Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth should be a factor in the National League’s MVP voting. But if the team pulls off a miracle and becomes a wild card team, Werth’s case gets stronger.
He missed May with an injury, but there’s no arguing that his average, on-base percentage and power in the second half have carried the Nationals’ reawakened offense. He might win the NL batting title, and, in addition, he has all the leadership intangibles.
* Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson, Atlanta: The Braves wouldn’t be in first place in the NL East without first baseman Freeman’s steady run-producing bat and Johnson, who started as a platoon player at third and now has a chance to win the NL batting title. Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis have been hurt. Justin Upton has been inconsistent and his brother, B.J., non-existent. Dan Uggla has struggled to hit .200. Andrelton Simmons has played good defense, but lost his job as a leadoff batter. All those facts increase the value of Freeman and Johnson.
* Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh: The five-tool player has helped the Pirates to their first winning season since 1992. Defense, offense, he does it all. And until Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd showed up, McCutchen was doing it with little support in the lineup.
* Joey Votto, Cincinnati: His on-base percentage for the Reds is high, but he doesn’t hit for power and he’s gone through a prolonged slump. Brandon Phillips is a better candidate from the Reds.
* Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona: He’s delivered in a breakout season for the Diamondbacks, but the team is fading and that will hurt.
* Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles: Already a NL Cy Young Award winner, will he join Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley (1992) and Detroit’s Justin Verlander (2011) as pitchers to win the MVP? Kershaw is strong, but a deep field makes it difficult for a pitcher to win. Adrian Gonzalez is the Dodgers’ best choice.
* Yadier Molina, St. Louis: A case can be made that he’s the best all-around defensive catcher in the game, along with Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Matt Wieters. Molina calls a great game, throws out 50 percent of potential base stealers and when he was injured, the Cardinals had a 6-8 record, even though they were 20 games above .500. He’s in the race for the NL batting title.
* Matt Carpenter, St. Louis: He’s a surprise candidate. As a second baseman, he’s on base at a near .400 clip and he’s leading the NL in hits going into Wednesday. He’s bound to show up on more than a few ballots by the Baseball Writers Association of America.