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Triple Crown Candidates in Early 2017

The Triple Crown is an elusive award that has only been won once in the past 50 years. Miguel Cabrera led the American League in home runs, RBI, and batting average back in 2012. While there are no clear-cut heavy favorites to achieve the feat this season, there are a few players who find themselves atop the league leaders in all three categories.

Prior to Cabrera, the last player to win the AL Triple Crown was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The most recent NL winner of the Triple Crown was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1937.

American League

Statistics as of June 1

Mike Trout, the 2-time AL MVP, was off to a great start this season. Unfortunately, with his current surgery and DL stint, he will fall behind the competition for a few weeks. That is a tough obstacle to overcome. Trout was hitting .337/16/36 (BA/HR/RBI) before his unlikely jammed thumb incident sliding into second base.

Triple Crown Aaron Judge The Baseball JournalAaron Judge has been the breakout star of the season. He is batting .327 with 37 RBI and a league-leading 17 home runs. Judge is a runaway Rookie of the Year at this point, but he also finds himself amidst MVP discussions and could hear whispers of the Triple Crown if he gets his average a little higher. The good news is that the Yankees are playing at a high level this season so runners will be on base for Judge to drive in. Not every ball he hits is a home run, but every swing looks like he will hit it out of the stadium with contact.

Miguel Sano is only hitting .292, but he has 12 home runs with a more than respectable 39 RBI. The power is there. The hitting ability is there. His 73 strikeouts are part of his sub-.300 average and that will ultimately be what keeps him out of any discussion of a Triple Crown as the season progresses. If Sano could find a way to turn some of those strikeouts into seeing-eye singles, he could be a Top-10 leader in each of the Triple Crown categories.

Carlos Correa has so many resemblances to a young Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez didn’t win a Triple Crown award, and Correa may not have the power yet to lead the league in home runs. He sits at 9, which is far off the pace of the league leaders. Correa does have 34 RBI and is batting .324. Those numbers should keep trending upwards and put Correa in the top-10 of two Triple Crown categories at the end of the season.

Corey Dickerson could be a dark horse candidate, but his .341 average is the key to him making this list. He sits only behind Jean Segura in batting, but he heavily lacks the RBI totals to be thought of as a contender. Dickerson has 25 runs batted in and 12 home runs. He gets the benefit of being a DH when he is not platooning the outfield for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Other players who are on the fringe in two or three of the Triple Crown categories include Avisail Garcia (.332/8/37), Marwin Gonzalez (.308/12/34), and Yonder Alonso (.285/14/31).

National League

The National League does not have the offensive luxury of a designated hitter, but Ryan Zimmerman could use some days strictly as a DH. He leads all of baseball with a .368 batting average. Pair that with his 15 home runs and 44 RBI and there is high potential for a Triple Crown winner in the National League this season. The Nationals have an explosive offense, and opposing pitchers can’t simply pitch around Zimmerman if they want to. There are too many other weapons in the lineup, and that is what raises Zimmerman’s chances of success.

Triple Crown Bryce Harper The Baseball JournalZimmerman’s infamous teammate, Bryce Harper, is in the same boat. His average is considerably lower at .328, but he also has 15 home runs and 43 RBI. The former MVP has the hitting ability to win the Triple Crown, and he will have a few days rest thanks to his 3-game suspension for his fight with Hunter Strickland to get back on track with the league leaders. Harper would likely be held back from opposing teams getting too scared of him if he gets hot. Pitching around him seemed to work last year and limited his success at the plate for the rest of the season.

Charlie Blackmon leads the league with 46 RBI. He has gone deep 13 times and has a .326 batting average. All those numbers are among the National League leaders and put Blackmon in whispered talks as a Triple Crown threat. He could be the benefactor of his team playing well, as the Colorado Rockies sit in second place in the NL West. Although baseballs are kept in a humidor at Coors Field, there is always the perceived notion that playing 81 games in Colorado can’t be a bad thing for hitters.

The Florida Marlins have a potential Triple Crown candidate on their roster – and it’s not Giancarlo Stanton. Marcell Ozuna is hitting .321/14/39 for the season. He may be second fiddle in popularity to teammates Stanton and Christian Yelich, but Ozuna’s numbers speak for themselves. His average would have to climb up considerably to get close to Zimmerman, but the power is there to keep up with the rest of the National League.

Matt Kemp is having a nice season for the mediocre Atlanta Braves. His numbers (.345/10/30) are lagging in the power department but he is having a career year for batting average. Kemp might be a trade target for contenders this season if he keeps it up, but SunTrust Park seems to be a good fit for Kemp and his fellow Atlanta hitters. Freddie Freeman would have made this list, except that he is currently out until at least the All-Star break and wouldn’t have the totals to compete for a Triple Crown.

Other players who are the leaders in Triple Crown categories include Paul Goldschmidt (.303/12/39), Mark Reynolds (.308/13/44), and Zach Cozart (.347/7/27).

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