Power Players Poll of the Week
Who'll hit the most home runs this year? Which pitcher will have the most strikeouts? Those questions and others will be posed by SI.com over the next two months in a series of poll galleries with a ballot on the last frame. This week's question: Who'll win the NL MVP award? Pujols picked up his third NL MVP award last season, and so far this year has followed up with more stellar play. Opposing pitchers fear Phat Albert -- he leads the NL in walks and ranks in the top five in the NL in home runs (14) and RBI (44).
The Braves made their way to the top the NL East standings despite the decline of aging star Chipper Jones and an unlikely roster of retreads. Much of the credit for Atlanta's surprising success goes to 20-year-old phenom Jason Heyward, who hit .337 in May and already had 10 homers as of June 9.
The 2006 NL MVP is hoping to lead the Phillies back to the World Series for the third straight season. Howard had smashed 10 home runs, driven in 43 runs and was hitting .290 (10 points above his career mark) as of June 9.
Despite missing a chunk of time due to a broken finger, Ethier is having a monster season. The 28-year-old hit his first grand slam in April, then another in May, part of his 11 total home runs as of June 9, at which point Ethier led the NL in batting average (.364) and had 40 RBI.
Braun already has NL Rookie of the Year and two All-Star selections under his belt, but can he bring home the MVP trophy? Milwaukee is struggling in 2010, but Braun has been a bright spot, hitting for power (8 homers, 36 RBI), average (.305) and even turning on the burners with 11 steals through June 9.
A mainstay of Philadelphia's recent division-winning teams, Werth made his first All-Star game last season and has continued to stay hot so far in 2010. The bearded outfielder had launched 10 homers and driven in 37 runs through the first week in June.
Baseball's best surprise team of the year is Cincinnati, which is in a dogfight with St. Louis atop the NL Central. Thanks to Cincy's great play, the baseball world has been introduced to Joey Votto, who was hitting .308 with 11 home runs and six steals as of June 9.
Ubaldo's odds are slim, since the last pitcher to win MVP in either league was Dennis Eckersley in 1992, who won AL MVP with the Oakland A's. And the last pitcher to win NL MVP was Bob Gibson in 1968. But it's hard to argue with the stats: 11-1 record, 0.93 ERA, 78 strikeouts through 12 starts.