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June 27, 2013

In A Pickle

The Unlikeliest MVP candidates

by Jason Wojciechowski


A thing I do is steal from my betters. Two of my betters, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, spent some time a few months ago on Effectively Wild discussing the idea of unlikely MVPs. Now that we're halfway through the season, let's pick that up and bring in a quasi-formal definition that will get us a pool of interesting players to look at. What follows are the top five players by WARP in each league who have never received an MVP vote and (here's where some squish comes in) who are not very recently megaprospects. (The latter may be displeasing to some, especially Orioles fans, but if the point is "genuine surprise," then it would be weird to include Manny Machado, who was, after all, a no. 3 overall pick—that's the spot of Paul Molitor and Robin Yount and Matt Williams and Lonnie Smith. There's no pick from which you are "supposed" to get an MVP, but there are picks from which you are less surprised when you wind up with one.)

Alternating by league, then, from "bottom" to top:

NL No. 5: Everth Cabrera, 2.9 WARP (10th in overall NL WARP by position players)

What's the story? Cabrera was a Rule 5 pick by the Padres for the 2009 season, then missed large chunks of 2010 and 2011 with injury. You'd have been forgiven for writing Cabrera off going into his age-25 season in 2012, what with his (admittedly park-suppressed) .236/.318/.328 batting line. Indeed, that's precisely what we did in the 2012 BP Annual, relegating him to Lineout status and comparing him to Mike Caruso. After spending the first month of 2012 in the minors, though, Cabrera returned to relevance with a .250 TAv, plus defense, and a fantastic six runs above average on the bases (44/48 on steals).

This year? He's already equaled 2012's WARP total, buoyed largely by a .306 batting average, though it's not just blunks and doops falling in: four of his nine career homers have come this season, and he's got 19 extra-base hits overall after compiling 24 last year. His walk rate is above average, he's cut down on the whiffs, and he's still running wild and playing defense. He'll probably be underrated by the culture at large because of the lack of power, average-at-best team, and west coast game times, but you, friends, know better.

AL No. 5: Carlos Santana, 2.5 (12th overall AL)

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<< Previous Article
Feature Focus: Player ... (06/27)
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In A Pickle: The Sexy,... (06/20)
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