LOS ANGELES -- In what could be the beginning of a very busy awards season for Albert Pujols, the slugger was one of three Cardinals nominees for the 2009 Hank Aaron Award. And if there's any justice, it's hard to see how Pujols won't bring home the hardware when winners in each league are announced later this year.
Along with Pujols, the Cardinals nominated Ryan Ludwick and new addition Matt Holliday for the award.
Remarkably, Pujols, a two-time National League Most Valuable Player, has won the Aaron Award only once -- and that was in 2003, when he was not the MVP. Still, with the NL lead in virtually every major offensive category except batting average, he's clearly been the league's top hitter in 2009 and should have an excellent chance at winning the award a second time.
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 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.
Ludwick, a 2008 All-Star, started slowly in 2009 but has come on strong recently. He has a chance at a second consecutive 100-RBI season although many of his other numbers have dropped off some in his second full season with St. Louis.
Holliday, meanwhile, has been spectacular since returning to the National League. A former batting champion with Colorado, he also got off to a slow start this season before coming on strong. He was already heating up when he was traded to St. Louis, but since his arrival, he's been otherworldly. His presence in the No. 4 spot in the order has deepened and strengthened a Cards lineup that definitely needed it.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.