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MVPs? TSX writers name every team’s most valuable

The SportsXchange

Whether your team is preparing for the postseason or beginning the search for a new manager, there were standout individual performances throughout Major League Baseball during another memorable regular season. The Sports Xchange polled its team correspondents to select the Most Valuable Player for each of the 30 teams.

NL WEST

ARIZONA: The $32 million contract extension Paul Goldschmidt signed two day before the start of the regular season looks like the best money the team ever spent. Goldschmidt hoisted the D-backs on his shoulders and took them as far as he could. He had an MVP-caliber season, leading the National League in RBIs (125), total bases (332), slugging percentage (.551) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.952) and tied for the league lead in homers (36) while playing a solid first base. He also led the D-backs with 15 stolen bases. Really, he did it all.

COLORADO: RF Michael Cuddyer, who had never hit higher than .284 and who entered the season with a .271 career average, won the National League batting title with a .331 average at age 34. His output in 130 games also included 31 doubles, 20 homers and a team-leading 84 RBIs. Cuddyer set a franchise record with a 27-game hitting streak from May 28 through June 30 and was selected to the All-Star team. He was extremely consistent and productive both at Coors Field, where he hit .356 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs, and on the road (.311-9-39). Cuddyer hit .385 (30-for-78) in September to pull away in the batting race.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: It's almost impossible to identify an MVP on the Dodgers this season. Does Adrian Gonzalez deserve it for his steady consistency, keeping the team's offense afloat for over two months before the rest of the lineup coalesced around him? Certainly. How about Clayton Kershaw, who had one of the most dominant performances by a pitcher in years? Absolutely. And how can you underestimate the impact Yasiel Puig had on the Dodgers, sparking life in a moribund last-place team when he was promoted in June? All are deserving -- but Hanley Ramirez might be the biggest difference-maker. Limited to roughly a half-season by injuries, Ramirez put up remarkable numbers -- a .345 average, 20 home runs, 57 RBIs and a 1.040 OPS that only one player in the majors topped (Detroit's Miguel Cabrera). "Puig gets a lot of attention," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "But Hanley really has been the force."

SAN DIEGO: OF Will Venable almost by default. SS Everth Cabrera had the inside track until he drew a 50-game suspension for getting linked to the Biogenesis scandal. Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso were playing well until injuries cut their seasons in half. Although slowed over the final month with an abdominal issue, Venable finished with a .268 average with 22 doubles, eight triples, 22 homers and 22 steals.

SAN FRANCISCO: The best and most consistent Giant was RF Hunter Pence, who also had the best attendance. He was the first Giant to start every game of a 162-game season (Jose Pagan started 164 of 165 in 1962, when the Giants played a three extra games with the Dodgers to decide the pennant). Pence hit .283 with 27 homers and 99 RBIs. He played well defensively and was the first Giant with at least 20 homers and 20 steals in a season since Barry Bonds in 1998.

NL CENTRAL

CHICAGO CUBS: LHP Travis Wood had a breakthrough season despite a deceptive 9-12 record. Wood was the Cubs' most effective and most consistent pitcher from start to finish. He had an ERA of 3.11 and a WHIP of 1.15 1. He also reached the 200-innings mark for the first time in his career. (Manager Dale Sveum limited Wood to just one inning in his final start of the season, and a sub-3.00 ERA went out the window as Wood gave up three runs.) Wood has learned to pitch to both sides of the plate against both lefties and righties. He goes into 2014 as the No. 1 starter, leapfrogging RHP Jeff Samardzija.

CINCINNATI: 1B Joey Votto only drove in 73 runs, but he led the Reds in on-base, average and slugging. He set a club record by reaching base 315 times and by walking 134 times. "I've probably been asked more about my failings than my successes this year, which is kind of frustrating," Votto told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "But I think it's a two-headed monster. It's the lack of RBI and being compared to my previous self. I think it's a byproduct of those two things."

MILWAUKEE: In his first full season in the majors, Jean Segura gave the Brewers something they desperately needed -- an everyday shortstop they could count on. Segura was an offensive dynamo, batting close to .300 with 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases. Even better, he played very well in the field, often making sensational plays while showing superior range and a strong throwing arm. Segura won't be 24 until March, so the Brewers feel very good about shortstop for years to come.

PITTSBURGH: CF Andrew McCutchen has a good chance to win the National League MVP award after a fine all-round season. McCutchen hit .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a .404 on-base percentage and .508 slugging percentage in 157 games. He became just the fourth major league center fielder since 1947 to have consecutive seasons of hitting .300 with a .400 slugging percentage and .500 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, joining Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. McCutchen also showed improvement on defense after winning his first career Gold Glove last season as he took better routes on fly balls and showed better accuracy with his throws.

ST. LOUIS: C Yadier Molina and 2B Matt Carpenter tie for the honor. The statistics point to Carpenter, who was asked to play a new position, second base, in his first year as a regular and he also was asked to bat leadoff, a spot he was unaccustomed to. The results were that he led the league in hits, runs, doubles and had an on-base percentage of .392. Molina gets an equal nod, though, because of his handling of a pitching staff which had as many as many as 11 rookies at various points. And he also hit .319. These two should finish among the top three or four in the league Most Valuable Player balloting.

NL EAST

ATLANTA: Christian Bethancourt struck out as a pinch hitter in his major league debut Sunday, but he could be a key part of the Braves going forward. The 22-year-old native of Panama may move from the team's catcher of the future to the catcher of the present as early as next season if Brian McCann leaves as a free agent this winter, as many expect. Bethancourt is a defensive whiz and improved his hitting this season at Double-A Mississippi, batting .277 with 12 homers and setting a team record by reaching base safely in 40 straight games.

MIAMI: RF Giancarlo Stanton was on track to lead the team in home runs and RBIs (24 and 62, respectively, heading into the final weekend of the season), but no player was more valuable to the team than rookie RHP Jose Fernandez. In an otherwise forgetful season for a team with 100 losses, Fernandez brought a welcome enthusiasm and an electric personality. Oh, and he went 12-8 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts -- with minimal run support from one of the worst offensive teams -- making him a favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Fernandez, who turned 21 on July 31, was 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 15 starts at home. He was the team's lone All-Star and, regardless of his team's record, he brought playoff-like electricity to the ballpark every time he pitched.

NEW YORK METS: 3B David Wright may have missed seven weeks in August and September with a right hamstring strain, but he was still the engine behind New York's offense when healthy. In the first season of an eight-year, $138-million contract extension, Wright established himself as an early MVP candidate, hitting .309 with 16 home runs in 105 games prior to his injury.

PHILADELPHIA: On a starting pitching staff that largely disappointed, LHP Cliff Lee had a season that was worthy of Cy Young Award consideration. Despite being hampered with poor run support, Lee finished 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.01 walks/hits per innings pitched (WHIP) ratio. In those eight losses, Lee was given five runs of support and the Phillies were shutout five times.

WASHINGTON: When this team was struggling to score runs and get hits, RF Jayson Werth was the only one that was consistently hitting. His importance as a leader, a mentor for Bryce Harper and his defense in right field cannot be understated. But dating back to his game-winning, walk-off home run in game four of the divisional series against the Cardinals last season was a clear cut example of the power of Werth has in making this franchise successful. That continued this season with big hits in big games and at times when the team was struggling to get anything going.

AL WEST

HOUSTON: Jason Castro, the Astros' lone All-Star, took a dramatic step forward. He was a strong presence in the middle of the lineup and also guided the young pitching staff. He hit .276 with a career-high 18 home runs and 56 RBIs over 120 games. He also was the AL Player of the Week twice this season, becoming the Astros' first catcher to accomplish that feat in more than two decades.

OAKLAND: Josh Donaldson, the A's third baseman, is the unquestioned MVP of the team. His defense was Gold-Glove caliber, and he was among the league leaders in on-base percentage, slugging, RBIs and batting average. He had 14 game-winning RBIs and he hit .337 with 19 runs, five homers and 16 RBIs in September as the A's locked up the division title with a week to play. He's expected to get some consideration for AL MVP and could finish in the top five.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: Mike Trout is again a contender for the MVP of the American League, so he's certainly the Angels MVP. Trout hit .323 with 27 homers and 97 RBI. Playing the last two months of the season without Albert Pujols protecting him in the lineup, Trout remained disciplined and ended up drawing a league-leading 110 walks.

SEATTLE: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma. Not only did he out-pitch fellow Mariner Felix Hernandez this season, but Iwakuma may well have been a legitimate Cy Young candidate if not for Detroit's Max Scherzer and his 21-3 record. Iwakuma ranked among the AL's top three in ERA (2.66, third), innings pitched (219 2/3, third) and WHIP (1.01, second). He was a more dependable starter than Hernandez, and just about everyone else in the American League, this season.

TEXAS: Between the end of last season and the first of August, the Rangers lost OF Josh Hamilton and C/1B Mike Napoli (to free agency), INF Michael Young (to trade), DH Lance Berkman (to injury) and OF Nelson Cruz (to suspension), leaving gaping holes in the offense. Despite playing on a sore left hamstring all year, 3B Adrian Beltre put together another 30-homer season and made the Texas offense at least respectable. His presence in the lineup delivered reverberations. When he homered, the Rangers went 25-3. When he struggled in early September, so, too, did the Rangers. On top of his contributions at the plate his defense remained top-tier.

AL CENTRAL

CHICAGO WHITE SOX: LHP Chris Sale was an All-Star for the second-consecutive season, and is the building block for the starting rotation moving forward. If there is one untouchable on the roster it's Sale. He showed this season that he can carry a 200-plus inning workload (214 1/3 innings pitched), and also made 23 quality starts for a bad team, leaving the game with the lead 13 times. Since 2012, Sale has the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors among southpaws at 3.01.

CLEVELAND: 2B Jason Kipnis was the Indians' most productive all-around player. He was first or second on the team in nine offensive categories and led the team in runs (86), hits (160), RBI (84), and stolen bases (30). For the season overall he hit .284 with 17 home runs and 84 RBI. He was also was one of the team's top clutch hitters, batting .300 with runners in scoring position and .304 with two outs and runners in scoring position. A left-handed hitter, Kipnis batted .304 vs. left-handed pitchers. He was the Indians' No.3 hitter for most of the season and was selected to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his career.

DETROIT: Miguel Cabrera's value to the Tigers is as easily illustrated by his late-season injuries as when he is a healthy Triple Crown threat. Detroit had a winning record without Cabrera in the lineup, but toward the end of September, the run production declined noticeably. Opposing pitchers have been aggressive pitching an injured Cabrera inside and have less fear attacking the other hitters. Teams can more readily pitch around Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez if Cabrera isn't hitting. When Cabrera hits for power and drives in runs, the Tigers are very difficult to beat.

KANSAS CITY: RHP James Shields lived up to his billing as 'Big Game James' and was a clubhouse leader as well as mound leader. His 13-9 record belies on how well he pitched. He worked 228 2/3 innings and struck out 196, which ranked among the American League leaders. The Royals have lacked a true ace since trading Zack Greinke after the 2010 season, but Shields filled that role.

MINNESOTA: Joe Mauer didn't play for the last month-and-half of the season and is still the team's MVP. He finished the season on the DL with a concussion, but left another season of decent numbers behind: .324/.404/.476. Behind the plate, he caught 17 base runners stealing and made only two errors. The team's record took a precipitous deep without him in the lineup, which proved exactly how valuable he is to the team.

AL EAST

BALTIMORE: 1B Chris Davis was voted the team MVP by the media and he'll garner some votes for the American League award, as well. Davis finished batting .286 with 53 homers and 138 RBIs. The breakout year coincided with his first full big league season at first base, where he erased any doubts with a superb year with the glove as well. His club record 53 homers fell short of the pace he set in the season's first half, but he gives the club a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat to build around.

BOSTON: Despite owning the best record in the American League, the Red Sox aren't likely to have a player finish in the top-five of the MVP voting. A compelling case could be made that DH David Ortiz is the team MVP after a seventh 30-homer/100-RBIs season. It's difficult to argue against Koji Uehara, who took over as closer in mid-June and was literally unhittable for most of the season's second half. But for day-in, day-out value, look no further than 2B Dustin Pedroia, who played in a career-high 160 games despite dealing with a torn thumb ligament and still batted .301 with a .372 on-base percentage.

NEW YORK YANKEES: Robinson Cano had another MVP-caliber season both offensively and defensively, finishing the season over .300 (.314) for the seventh time -- with 27 homers and 107 RBIs -- despite a lineup without several regulars for much of the year. But now Cano, who left agent Scott Boras to retain Jay-Z's new agency as representation, expects to be compensated as one of the game's premier stars. "Who knows what's going to happen," Cano said on Sept. 25. "Nobody said I'm leaving, nobody said that I'm staying. I haven't decided anything yet. Let's see what happens after the World Series. But don't get me wrong. I love this team."

TAMPA BAY: 3B Evan Longoria admits he has had one of his most inconsistent and frustrating seasons. Asked by one reporter, he said he would tab SS Yunel Escobar as the team MVP. But Longoria is most deserving of the honor. He still leads the team in home runs and RBIs, has played Gold Glove quality defense on a nightly basis and has grown into a leadership role on the team.

TORONTO: 1B Edwin Encarnacion led the team with 36 homers, 104 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .370 and an OPS of .904, and he did it with a left wrist injury that nagged at him at times. His season ended after 142 games, when he had surgery to clean out cartilage in the wrist. He struck out (62) fewer times than he walked (82) and batted .272. Once a liability defensively as a third baseman, he has become an acceptable first baseman. He is an aware base runner.
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