Preview: National League MVP Candidates

PHOENIX, AZ: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up on deck during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. The Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks 7-5. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

This one's easy, friends.

The American League's MVP candidates were tough to sort out. Depending on which WAR you prefer and what you think of pitchers as MVP candidates -- and there are "some" who don't think much of pitchers at all -- there were somewhere between five and 19 legitimate contenders. Especially if you count Michael Young.

The National League, though?

There are three fine candidates ... and only two viable candidates, because Clayton Kershaw, despite winning the (pitcher's) Triple Crown, isn't going to get much support because he won only 21 games and pitched for a non-contending team.

Which leaves two: Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun.

You know the differences between those two: Kemp played center field and won a Gold Glove (which he didn't deserve) with Kershaw's non-contending team; Braun played left field (and also didn't deserve a Gold Glove) for a first-place team.

Considering that Kemp led the league in runs scored and runs batted in and home runs and he batted .324, if his Dodgers had gone to the playoffs he'd probably win unanimously.

But there are some voters who just won't vote for a player on a non-postseason team unless they absolutely positively have to.

And they don't have to this year, because Ryan Braun was roughly as good as Kemp in every respect.

Still, I think Kemp's going to win. His late-season run at the (hitter's) Triple Crown, though unsuccessful, generated a great deal of publicity and sometimes that's the difference. And as great as Braun was (and is), he had to share the stage with Prince Fielder, who actually drove in more runs (and MVP voters do like their run producers).

I wasn't willing to make an American League prediction, but I'll be surprised if Kemp doesn't take National League honors, and perhaps by a lot.

The top five on my ballot, if I had one:

1. Matt Kemp
2. Ryan Braun
3. Joey Votto
4. Roy Halladay
5. Clayton Kershaw

Stay tuned! We'll have the actual balloting shortly after 2pm Eastern this afternoon.

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