National League MVP Race Wide Open

Denver CO USA Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki 2 comes out of the dugout during the game against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field The Rockies defeated the Nationals 8 3 Ron Chenoy USA TODAY Sports

Unlike the American League Most Valuable Player race, the National League version is wide open. Several candidates could make their way into the discussion by the end of the season.

Leading the way might be a pair of Colorado Rockies’ teammates – Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Heading into Monday, Gonzalez led the National League in home runs with 21. The outfielder is also batting .300 and is fourth in the league with 57 runs batted in. Gonzo ranks in the top ten in both walks and stolen bases, too. The fact that he can go out and steal a base really adds a nice dimension to his game that voters will have no choice but to respect.

Tulowitzki has to be considered an outside contender for the Triple Crown. He ranks seventh in home runs (16), sixth in runs batted in, and second in batting average. He’s currently the only player to rank in the top ten in all three of those categories.

Playing in Coors Field is certainly something that will hurt the chances of both, though, since the rarefied air plays into the offensive totals. But if Gonzalez continues his pace and ends up in the neighborhood of 50 home runs or Tulowitzki is a threat to win the Triple Crown, it will be hard to dismiss them as contenders. His defense should help his candidacy as he only one error one the season.  A two-time Gold Glove winner, Tulowitzki has proved that he brings more than a bat to the table.

Maybe the most unheralded name on the list is Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt leads the league in runs batted in (65), is second in home runs (19), and 14th in batting average. And like Tulowitzki, he may be the closest thing to a Triple Crown contender that the league has. On top of all of that, he is in the top ten in walks, hits, and runs.

Goldschmidt will also be helped by the fact that he plays for the Diamondbacks – currently in first place in the NL West. One other thing sure to help is his 3.9 WAR – good for third in the league.

Another guy that deserves some recognition is the Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran. Keeping Beltran out of the running will be difficult since he may just be the best player on the majors’ best team. At 47-28, St. Louis has the best record in all of baseball and helping lead the way is the veteran Beltran. Beltran is 36 years old, but he isn’t exactly showing signs of slowing down. He leads the team in home runs and total bases, is second in RBI, and in the top five in OPS, hits, batting average, runs and triples.

Beltran’s numbers are some of the best in the league, too. His 17 home runs are sixth in the league and he ranks seventh in slugging percentage and eleventh in batting average. He may not have the biggest stats by the end of the season, but if the Cardinals wind up as the league’s best team, someone on the squad will get some recognition … and it might just be Beltran.

Staying in the division, teammates Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are also throwing their hats into the ring. Bruce is fifth in home runs with 18 and his 54 RBI are also fifth best in the league. But his biggest hurdle will be convincing voters to overlook his gaudy strikeout numbers, which could approach 200 for the season. He’s currently at 91 – second most in the league. Votto is in the top ten in home runs and batting average and maybe most impressive are his league-leading 56 walks. His defense hasn’t been what it was in the past, but his offensive numbers are among the league’s best. Playing for Cincinnati, the pair could wind up on a playoff team, helping their case.

There are plenty of other intriguing names, too. Unfortunately they all have some significant flaws to overcome.

Pedro Alvarez is quickly becoming a star for the upstart Pirates. He’s tied with Goldschmidt and the Phillies’ Domonic Brown for second with 19 home runs and is fourth in RBI, but batting a meager .237. Teammate Andrew McCutchen is perhaps Pittsburgh’s best player, but his offensive numbers aren’t quite as strong as they need to be. The aforementioned Brown is having a good season, but the Phillies are currently below .500 and might not challenge for a playoff spot. And the Brewers’ Jean Segura leads the league in hits, is second in stolen bases, and fourth in batting average. But his Milwaukee team is struggling badly and it will be hard for him to get recognition.

If there’s one thing we can predict about the NL MVP race, it’s that it’s there for the taking.

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Anson Whaley
Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');