2010 N.L. MVP Could Be Latest Honor For Albert Pujols

Monday afternoon, at 2 p.m. ET, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce its winner of the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Award. There appear to be three top candidates, but the favorite might be St. Louis' Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals' first baseman played in 159 games this past season, finishing tied for fifth in the league with a .312 average while leading the league in both home runs and RBI with 42 and 118, respectively. He's already earned a Silver Slugger for his work at the plate - the sixth of his career - and a Gold Glove for his work in the field - the second of his career. He also batted .343 with runners in scoring position and .339 in clutch situations, only strengthening his case.

But Pujols will face competition from Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez. While Pujols posted a .312 average, a .414 OBP, and a .596 slugging percentage, first baseman Votto posted a .324 average, a .424 OBP, and a .600 slugging percentage. He also finished just behind Pujols with 37 home runs and 113 RBI, and Votto's Reds made the playoffs, which has historically helped players out in the MVP voting. Votto batted .369 with runners in scoring position and .355 in clutch situations, with the only real drawback being that he missed 12 games.

And Gonzalez rivaled both Pujols and Votto in average, slugging, home runs, and RBI while also playing center field for the Rockies. While Gonzalez will lose points for playing in a very hitter-friendly ballpark, he'll gain points for his defense and the fact that he batted .363 in the second half of the season and, along with Troy Tulowitzki, nearly pushed the Rockies into the playoff picture. Gonzalez drew a lot of attention to himself down the stretch, and though the Rockies ultimately came up short, their brief run should only help Gonzalez's case.

Other players, like Philadelphia's Roy Halladay and San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, should end up pretty high on some ballots, but the most valuable player will end up being one of the three discussed above. If it's Pujols, it will be his third in a row and fourth overall. Votto and Gonzalez would be first-time winners, with Barry Larkin being the last Reds player to win in 1995, and Larry Walker being the only Rockies player to win in 1997.

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