Top 5 American League MVP Candidates – 2011 MLB Baseball Mid-Season AL MVP Rankings: With the 2011 MLB season hitting its midway point, it is the perfect time to take a look at which American League players are in the mix for Most Valuable Player honors. As is the case most years, the AL has been a hitter’s league. Several players have already posted some gaudy offensive numbers, making the MVP debate all the more interesting. While time may separate one or two players from the rest of the pack, it is a close race at the moment.

1. Adrian Gonzalez, First Baseman, Boston Red Sox

The offseason move to acquire Gonzalez has gone exactly as planned for Boston. He leads the majors with a .357 batting average and 71 RBIs. His 16 home runs are a bit behind some of the American League leaders, but he more than makes up for it. Gonzalez’s 25 doubles are the second most in the AL, and his 114 hits are currently leading the league. He also has the third-best OPS and has scored the fourth-most runs.

As the centerpiece of one of the top offenses in the majors, Gonzalez is going to continue to have amble opportunities to drive in runs. If he continues at his current clip, his numbers are going to make him an overwhelming favorite to win the MVP. Boston will likely win the AL East or at least claim the wildcard spot, and a playoff appearance should seal the deal for Gonzalez.

2. Jose Bautista, Outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays

His rapid progression from a journeyman to a premier slugger in the majors has been nothing short of incredible, and Bautista has continued to improve in 2011. He is tied for the major league lead with 24 home runs, and his OPS of 1.139 leads all of baseball. Plate discipline has been the key for Bautista this year. He leads the AL with 66 walks, and his .328 batting average is fourth best in the league.

His 52 RBIs are a little on the low side compared to some of the other contenders, but he does rank second with 61 runs scored. Bautista will likely finish in the top five of most major offensive categories, but the problem is that Adrian Gonzalez probably will as well, and the Red Sox are going to win more games. Unless he can actually win the Triple Crown, Bautista impressive numbers probably won’t earn him MVP honors.

3. Miguel Cabrera, First Baseman, Detroit Tigers

Cabrera is having yet another productive offensive season. He is second in the AL with a .336 batting average, and he is tied for fifth with 56 RBIs. Cabrera is currently sitting on 17 home runs, and his 1.047 OPS is second in the league. He has also scored the third most runs, crossing the plate 60 times in 2011.

His case is helped by the fact that the Tigers are currently leading the AL Central. While his numbers are lagging just behind those of Bautista in most categories, he may actually have a better shot than the Toronto slugger if Detroit makes the playoffs. Cabrera is one of the most consistent hitters in the game, and he is going to have the numbers to keep is name in the MVP conversation.

4. Curtis Granderson, Outfielder, New York Yankees

Someone from the AL East leading New York Yankees has to be in the MVP mix, and Granderson has the best all-around numbers on one of the most potent offenses in baseball. He is third in the American League with 21 home runs and tied for fifth with 56 RBIs. Granderson is also leading the AL with 70 runs scored, and he ranks fifth in OPS with .941 mark. His .276 batting average is a bit low, but with 14 steals already, he brings an element of speed to the table that other candidates lack.

Granderson’s biggest issue winning the award could be his own teammates, specifically Mark Teixeira. The Yankees have no shortage of offensive stars, and it is going to be Granderson to stand out from the crowd so to speak. Teixeira is currently tied for the AL lead with 24 homers, and Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez are both likely to hit 30-plus home runs and drive in 100 runs. If you take Granderson out of the lineup, there are several other players left to pick up the slack. It is going to be tough for him to win MVP honors in that situation.

5. Paul Konerko, First Baseman, Chicago White Sox

Konerko has been flying under the radar, but it’s tough to argue with his numbers when you really take a look at them. He is fourth in the American League with a .972 OPS and is tied for third with 21 home runs. Konerko is also third in the AL with 61 RBIs, and his .322 batting average is fifth best. His 39 runs scored are by far the lowest of any of the MVP contenders, but the low total is actually a testament to just how much he has been doing for Chicago. With most of his teammates struggling at the plate, Konerko has been carrying the load.  

Although he is definitely a wildcard candidate at this point, Konerko does worthy numbers. He also has a chance to lead the White Sox back from a terrible start and into the postseason. If Konerko has a memorable final few months and becomes the catalyst for a playoff run by the White Sox, it could be enough to sway MVP voters into his corner and steal the award away from some bigger names.

Check out the National Sports Advisors daily on NSAwins.com for expert MLB picks.