The 2012 MVP race between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera was one of the more heated we've seen in recent years. It was essentially a new school vs old school battle, and at the end of the year, the old school supported Cabrera and his Triple Crown, and he won the first MVP award of his career. Going into 2013, Trout is the overwhelming favorite among our staff to win the award. In fact, not one of our writers cast a vote for Cabrera.
Mike Trout is the favorite in 2013, and the reasons why are staggering. At age 20 last year, Trout homered 30 times, stole 49 bases at an 83% clip, played amazing defense in center field for the Angels, and posted a .963 OPS. All of that at age 20 and in only 139 games is just unreal, and at 21 in 2013, Trout is primed to have another great year with the Angels, but the ever-present threat of a sophomore slump is in the back of everyone's mind. Trout's all-out, balls to the wall style is one that can also result in an injury that can completely deep six his season.
As for Miguel Cabrera, he'll turn 30 in April, and he's coming off of a season that was actually a little bit worse than his 2010 and 2011 campaigns, though it resulted in him taking home some hardware. But while Cabrera did bash a career-high 44 homers, his battting average and on base percentage both fell (with his OBP dropping by 55 points thanks to a drop in walk rate), and his defense was also an adventure at third base. But with Prince Fielder and the returning Victor Martinez giving him protection in the lineup, Cabrera is going to continue to get a ton of pitches to hit, and will more than likely remain one of the best hitters in baseball in 2013. He's been in the top five of MVP voting in each of the last four years, and I'd expect that trend to continue...but maybe not at the top of the ballots once again.
Speaking of Fielder, he's a popular pick to win the MVP as he enters his second season in the American League. Fielder only hit 30 homers a year ago, his lowest total since his rookie year of 2005. However, he still put together a .940 OPS, walked more than he struck out for the second straight season, and caught fire in the second half after a bit of a disappointing start to his Tigers career. He also gets a huge upgrade in lineup protection, with Martinez replacing the pitiful Delmon Young in the five-hole for Detroit. Fielder could be primed for a monster sophomore season in the Motor City.
Another popular choice to win the AL MVP is Evan Longoria of the Rays. Longoria started the 2012 season n a roll before tearing his hamstring, an injury which decimated his season and the playoff hopes of the Rays along with it. But Longoria is healthy for 2013, and the 27-year old third baseman is hungry to lead the Rays to another playoff run. 30 homers, a .900 OPS, and a Gold Glove would go a long way towards Longoria finally being named the league MVP.
Robinson Cano of the Yankees is a guy that needs to be considered every year because of his unique skillset at second base. A second baseman who hits 30 homers *and* plays Gold Glove level defense? Typically, it's one or the other. WIth Cano heading into free agency after this year, and the Yankees clubhouse looking like an infirmary heading into the season, this is a guy that is poised to have a fantasic season and make a whole lot of money. He seems destined to shatter Chase Utley's record contract for a second baseman, and he also may be the Yankees only hope when in comes to contending this year.
For a dark horse candidate, how about the woefully underrated Adrian Beltre? He finished third in the voting last year behind Cabrera and Trout, winning a Gold Glove and hitting 36 homers for the Rangers. After the departures of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli in Texas, this is Beltre's offense, and the Rangers are going to need a great year out of him to overtake the Angels in the AL West and return to the playoffs for the fourth straight season.