Cain among three finalists for AL MVP honors

Royals outfielder was a catalyst for World Series title run

Cain among three finalists for AL MVP honors

The image of Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain leaping behind home plate, shouting and celebrating along with the Kauffman Stadium faithful, will forever be remembered by a generation of fans. It was his heroic sprint in the American League Championship Series that helped send Kansas City to its second straight World Series.

The Royals triumphed in the Fall Classic over the Mets, capturing the franchise's first championship since 1985, and Cain was an integral part in his club's journey to that moment. The outfielder was honored for his role in the Royals' incredible season on Tuesday, when he joined Toronto's Josh Donaldson and Los Angeles' Mike Trout as finalists for the Baseball Writers' Association of America's AL Most Valuable Player Award.

"I was very excited about that. I thought that was really, really cool," manager Ned Yost said of Cain being an MVP finalist. "He's just getting better and better and better every year. For him to even be recognized in the same conversation with Donaldson and Trout, just shows you what level his game has risen to."

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Much of the debate over the next nine days will revolve around whether Donaldson or Trout most deserve the MVP for their work this season. Cain looks like a long shot to take home Kansas City's first MVP Award since 1980, when George Brett received the accolade, but the fleet-footed center fielder's contributions should not be discounted in the event of a potential third-place finish.

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Cain has always been known for his speed and stellar defense, and both were on full display again in 2015. This year, the All-Star outfielder moved into the third spot of the lineup on a full-time basis and thrived in the heart of the order. Cain ended with a .307/.361/.477 slash line and compiled 16 home runs, 34 doubles, six triples, 72 RBIs, 28 stolen bases, 37 walks and 101 runs scored in 140 games.

"We get to see it each and every day," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "I think what a lot of people don't consider is how much ground is out there at Kauffman Stadium. The way Lorenzo is tracking balls down out there, he tends to make it look like a normal-sized field, but in reality, I feel like the ground he's covering is double every other center fielder."

In Royals history, only three players have enjoyed a season with at least a .300 average, 15 homers, 15 steals, 25 steals and 100 runs scored. Before Cain accomplished the feat this year, Carlos Beltran (2001 and '03) and Johnny Damon (2000) achieved that rare line for Kansas City.

Cain, Trout (2012), Ian Kinsler (2008), Rickey Henderson (1990) and Paul Molitor (1987) are the only players to achieve those marks in a season in 140 games or fewer.

Had it not been for a stellar class of center fielders this year, Cain might have also netted a Gold Glove Award for his defense. Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier won that award, while Trout and Toronto's Kevin Pillar were the two other finalists. Cain finished the season with 18 Defensive Runs Saved (second in the AL) and a 14.5 UZR/150 (third in the AL).

A first-time All-Star this season, Cain also showed his worth in October.

In 16 games, Cain contributed one home run, six steals, 11 walks, 11 runs, 11 RBIs and 16 hits during the Royals' run to the title. In Game 6 of the ALCS against Toronto, Cain scored from first base on Hosmer's single to right, pushing across the eventual winning run in the eighth inning.

Hosmer was thrilled for his teammate.

"When you're talking about the three guys that got nominated," Hosmer said, "those are three really, really good guys. We feel that Lorenzo is obviously the best in the league."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.