Mauer leads Twins' Aaron contenders

Mauer leads Twins' Aaron contenders

ARLINGTON -- Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have long been referred to as the Twins' M&M boys.

But with the way that Jason Kubel has been producing this season, perhaps a "J" moniker should be added to describe the trio in the middle of the Twins batting order.

Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel have all been delivering stellar seasons for Minnesota, and it's why they are the Twins' three nominees for this year's Hank Aaron Award.

The Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp, is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having three nominees. This is the seventh consecutive year that fans have had a voice in selecting the award winners.

Fans can vote through Sept. 15 to determine the club nominee, and then voting will be held Sept. 16-30 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced during the World Series.

Last year's winners were Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis and Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

Mauer has been putting together an MVP-type season after missing the first entire first month due to lower back inflammation. The two-time American League batting champion is once again leading the league with his .380 batting average. In addition to his high average and .446 on-base percentage, Mauer has added power to his repertoire this season, belting 23 home runs through Tuesday. His previous career high was 13, set in 2006.

Perhaps even more impressive for the Twins All-Star catcher is what he's been able to do with runners in scoring position, batting .403 overall and .457 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

While Mauer's season has been one of the biggest stories in baseball this year, Morneau has once again been a huge offensive force in the Twins' cleanup spot. After finishing as the runnerup to Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox in the AL MVP race last season, Morneau has picked up right where he left off. The first baseman is batting .298 on the season with an AL-leading 94 RBIs and 28 home runs, which rank him third in the league.

And although the M&M boys get more national recognition, Kubel has been quietly making his presence felt in the Minnesota lineup. The club's designated hitter is batting .312 with 24 doubles and 20 home runs. Kubel's 68 RBIs rank third on the team behind only Morneau and Mauer.

Mauer, Morneau and Kubel have combined to produce 237 RBIs on the season, ranking them first in the American League among a trio of teammates. The Phillies' Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley lead the Majors, combining for 245 RBIs heading into Tuesday.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.