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5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 NL MVP

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5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 NL MVP

2014 MVP
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2013 season, if you checked most lists of MVP candidates in the National League you wouldn’t have seen most of the guys that finished in the top 5. The likely winner would have come from a group including Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Joey Votto and defending winner Buster Posey.

Instead of those guys being in contention, the top 4 were Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter. McCutchen and Molina have been contenders before, so their stellar seasons weren’t really surprising at all. Goldschmidt was coming off a year where he hit 20 home runs and drove in 82. The fact that he won the home run title in the National League with 36 and led the league in RBI was something nobody saw coming.

The biggest surprise of everybody was Carpenter. 2013 was his second full season in the majors and he wasn’t even a contender for Rookie of the Year after his 2012 campaign. In his rookie season, Carpenter hit .294 with six home runs and 46 RBI. In 2013, as the full time second baseman and leadoff hitter for the Cardinals, he hit .318 with 11 home runs and 78 RBI. Carpenter led the league in hits, runs scored and doubles while finishing sixth in batting average.

What this shows is that in the National League anyone can compete for the MVP award. While it seems Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout will be battling for the American League honor for the next few seasons, the National League does not have a dominant hitter that will be a perennial winner like Albert Pujols was. These five players may be able to sneak into the race in 2014 pending free agent signings and trades.

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5. Evan Gattis

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Gattis came out of nowhere to make the Atlanta Braves and was able to produce without having a real position to play. With Brian McCann gone to the New York Yankees, Gattis can now be the everyday catcher and improve on his impressive slugging numbers. If he can get up to 30 home runs as a catcher and the Braves make the postseason, he could have an outside shot of winning MVP.

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4. Giancarlo Stanton

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With the Miami Marlins not expected to compete for a playoff spot, Stanton would have to hit between 45-50 home runs to even be considered an MVP candidate. With his unique power those numbers are attainable if he stays healthy. With no protection in the lineup pitchers could just pitch around him, but the ability to hit the ball out of the park makes him a candidate for MVP.

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3. Jedd Gyorko

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If not for an injury last year that cost him about a month of action, Gyorko may have won Rookie of the Year. The Padres have a solid foundation with he, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley and Evereth Cabrera. With no real Wild Card favorites next year, the Padres could sneak into the postseason if Gyorko can increase his home runs and RBI. He has a shot of hitting 30 or more home runs and driving in over 100 runs in the pitcher friendly ballpark he plays in. Those numbers and a successful season from the Padres make him a legitimate contender for MVP.

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2. Domonic Brown

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It felt like 2013 would be the last shot for Brown to make his mark on Philadelphia. He responded by making the All-Star team and giving the Phillies a young bat to build around. With Chase Headley signed long term, Ryan Howard coming back from injury and Carlos Ruiz playing a full season, Philadelphia could win the NL East. With those bats providing protection for Brown he could end up with 35-40 home runs and possibly winning the NL home run title.

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1. Carlos Gomez

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If you base it just on numbers last year, some could argue that Carlos Gomez had a better season than Andrew McCutchen did. McCutchen won the MVP and hit 21 home runs, drove in 84, stole 27 bases and was caught 10 times. Gomez, on the other hand, hit 24 homers, drove in 73, stole 40 bases and was caught only seven times. McCutchen played on a contending team that made the playoffs and Gomez played on a team with little offensive talent and very few meaningful games. With Ryan Braun coming back and hopefully Corey Hart, Gomez should have better numbers. If the Brewers contend he should be in the top 5 for the MVP award.