5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 AL MVP

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Who Will Win 2014 American League MVP?

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY SPORTS

It’s really hard to imagine there were any candidates for the 2013 American League MVP Award other than Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. It’s also hard to imagine a player other than the aforementioned two will be contending for next year’s honors. However, expect more names to throw their hats in the race.

Strung-out, yet insightful debate was spurned at the AL MVP voting results from each of the previous two years. Cabrera won both MVP races, but the majority of baseball statistician fans supported Trout for the award. Trout led Major League Baseball in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) each of the last two seasons, which was the main fuel of the debate from sabermetric aficionados. However, that was not enough to overcome Cabrera’s Triple Crown season a year ago and another fantastic but not as quite phenomenal year in 2013.

Nonetheless, Cabrera and Trout will enter 2014 Spring Training as the overwhelming favorites for next year’s AL MVP award. But does anybody else stand a chance? Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees and Josh Donaldson of the Oakland Athletics rounded out the top five from this year’s voting — they are obvious choices to contend for the award.

Looking outside the box, who are the players who were left out of the top five in voting in 2013 but have a serious chance to win the MVP in 2014? Two of following players have received MVP votes before, and one has even been given the award. But because of Cabrera and Trout they are considered dark horses for the award. Who are they and where do they fall on the list?

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5. Brandon Moss

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SPORTS

Brandon Moss did not receive a single vote for the 2013 AL MVP Award, yet he put together a good year for himself. He finished 10th in the league in OPS (.859), sixth in slugging (.522), tied for eighth in home runs (30), and 10th in win probability added (2.8). He plays on a team that gets little-to-no recognition for its successes, which heavily hurts his chances at an individual award. However, if Moss steps up to be the Athletics’ offensive captain in 2014 and leads Oakland to another Western Division title his name could gain more serious consideration.

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4. Nick Markakis

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Joy R. Absalon -USA TODAY SPORTS

Nick Markakis is solid baseball player and had a great 2013 season, although teammates Chris Davis and Manny Machado overshadowed him. He played 160 games, finished fourth in the AL in singles (138) and eighth in at-bats per strikeout (8.3). Should Markakis improve on his 2013 campaign and step further into the spotlight as Davis and Machado did, he could improve his chances at an MVP award. He would, however, need to improve on his offensive output in categories such as batting average and RBI. But if everything starts to click for Markakis he could see some votes come next fall.

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3. Billy Butler

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SPORTS

Unfortunately for Billy Butler, he plays on a team that has very little shot to make the postseason each year. His offensive numbers, however, have been great. Butler played in every game during 2013, finishing ninth in on-base percentage (.374), fifth in walks (79) and ninth in singles (126). He’d have to hit more like he did in 2012, when he finished with 29 home runs, 107 RBI and a .313 batting average, in order to compete for an MVP award, but if he does improve and the Royals manage to make even the Wild Card round of the playoffs he’ll have a decent shot.

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2. Evan Longoria

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY SPORTS

Evan Longoria is no stranger to candidacy for the AL Most Valuable Player award. He may not even be considered a "dark horse," but any player not named Trout or Cabrera can be considered one. Longoria finished sixth in this year’s voting, but I feel he is so close to taking home the award for the first time in his career. He was eighth in the AL in WAR (6.3) and runs scored (91), 10th in slugging percentage (.498), and seventh in total bases (306), doubles (39) and home runs (32). Should Longoria find a way to increase his batting average and RBI totals, his votes will skyrocket. If the Tampa Bay Rays find a way to run away with the AL East title led by a dominant Longoria, the third baseman will have a fantastic chance to take home the honor.

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1. Dustin Pedroia

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Eileen Blass-USA TODAY SPORTS

The former AL Most Valuable Player Award winner finished right behind Longoria for seventh in the 2013 voting. With all the commotion over who should win the award — Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout — Pedroia’s season went under appreciated. As with Longoria, I wouldn’t consider Pedroia a “dark horse” for the award, but because Cabrera and Trout dominate the debate it’s easy to overlook what he does for the Boston Red Sox. Pedroia finished sixth in WAR (6.5), third in defensive WAR (2.2), 10th in batting average (.301), tied for eighth in runs scored (91), third in doubles (42), and third in times on base (269). Pedroia is immeasurably valuable to the Red Sox both at the plate and on the field. But because he doesn’t hit a ridiculous amount of home runs or drive in a ton of runs he doesn’t receive as many votes.

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