First, I was surprised that Colby Rasmus wasn't mentioned as a contender. This is the second time I've seen this happen, and I still don't know why. He's clearly a rookie, looks likely to get enough place appearances to qualify, and is playing quite well. In fact, at 2.5 WAR, even if most of that is based on defense and position (he's below league average, purely based on offense), he's pretty valuable.
McCutchen does come out as a slightly better player, at 2.8 WAR player, showing as a very solid hitter and so-so defender.
My one objection to what Neyer said:
That said, McCutchen's right behind Coghlan, OPS- and PA-wise, and he's got more doubles, more triples, and more home runs. Oh, and he's also far more valuable with the glove.
In particular, the problem is with that first sentence (the second is dead-on, and important; the difference in defense is very large). If OPS and PA are about equal, and one of the two has more XBH, then you'd prefer the one without all the power. Why? Because marginal OBP is far more valuable than marginal SLG. How much so? I seem to recall it being about a 3:1 margin. Maybe even 4:1. It's the power of not making as many outs.
And if we look at wOBA, we see that Coghlan is slightly ahead.
But, as noted, we need to add in defense, and McCutchen destroys Coghlan there. So it really looks like a toss-up between McCutchen and Rasmus as to who's worth more overall. I guess the final month will determine it.
But why didn't Rasmus get more than a passing mention (as being qualified)?
Update: I should point out that it's because of reading Neyer's columns many years ago (before he first went Insider-only) that I know about marginal OBP being more valuable than marginal SLG.