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Cullen: Nats top MLB Power Rankings; Trout, Braun for MVP

Scott Cullen
10/5/2012 5:45:51 PM
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After shutting down Stephen Strasburg for the season, the Washington Nationals fell from top spot in the TSN.ca MLB Power Rankings for a couple of weeks, but they've returned to the number one ranking in the season's final edition.

While the Nationals pitching can't conceivably be as good as it would be with Strasburg, they have a competent group of starters (Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler) and an improving offence. Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper finished the season on a tear, helping to lift the Nationals back to the top of the grid.

Washington holds a slight advantage over Atlanta, whose value has soared thanks to impressive second-half pitching performances from Kris Medlen and Mike Minor.

Oakland, expecting to get ace lefty Brett Anderson back in the rotation for the playoffs and coming off a furious finish to win the AL West, move up to third in the rankings.

Sitting in top spot in late September, the Cincinnati Reds have slipped to fourth, as they wait for first baseman Joey Votto to snap a 40-game homerless drought.

Texas' late-season slide, which cost them the division title, knocked them down from third to fifth.

The New York Yankees, perhaps with a greater sense of urgency than in previous seasons due to the age of so many crucial contributors, are ranked sixth.

Beyond that, the San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Detroit Tigers round out the Top 10.

The Toronto Blue Jays endured a disappointing season once again, and finished 24th in the rankings.

My picks for MVP, CY Young and Rookie of the Year:

AL MVP
Mike Trout, CF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim (30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, .326 AVG, .963 OPS)

Runners Up:
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit (44 HR, 139 RBI, .330 AVG, .999 OPS)
Robinson Cano, 2B, N.Y. Yankees (33 HR, 94 RBI, .313 AVG, .929 OPS)

I understand the historical context of Cabrera's Triple Crown and congratulate him for it, but have little doubt that Trout was more valuable. Never mind that the Tigers made the playoffs, Trout's Angels won more games in a more difficult division and there are no fancy stats needed to justify that, especially once base-running and defence are considered, Trout has been the most complete player in the American League.

NL MVP
Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee (41 HR, 112 RBI, 30 SB, .319 AVG, .987 OPS)

Runners-Up:
Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh (31 HR, 96 RBI, 20 SB, .327 AVG, .953 OPS)
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco (24 HR, 103 RBI, .336 AVG, .957 OPS)

Based on the numbers alone, Braun is right in the same neighbourhood as he was during last year's MVP season, but his positive test (which was ultimately overturned) may present a conflict for voters, who have shown a reluctance to reward those who use performance-enhancing drugs. If Braun does get bumped, both McCutchen and Posey are also viable candidates, with Posey likely a more popular choice because of team success, but McCutchen was sensational for a Pirates team that was in contention for a good portion of the season.

AL CY YOUNG
Justin Verlander, Detroit (17-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 239 K, 238 1/3 IP)

Runners Up:
David Price, Tampa Bay (20-5, 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 205 K, 211 IP)
Felix Hernandez, Seattle (13-9, 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 223 K, 209 IP)

A very close race between Verlander and Price, close enough that Verlander making an extra couple starts and pitching 33 more innings is enough to give him the nod for his second straight Cy.

NL CY YOUNG
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (14-9, 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 229 K, 227 2/3 IP)

Runners-Up:
R.A. Dickey, N.Y. Mets (20-6, 2.73, 1.05 WHIP, 230 K, 233 2/3 IP)
Gio Gonzalez, Washington (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 207 K, 199 1/3 IP)

The more popular sentiment might be to give the award to Dickey, and I won't argue strenuously against the 37-year-old knuckleballer, because he's had a tremendous season, but Kershaw has been slightly more dominant.

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Mike Trout, CF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim (30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, .326 AVG, .963 OPS)

Runners Up:
Yoenis Cespedes, CF, Oakland (23 HR, 82 RBI, .292 AVG, .861 OPS)
Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland (13-8, 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 140 K, 181 1/3IP)

Both Cespedes and Parker have been impressive and crucial components as part of Oakland's division-winning effort, but if Trout is getting my pick for MVP, he is miles ahead of the field when it comes to Rookie of the Year.

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Bryce Harper, RF, Washington (22 HR, 59 RBI, 18 SB, .270 AVG, .817 OPS)

Runners-Up:
Todd Frazier, 3B/1B, Cincinnati (19 HR, 67 RBI, .273 AVG, .829 OPS)
Norichika Aoki, RF, Milwaukee (10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB, .288 AVG, .787 OPS)

After the three-quarter point in the season, Harper wasn't even in the top three, so I made the assertion that he wasn't likely to win the award unless he finished with a flourish. A 1.049 OPS in September is a serious flourish and enough to emerge at the top of a wide open field in the National League.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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