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MLB Chicago Cubs

Top 6 MVP Hopefuls for the 2013 Chicago Cubs

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6 Players Who Can Win Team MVP in 2013 MLB Season

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Who will become the MVP of the 2013 Chicago Cubs? What hitters and pitchers will mean the most as this team tries to compete for the National League Central crown?

There are three weeks left before the Cubs open their 2013 MLB schedule on Apr. 1. They’re already starting the season without two of their starting pitchers, Matt Garza and Scott Baker. Both pitchers should return before the end of Apr. Until then, the Cubs will cover those voids with Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva.

In 2012, the Cubs finished with a 61-101 record. The Houston Astros were the only team with a worse record. For the Cubs, there were few bright spots on a team that lacked any type of depth following the July trade deadline. At least fans could look forward to the future with prospects such as Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Arodys Vizcaino.

What were some of the bright spots? Darwin Barney won his first National League Gold Glove award after his near flawlessness on defense. Almost instantly after Anthony Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa in late June, he was penciled-in as the No. 3 hitter. He responded with 15 homers. Alfonso Soriano also contributed with 32 homers and 108 RBI.

Will any of these players repeat their performances? Can they improve on them? This slideshow features the top six players who will compete for team MVP honors during the 2013 season. Will Barney continue to display his defensive expertise? Can Soriano enjoy another season where his bat takes a dip in the fountain of youth?

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No. 6: Kyuji Fujikawa

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Unless Carlos Marmol gets traded before Opening Day 2013, Kyuji Fujikawa will start the season as the setup specialist. Fujikawa has looked strong in spring training. At age 32, the Cubs are hoping that he’ll become a significant component in the bullpen.

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No. 5: Darwin Barney

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, many WAR fans loved Barney. Barney led the team with a 4.7 WAR. Much of that came from his 141-game errorless streak. He’s one-fourth of an infield that could potentially have three Gold Glovers.

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No. 4: Alfonso Soriano

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically, Soriano had one of his best seasons as a Cub in 2012. He is one of the few reliable sources of power in a lineup that lacks sluggers. There’s a chance that he’ll get traded before the trade deadline.

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No. 3: Jeff Samardzija

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In his first complete season as a starting pitcher, Jeff Samardzija had a 3.81 ERA. At age 28, Samardzija looks to take the next step in his progression. Since Matt Garza is injured, Samardzija will make the Opening Day start. He could finish the season as the ace pitcher.

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No. 2: Starlin Castro

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Is this the season that Starlin Castro breaks out? Now that Castro has his $60 million contract behind him and a permanent spot in the batting order (No. 2), look for him to blossom as a run-producer ahead of Rizzo.

Speaking of Rizzo—

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No. 1: Anthony Rizzo

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Many Cubs fans are excited about Rizzo, who surpassed expectations in his second MLB stint. In 337 at-bats, Rizzo had a .285 batting average with 15 home runs and 48 RBI. With a full season of at-bats and another season of experience, the left-handed hitter could finish his first full season with 30 home runs and 100 RBI.

Joshua Huffman is a contributor for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your LinkedIn and Google networks.