MVPs for the Stretch Run
Each team with Postseason aspirations will need many players to step up in order for them to win enough games to clinch. On the following list, I will define which players on these teams will NEED to be their Club’s MVP down the stretch. All of the percentages listed next to each team are based on playoff projections from baseballprospectus.com. I list any team that has a 60%+ chance of making the 2012 postseason.
Washington Nationals (99.8%) – Gio Gonzalez (SP)
With the plan seemingly still in place to shut down Strasburg at some point, the hottest and best team in baseball will need a #1 ace to help them maintain momentum into October. Gonzalez has proven that he can be that guy. He is a definite Cy Young contender, and his presence will be needed to fill the void left by Strasburg.
Cincinnati Reds (99.8%) – Jay Bruce (RF)
The Reds have proven that they do not need their best player (Joey Votto) in the lineup in order to be successful. Votto’s presence needs to be there if the Reds want to make a serious run, but Bruce has the potential to be that middle-of-the-lineup bat that solidifies the entire lineup.
Texas Rangers (99.4%) – Yu Darvish (SP)
The Rangers’ starting pitching woes are well-documented at this point. This is a team that needs a rotation to match the firepower of their offense. Darvish has got to develop into that top-of-the-rotation pitcher that sets the tone for the rest of the staff. He has the stuff, and he needs to step into that role for Texas.
New York Yankees (98.8%) – Hiroki Kuroda (SP)
The Yankees are in a similar position as the Rangers. They are depending on a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher to be their ace while CC Sabathia is working his way back. Kuroda has been outstanding for the Yankees over the past two weeks, but he will need to continue that streak for them to slam the door on the rest of the AL East.
Atlanta Braves (89.2%) – Martin Prado (LF)
As I have watched every Braves game this year, I have noticed that Prado is a major spark plug for this team. He is everything for this club because he can fill in at almost any position, and he could be the key that keeps the Braves from missing the Postseason for the second straight year.
Chicago White Sox (87.4%) – Paul Konerko (1B)
Not many people predicted the White Sox to be in such a good position this late in the season, but Pauly K is a major reason why. His leadership in the clubhouse and his bat in the lineup could help them stave off a major run by the Tigers.
San Francisco Giants (79.2%) – Angel Pagan (CF)
Buster Posey and Hunter Pence should be on point for the stretch run, but Pagan will need to be the guy to get on base so the thumpers can do damage. In all three games of the Giants’ recent sweep of the Dodgers, Pagan got on base and scored in the first inning. They will need more of that.
Tampa Bay Rays (76.7%) – Evan Longoria (3B)
When Longoria went down early on in the season, few gave the Rays a real chance to stay in contention. Not only did they remain in contention, they shot into a playoff position because of their solid pitching. However, their offense needs to come alive with Longoria at the helm for them to remain there.
Detroit Tigers (69.7%) – Prince Fielder (1B)
Most would have selected Miggy here, but the biggest reason why Cabrera is having a MVP-caliber season is because of the lineup protection that Fielder provides. Fielder has to remain steady in order for Cabrera to get pitches that he can drive.
St. Louis Cardinals (64.1%) – Yadier Molina (C)
Molina does more from behind the plate than most people realize. He is having the best offensive season of his career, but it is how he will work with starters and especially the relievers that will pave the way for the Cardinals to try and recreate the magic of last season.
Who do you think will be the MVPs of these teams down the stretch? Tweet your responses to @MLBFanCave and @KyleOKC using the hash tag #MLBFC.