St. Louis Cardinals: Three players who could be the MVP in 2020

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 26: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals congratulates Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals after Goldschmidt hits a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on July 26, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 26: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals congratulates Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals after Goldschmidt hits a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on July 26, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have three players on their roster who could be legitimate MVP candidates in 2020. One is an obvious contender, the other two may surprise some.

First a rant about my thoughts on St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

As much as I like watching Andy Griffith Show, Law and Order, and Flea Market Flip marathons, I’m ready for some baseball. I don’t think I can watch ‘The Natural’ one more time on the MLB Network. After all, how many times do you need to see Barbara Hershey shoot Robert Redford?

Additionally, I am just tired of watching old baseball games on Fox Sports Midwest, even Game 6 from 2011. It’s time for some live baseball, and I’m not talking about the Korean League. I want to see Dan and Jim call a live Cardinal game.

I’m tired of avoiding people at Walmart and getting dirty looks if I get within six feet of someone. I miss eating at my favorite Italian Restaurant and washing my hands every five minutes. I just need sports in my life this time of the year, and I prefer baseball.

Okay, there’s my rant. Let’s move on and get down to some 2020 business.

Although I’m not sure I believe we will see baseball in 2020, it appears Rob Manfred has a plan. He’s telling us there will be baseball in 2020, and the details are coming soon. Apparently, the season will be 80-100 games and the two leagues will be scrambled into three divisions.

How a shortened season and the new divisional lineup will affect the MVP race in 2020 is hard to guess. Nevertheless, I believe there are three Cardinals on the current roster who could be a potential MVP in 2020. One you will guess, the other two may not be as obvious.

The obvious choice

Paul Goldschmidt should surprise no one. His six All-Star appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards, and three Gold Gloves, along with his career 162 game average of 31 homers and 104 RBI, put him at the front of Cardinals who could win the MVP award in 2020.

He has maintained a .916 OPS and a 141 OPS+ during his nine-year career. Goldschmidt also has been on the cusp of the MVP award by finishing second in voting twice, and third once during his career. Additionally, he has hit over 30 homers five times and had over 100 RBI three times.

The 32-year old has shown his durability during his career, playing less than 155 games only twice since 2012. Last year, as a Cardinal, he played 161 games.

But here’s the case of why Paul Goldschmidt could win the MVP award. In spite of only hitting .260, a career-low, in 2019, he still had 34 homers and 97 RBI. With his first year playing in St. Louis behind him, there is no reason to think the Cardinal first baseman won’t return to his career batting average.

If he hits close to his career .300, Paul Goldschmidt will find himself in the middle of the MVP race in 2020.

The breakout candidate

I have believed in Paul DeJong since his rookie year and is due for a breakout year. The 26-year old seems to have been on the threshold of having a monster year since his call up on May 28, 2017. There is no reason to think it won’t be in 2020.

After a strong start in 2019, batting .342 during the first month, DeJong’s batting average fell off the rest of the season. He finished 2019, with a slash line of .233/.318/.444 and an OPS+ of 97.

However, the upside was that the Cardinal shortstop still managed to finish the year with 30 homers and 78 RBI in 159 games. After May, he never hit less than five home runs and drove in at least 13 runs a month except in June.

DeJong has shown the ability to drive in runs since his first at-bat in 2017 when he hit a home run off Greg Holland. He finished 2017, hitting 25 homers and 65 RBI in just 108 games. He followed that season up with 19 homers and 68 RBI in just 115 games in 2018.

Adding to Paul DeJong’s growth as a major league player is his ever-improving defense at shortstop. His fielding percentage has improved from .979 in 2017 to .989 in 2019. According to Baseball Reference, his defensive runs saved per game has increased from 0 during his rookie year to 26 in 2019. His range factor has also improved from 4.00 in 2017 to 4.11 in 2019.

To finish, Paul Dejong is a developing major league player who, I believe, will one day be one of the best in baseball. If he can hit close to .300, why not an MVP in 2020?

The least obvious candidate

If the second half of 2019 didn’t open eyes about Jack Flaherty, then I don’t know why not. The right-hander had a 0.91 ERA in the second half of the season and opposing hitters only had a .142 batting average against him.

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Flaherty finished 2019 with a 2.75 ERA, where he led the National League with a 0.968 WHIP and hits per nine innings at 6.2. This second-half performance put Flaherty in the conversation for the Cy Young Award where he eventually finished fourth.

Usually, pitchers don’t win the MVP Award, but it’s not unheard of. Bob Gibson in 1968 was the last Cardinal pitcher to do it. Recently, Justin Verlander of the Tigers won the AL MVP in 2011 and Clayton Kershaw won the NL MVP in 2014.

Therefore, history shows us it’s a tall hill to climb for a pitcher to win the MVP, but the best can do it. Even though the second half of one season is not a guarantee of future results, it is certainly promising.

Jack Flaherty is no flash in the pan. He’s real. But can he win the MVP in 2020? They will have to play the season for us to find out. Nevertheless, I believe he is a legitimate candidate in 2020.

What about others on the roster?

There are others on the roster who many of you might think are potential MVPs in 2020. Some may make the case for Tommy Edman. He certainly had a great year in 2019, but I fear a sophomore slump.

How about Kolten Wong? 2019 was a breakout year for Wong and I believe it was no accident. But he is primarily making a name for himself with his glove, not his bat. Ozzie Smith had a great glove, and like Wong, a decent bat, but never was an MVP.

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It’s just my opinion, but I believe Paul Goldshmidt, Paul DeJong, and Jack Flaherty are the three on the Cardinal roster who could legitimately win the MVP in 2020. Of course, they will have to play the games first for us to find out. Maybe then I can watch something else besides ‘The Natural’ on the MLB Network.