We checked in on five under-the-radar MVP candidates for the American League earlier this week. While there’s a chance a couple of those players will find themselves in the conversation for the prestigious award, the National League appears to be a bit more wide open.
The Giancarlo Stantons and Yasiel Puigs of the world will get a ton of play early in the season, but these five candidates stand just as good of a chance as it relates to earning the league’s top honor.
1. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
This former top San Diego Padres prospect saw his batting average increase by over 50 points in 2014 from the season before. That’s an amazing jump for someone that just now seems to be hitting his stride in the majors. It’s also a representation that Rizzo will find himself among the best offensive infielders this season, especially with the young talent around him in the lineup.
Not only did Rizzo hit .286 with 32 homers last season, he posted a solid .386 on-base percentage. Now that Chicago is fully prepared to contend for the National League Central crown, we can expect this 25-year-old first baseman to garner more national attention. If he’s able to hit 40-plus homers and drive in 110-plus runs while maintaining his batting average from a season ago, Rizzo should easily be in the MVP conversation.
2. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
If Carpenter is able to return to 2013 form, he should be among the most well-rounded players in baseball this year. The third baseman put up just a .272 average last season in comparison to a .318 clip in 2013. He also saw his homers and RBI’s decrease from the previous season.
However, Carpenter did lead the Majors in runs (126), hits (199) and doubles (55) in 2013. He followed that up by leading the Majors in plate appearances (709) and walks (95) last year. If he’s able to put everything together for a contending Cardinals squad in 2015, there’s a chance this two-time All-Star receives some MVP consideration.
3. Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
This two-time All-Star has been incredibly consistent over the past couple years. He followed up a 24-homer, 73-RBI 2013 campaign with 23 homers and the very same amount of RBI’s this past season. He also saw his batting average remain steady at .284. A solid defensive outfielder, Gomez can really take that next step if he’s able to improve even more at the plate. If he’s able to put up 30-plus homers to match his 34 doubles and 34 stolen bases from last season, the 29-year-old centerfielder should see himself among the best all-around players in the National League.
4. Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
Most of the focus in Miami will be on Giancarlo Stanton this upcoming season. This doesn’t mean that the Marlins are lacking talent elsewhere in the outfield. This 24-year-old Dominican talent put up a solid .269 average with 23 homers and 85 RBI in his first full season in the majors last year. With a bit of a progression in terms of plate discipline, Ozuna could very well take that next step towards elite status. He’s a legit five-tool player with past success at the highest level.
5. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
The Nationals are more than pleased with this former top-10 pick. Rendon led the Majors with 111 runs scored while hitting 21 homers and driving in 83 runs last year. The youngster also put up a solid .287 average en route to finishing fifth in the National League MVP voting. Natural progression itself indicates that Rendon will be among the best overall players in baseball this season. That should be good enough to earn MVP consideration, especially with Washington strongly considered the favorite to win the National League.