MLB

Top 15 Candidates for 2014 NL MVP Award

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15 Candidates for 2014 NL MVP Award

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While all eyes will be on the Super Bowl this weekend and who will be named MVP in the big game to cap off the 2013 season, it was a pretty good year for reigning 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen as well. "Cutch" led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, continued to produced numbers at a high level, and got engaged. He is a fan favorite within the game, but how will he possibly top that "super" season this year in the Steel city?

McCutchen dominated first place votes last year and won the award by a somewhat surprising margin. If he is able to pull a repeat performance, he will become the first back-to-back MVP on the NL side since Albert Pujols in 2008-2009. With the MVP award going to a new winner each of the last four seasons, McCutchen will have his work cut out for him in 2014.

Clayton Kershaw has taken home two of the last three NL CY Young awards and also was awarded a $215 million deal in the offseason. He is the highest-paid pitcher in history and will be out to justify that every fifth day. If Kershaw can claim the MVP as a pitcher, he would be the first on the NL side since Bob Gibson in 1968 to do so. He is certainly the most valuable pitcher, but can he convert that to an MVP award?

There will be several other position players that will also look to become the fifth straight first-time MVP award winner. Here are the top 15 candidates for the 2014 NL Most Valuable Player Award.

Nick Schaeflein is a sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.

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15. Jay Bruce - CIN

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Jay Bruce does not receive a ton of publicity, but he produces MVP type numbers. He is nearly automatic for a 30-home-run, 100-RBI season.

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14. Giancarlo Stanton - MIA

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy, he is capable of winning the home run crown in the NL. He hits tape-measure blasts and is the offensive star for the Miami Marlins.

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13. Matt Holliday - STL

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The veteran Matt Holliday continues to be a feared hitter within the league. His stat line is capable of earning MVP votes each year.

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12. Curtis Granderson - NYM

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Curtis Granderson will experience the NL for the first time. He will compliment David Wright well and put up a 20-home-run, 25-stolen-base, .260-average type season for the New York Mets in his first year there.

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11. Joey Votto - CIN

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Votto is not flashy, he just produces. Votto was the 2010 NL MVP winner. He finished sixth in voting a season ago, and is walked more than any other hitter in the NL which takes away even more production.

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10. Freddie Freeman - ATL

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Freddie Freeman has hit 23 home runs each of the last two seasons. But the kicker was that he raised his RBI total and batting average by 60 points. If he continues on that path, that will gain MVP consideration. Freeman was fifth in voting a season ago.

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9. Hanley Ramirez - LAD

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Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

If he can avoid any major disabled list time, Hanley Ramirez showed last year that he still has enough left in the tank. In just over half a season, Ramirez put up a 20-home-run season and a .345 average. He is one of many Los Angeles Dodgers that can be in the discussion.

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8. Yadier Molina - STL

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Yadier Molina finished third last year in voting and is the field general for the St. Louis Cardinals. He is worthy of the award for his offense and defense.

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7. Clayton Kershaw - LAD

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Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw is the lone pitcher on the list and rightfully so. He is the most valuable pitcher in the league and will try to turn the CY Young-MVP trick much like Justin Verlander a few seasons ago.

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6. Justin Upton - ATL

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Moving over to the Atlanta Braves last year, Justin Upton was my MVP pick a year ago. He jumped out of the gates quick, but surprisingly was limited in RBI chances. The home runs will be there for Upton if he can also bring up the RBIs and average to round things out.

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5. Buster Posey - SF

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Buster Posey was the 2012 NL MVP and has reportedly bulked up to try and withstand a grueling 162-game season. He is the leader of the San Francisco Giants who just may have enough protection for him in the lineup this time around.

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4. Yasiel Puig - LAD

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The flashy outfielder Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene a year ago and delivered for the Dodgers. His stats figure to improve, but the question will be if he can harness outside distractions and earn voters' consideration.

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3. Andrew McCutchen - PIT

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It will be difficult for Andrew McCutchen to repeat as his major numbers were actually down from 2012. He still, however, will garner a ton of support as a fan-favorite in the game.

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2. Paul Goldschmidt - ARI

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Goldschmidt was the runner-up in voting last year to McCutchen. He was tied for the home run lead in the NL and will welcome fellow bash brother in Mark Trumbo to the desert. The power stats figure to be there once again for Goldy on his way to another MVP-caliber season.

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1. Bryce Harper - WAS

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Could this be the year that Bryce Harper will put it all together? He did miss some time last year with an injury, but there is no denying his hustle and abilities on the field. The Washington Nationals appear to be primed to make a run unlike last year, and Harper will benefit from that team success. He is capable of putting up 25 home runs, 80 RBIs and a solid batting average which is a similar stat line to what won it last year. Harper can also steal bases and play good defense. He should be in the discussion for the fifth straight first-time winner for the NL MVP.