Monday, August 5, 2013

Who Will Win the Next NL Triple Crown?

To capture baseball's Triple Crown, a player must demonstrate the ability to hit for both power and average while consistently delivering in the clutch. That's a pretty tall order as evidenced by the scarcity of Triple Crown winners--especially in the last 40 years or so. When Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers led the AL in homers, RBI's and batting average in 2012, no one had turned the trick since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967.

In the modern era, the feat has been accomplished a total of fourteen times by twelve different players. Ted Williams did it twice in 1942 and 1947 as did Rogers Hornsby in '22 ad '25. Incredibly, Hornsby was over the .400 mark on both occasions. The feat is much rarer in the National League, having been done just four times since 1922. Joe Medwick of the Cardinals was the last senior circuit player to pull it off in 1937. That's an awful long time to wait!

So who will be the next NL Triple Crown winner? Just for fun, I came up with a handful of viable candidates:

Carlos Gonzalez--Outfield--Colorado Rockies:
The 27 year-old Gonzalez already won a batting title in 2010 with a .336 mark. He drove-in 117 runs that year. As of this post, he was leading the NL in slugging percentage and OPS. Gonzalez has some power and plays in a hitter friendly park. With his average at .302 as of August 3rd, he may not win a Triple Crown this year, but he has all the essentials to have a monster season at some point in the future.

Joey Votto--First Base--Cincinnati Reds:
The Reds had so much confidence in Votto that they signed him for 13 years. He had his highest home run/ RBI output during his MVP season of 2010 with 37 and 113 respectively. His 2012 season was shortened by a knee injury, but he has come back strong. As of this post, he was hitting .321 while leading the league in OBP (.439). If anyone has the potential to put up Triple Crown numbers, it's Votto.

  Bryce Harper--Outfield--Washington Nationals:
Rookie of the Year in 2012, Harper is only 20 years old and has not been around long enough to show what he can do yet. In his first 211 major league games, he smashed 38 homers and collected 96 RBI's while hitting mostly out of the second spot in the batting order. The kid has both power and speed, but definitely needs to cut down on his strikeouts (He whiffed 120 times last year). He has made some progress in that regard this season and continued work should bring his batting average up from the .270's, where it has hovered since he made his debut.

Hanley Ramirez--Infield--Los Angeles Dodgers:
Ramirez has never combined all the Triple Crown elements in the same season. He reached a career-high of 33 homers in 2008. He drove-in over 100 runs in 2009--the same year he captured a batting title with a .342 mark. He is relatively new to the cleanup spot and if he stays there, the RBI's will come.

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