TOP 10 HITTERS
1. Matt Kemp, L.A. Dodgers – Many thought Kemp should have been the National League MVP after taking two-thirds of the triple crown (39 HRs, 126 RBIs) and finishing third in hitting (.324), so the chip on his shoulder will be noticeable as he tries to become the first 50-50 player (50 HRs, 50 stolen bases) in MLB history.
2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers – The controversial choice as NL MVP, he didn’t lead any of the big three categories (HR, RBI, BA), but he did hit .332, 33 HRs, and produce 111 RBIs, 109 runs and 33 stolen bases. However, with the alleged drug use that came out this past offseason, this could be a tough season.
3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – If Cabrera can duplicate his numbers from last season (30 HRs, 105 RBIs, 111 runs scored and a career-best .344), he and newly acquired star Prince Fielder could make this a memorable season for the Tigers.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox – Even though his home run total (27) was the least productive since 2006 when he hit 24, he adjusted well to AL hitting and surprised with the best batting average of his career (.338 vs. .304 in 2006) and second-most RBIs (117 vs. 119 in 2008).
5. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays – Hard to believe he was a 20th round pick 12 years ago by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his numbers last season (.302 BA, 43 HRs, 103 RBIs, 105 runs scored) are evidence that scouting isn’t always right.
6. Albert Pujols, L.A. Angels – Even though last season was his least productive, his numbers were still impressive: 37 HRs, 99 RBIs, .299 BA. The interesting thing will be if Pujols can adjust to AL pitching.
7. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers – Could find it difficult against AL arms after battering NL pitching while playing for Milwaukee (.299 BA, 38 HRs, 120 RBIs), but he’s still a solid power hitter and would love to supplant the memory of his dad who had some good years in Detroit.
8. Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins – Led the NL with a .337 batting average and scored 101 runs. A new environment (he played for N.Y. Mets from 2003-2011) and new ball park (Miami is playing in a new stadium) could produce even bigger numbers.
9. Robinson Cano, N.Y. Yankees – Another season like last year (.302 BA, 118 RBIs, 104 runs scored, 28 HRs) is imperative if the Yankees want to get back on top.
10. Michael Young, Texas Rangers/Curtis Granderson, N.Y. Yankees – If you could mesh both of these players you would have a great hitter, but you can’t. So, they are a tie for the 10th spot. Young had career-bests in batting average (.338, third-best in AL) and RBIs (106), and also had 88 runs scored and 11 homers. Granderson provided what Young lacked in power by hitting 41 HRs. He also scored 136 runs, had 119 RBIs, but hit just .262.