Guest Blogger: Sam Panayotovich tags Pujols and Mauer for MVP

Each day this week, The Baseball Zealot will be featuring special guest bloggers who will be giving their predictions on the 2009 MLB end-of year-awards and postseason matchups.  Today, Sam Panayotovich predicts the MVP awards.

samLike me, Sam Panayotovich is a University of Illinois alum.  While he was a student on campus, he and I kept saying we should get together for a game or something.  Well, that never happened and Sam has gone on to bigger and better things now.

I first heard Sam back when he was on Outsider Radio with Brandon Rosage.  Considered an expert in NBA draft coverage, Sam made his mark with the Most Valuable Network.  You can now see him covering sports for the Huffington Post and hosting a radio show at Columbia College’s WCRX.

2009 Most Valuable Player Predictions

This season, I believe each league has a hands-down favorite for the highly-regarded MVP Award. I’ve pegged a familiar face in the National League top spot and a newcomer at the front of the pack in the American League. Below you will find my projected Top 3 finishers in each league with analysis on why they finished where they did. Without further ado…

**Statistics as of Sep. 15, 2009**

National League

Albert Pujols (.329 AVG, 47 HR, 125 RBI)

It should be no surprise that baseball’s most dangerous hitter will claim his third Most Valuable Player Award. Pujols is one of the most disciplined hitters I’ve ever seen and his ability to balance power, contact, and situational hitting is unparalleled. What’s even more disgusting is that he looked to have the first Triple Crown since Carl Yaz locked up before our second-place finisher went on a tear as the season heated up. King Albert has the Cards well on their way to another NL Central title and St. Louis has a serious shot at clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Pujols leads the NL in dingers and is currently second in both batting average and runs batted in. And it’s scary to think how much better those numbers might have been if Matt Holliday was protecting him all season long.

Hanley Ramirez (.360 AVG, 23 HR, 99 RBI)

The former Red Sox prospect and current Marlins’ shortstop has pieced together quite a season to remember in southern Florida. Ramirez is such a special talent and he possesses the perfect mix of all five tools. He’s developed into one of the best contact hitters in baseball and when he puts the ball in play, you always have to account for his blazing speed. Realistically, Hanley could bat anywhere from first to fifth in the Marlins’ lineup, but he’s been holding it down in the three hole. He’s played one hell of a defensive shortstop as well to round everything out. One of the major reasons for the Marlins’ push for the NL Wild Card, Hanley leads the National League in batting average  and is currently tied for fourth in RBIs.

Prince Fielder (.299 AVG, 39 HR, 126 RBI)

Usually I’m not an advocate of touting players that don’t play for contenders, although you can’t ignore what the Prince is doing to National League pitching. Fielder has tremendous power to all fields and this season, he’s on pace to set career highs in RBIs and batting average as his .299 average is 11 points higher than his next best season. The son of Cecil, young Prince has been much more selective at the dish and his walks are up while his usually alarming strikeout total is down. He was a definite top candidate before the Brewers faded during the dog days of summer and you’ve got to give the Prince credit for one hell of a season.

American League

Joe Mauer (.371 AVG, 27 HR, 84 RBI)

We knew when Mauer was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001 that he was going to be a special player. However, his play this season has trumped all expectations and the 26-year-old catcher has put together the best campaign of his young career. Mauer is on pace to shatter his career highs in batting average, homers and RBIs and his leadership on and off the field is second to none. The way he has handled such a young Twins’ pitching staff and continues to lead the Majors in hitting just baffles me. Sure, Justin Morneau is a monster as well, but the Twins would not be in the AL Central race if it wasn’t for Mauer. He’s their heart. He’s their soul. He’s their captain.

Mark Teixeira (.285 AVG, 35 HR, 111 RBI)

Finally… a player that lived up to the billing (and the price tag) in the Bronx. Teixeira has been all that the Steinbrenners could have expected and then some. After missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, New York signed Tex hoping he would be the new “savior” and double as a pair of broad shoulders that the Yankees could rely on as they opened up their new stadium and planned a trip back to the postseason. The switch-hitting first baseman answered the call right from the start and has been on an absolute tear all season long. Teixeira leads the American League in RBIs and is currently second in taters, and pending a late season collapse, he’s the main reason for the Yankees resurgence and positioning atop the AL East.

Miguel Cabrera (.332 AVG, 29 HR, 89 RBI)

Cabrera won’t be a popular choice for MVP this season because of how much his power numbers have dropped off from last season, but he’s become a much better player overall and is the main reason for the Tigers’ current grasp on the AL Central lead. Miggy’s batting average is up 40 points from last season, his walks are up and his strikeouts are way down. He worked all offseason with his hitting coach to become a more selective hitter and all his hard work has paid off. The reigning AL Home Run King leads first place Detroit in batting average, hits, runs, homers, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging. The power numbers might not be as impressive, but this kid deserves some serious credit for how much he has improved across the board.

A big thanks to Sam P for this write-up.  The next couple days, we’ll look at the postseason matchups for both leagues.  So far, the articles by our guest bloggers this week have been fantastic. I encourage you to check them out.

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