortunately he still has an excellent chance to win the batting title.

McCutchen looms as the main threat to unseat the unworthy Melky.

Bear Market

1. Johnny Cueto, Reds SP

Cueto probably cost himself a legit shot at the Cy Young with an awful 0-3 start to his September. In three starts, all defeats, he has an 8.22 ERA. His 17-9 record and 2.92 ERA are still excellent, but he probably trails at least R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez now.

2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners SP

King Felix may finally be tiring from carrying the Mariners, as his perfect August has been followed (so far) by a winless September. He is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA this month, likely costing himself a shot at a second Cy Young award. Uncharacteristically, Hernandez has allowed 30 hits in 16 innings this month.

3. Jay Bruce, Reds OF

It's been a great year for the Reds, but their chances for an individual award have all but ended this month, with Cueto struggling (see above), closer Aroldis Chapman shut down and Bruce on one of his bad streaks now. Bruce helped the Reds all but seal the division over the many weeks superstar Joey Votto was out, but his MVP candidacy took a hit in recent games as he's gone two for 27 with no RBI over his last five games. Still, a very nice year for Bruce, just not an MVP year.

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