Here is my full break down of the entire MLB season. I give my top ten AL and NL MVP candidates, followed by my top five AL and NL Cy Young Candidates. I also cover Rookies of the Year, Managers of the Year, Comeback Players of the Year, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and finally… divisional and World Series Predictions. Enjoy!
Top Ten AL MVP Candidates in 2018
Here is my American League Most Valuable Player Top 10 Candidates. I placed them in alphabetical order, then will choose my pick for MVP as well as my top 10 rankings.
AL MVP Candidate Jose Altuve, 2B Houston Astros
Altuve is the reigning AL MVP after hitting a league leading .346 BA with 24 HRs and 81 RBIs. He also swiped 32 bases last season, good for 3rd in the AL. He is a 5x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, and 2015 Gold Glove Award Winner. He led the league in hits (204), WAR (8.3), and BA (.346). He finished 3rd in 2016 in WAR (7.6) and MVP voting (54%). He has led the MLB in hits in the last four seasons. Altuve also led three of the last four seasons in BA: 2014 .341 (1st), 2015 .313 (3rd), 2016 .338 (1st), 2017 .346 (1st). Jose is the best active hitter in the MLB and a Gold Glove second basemen. He can also steal bases making him a five-tool player that the MVP was designed for. Altuve will be entering his age 28 season, putting him in his prime. Expect Altuve to finish in the top five in MVP voting guaranteed barring injury.
AL MVP Candidate – Mookie Betts, OF Boston Red Sox
Mookie Betts is a five-tool player going into his age 25 season. He came in 19th for MVP in 2015, 2nd in 2016 and 6th for 2017. He is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove award winner. His defensive abilities will help his MVP case immensely. Betts came in 4th in Defensive WAR, and the one of the only legitimate AL MVP candidates in the top 50. (Francisco Lindor 20th, Carlos Correa 36th, Manny Machado 38th) Betts hit .264, with 24 HRs and 104 RBIs. He is a career .292 hitter with 30+ HR potential and should bounce back this year. The lineup will be much more dynamic with the addition of J.D. Martinez. This will lead to more at-bats as well as more runs scored. Cora announced that Mookie will be leading off this season, which will lower his RBI opportunities but he will have more runs scored, stolen bases, and at-bats. Mookie came in second for MVP when he spent most of his season as a leadoff hitter. Betts is entering his prime and could take home an MVP Award if he can top his age 23 season. He is a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner and has shown the ability to be elite.
AL MVP Candidate Carlos Correa, SS Houston Astros
Carlos Correa hit .315 with 24 HRs and 84 RBIs in 2017. He only played 109 games last season but still had a dominant year. He had a 6.3 WAR (7th in AL). Correa is entering his age 23 season with 361 games in the MLB under his belt. He started at SS for the 2017 All-Star game. He has a career .288 BA and has hit 20+ HR in each of his three seasons. Correa has only played one full season and has 35-40 HR potential. He has shown the ability to hit around or over .300 and is no slouch on defense. Correa is not the favorite on the Astros for AL MVP but not too many baseball fans would be surprised if he held an MVP trophy at the end of the season.
AL MVP Candidate Corey Kluber, P Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber is one of the most underrated players in the MLB. He is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and is somehow not considered a household name. One of his two Cy Young Awards came last season where he posted a 2.25 ERA, (1st) with an 18-4 record (.818%) (1st in Wins and W-L%), struck out 265 batters (2nd) and only surrendered 36 walks. He had a .869 WHIP (1st) and 8.0 WAR (1st). Kluber is unlikely to seriously compete for the MVP as he only finished 7th last season in what was more than likely his peak year, but should be considered in the top ten. At the very least I hope people start talking about this guy. He is a legitimate ace, and deserves to be in the conversation when talking about elite pitchers in this generation.
AL MVP Candidate Manny Machado, SS/3B Baltimore Orioles
Manny Machado is one of the best players in the American League. He is a 3x All-Star, 2x Gold Glove Award Winner, and even a Platinum Glove Award Winner. He will have a chance to play Shortstop full time this season and add to his Defensive War statistics. Machado hit .259, with 33 HRs, and 95 RBIs. He is a career .279 hitter and has hit over 30 dingers the last three seasons (35, 37, 33). Manny had a down year hitting .259, but hit .294 the year prior and is expected to be roughly a .285 hitter. With his ability to put the ball out of the park, and play elite defense, hitting .285 could get it done. It is also a contract year for Machado, so he will be motivated to produce if he wants to sign a big contract this upcoming off-season.
AL MVP Candidate J.D. Martinez, OF/DH Boston Red Sox
J.D. Martinez is one of the best sluggers in baseball and has been over the last four seasons. Martinez hit .303, with 45 HRs, and 104 RBIs in only 119 games last season. He has only been to one All-Star game and received one Silver Slugger despite being one of the most productive hitters over the last four seasons, hitting 20+ homers in all four seasons, including a 38 HR performance in 2015 and 45 HRs last season. He has a good chance to lead some offensive categories in the American League, but may be robbed of the Award due to his position. Martinez will primarily DH this season, while filling in the outfield when needed. Should he play enough in the outfield, Martinez could hold up that MVP Award in October. Though it is unlikely, he could also become the first DH to win the MVP.
AL MVP Candidate Chris Sale, P Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale is the most consistently dominant pitcher in the American League. Sale has finished in the top six for Cy Young in each of the last six seasons, since he became a starter in 2012. He is now on a contender making him also eligible for the MVP. For a pitcher to win MVP he needs to be on a winning team, have an ERA around 2.00 and lead the league in strikeouts by a large margin. Sale is probably the only pitcher in the American League capable of doing so. This is a long shot but possible if some superstars get injured or struggle.
AL MVP Candidate George Springer, OF Houston Astros
People say having a strong interior defense is crucial to a great team. Having an MVP Candidate at 2B, SS, and CF is an extreme example of that theory and it lead to a World Series in 2017. Springer already has a World Series MVP and will now go for the whole thing. Springer broke out last season hitting .283 with 34 HRs and 85 RBIs in only 140 games. He started his first All-Star game and won a Silver Slugger. He is not a heavy favorite for MVP but should be considered a Dark Horse for the award. George has not had as prolific as a career as most of the guys on this list but could compete for the MVP if he can build on his 2017 campaign.
AL MVP Candidate – Giancarlo Stanton, OF/DH New York Yankees (Gross)
This one hurts, it really does. Stanton will be joining a murderer’s row that includes Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Stanton will have so many RBI opportunities he could actually improve on his 132 RBI season in 2017. He will have the chance to play 81 games in Yankee Stadium with a very short porch he will take advantage of like a fat kid in a buffet. They may have named the right field stands the “Judges Chambers” a year early because I envision Stanton putting more balls in the fan section than Judge. Stanton is the reigning NL MVP, 4x All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger. One problem is that he is fairly injury prone. Giancarlo only averages 123 games per season, he will need to stay healthy all season to have a shot at the MVP Award. He is also projected to spend some time as a Designated Hitter, a position the MVP has never been given to. If Stanton does stay healthy and spends some time in the outfield like he should, he will be a favorite for MVP.
AL MVP Candidate – Mike Trout, OF Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout is a 2x MVP, 6x All-Star, and 5x Silver Slugger. He led the MLB in WAR every season from 2012-2016. In that stretch he came in first or second in the MVP race each season. In 2017, he played only 114 games, still made the All-Star game and came in 4th for MVP. He hit .306, with 33 HRs, 72 RBIs, and led the league in OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+. In other words, Mike Trout is really really good.
My Pick – Mike Trout: I’m not going to sit here and make some outlandish take about J.D. Martinez becoming the first DH to win the MVP or picking Springer to put it all together and win the whole thing. While those are great players, Mike Trout is the best player in the MLB. He is going to go down as one of if not the greatest of all time. He has a career WAR of 55.2 going into his age 26 season. To put that into perspective, David Ortiz has a career WAR of 55.4 in 20 seasons. Trout is on pace to have a career WAR in the 180 range, averaging over 9.0 WAR per season, Babe Ruth leads baseball with a career WAR of 183.7. Trout is not just the best active player in the league, he is on pace to be first or second all-time. Should he stay healthy I’m picking Trout every season until further notice.
Here is the list of my Top Ten in Order:
1. Mike Trout
2. Jose Altuve
3. Mookie Betts
4. Giancarlo Stanton
5. Carlos Correa
6. J.D. Martinez
7. Chris Sale
8. Manny Machado
9. George Springer
10. Corey Kluber
Top Ten NL MVP Candidates in 2018
Here is my National League Most Valuable Player Top 10 Candidates. I placed them in alphabetical order, then will choose my pick for MVP as well as my top 10 rankings.
NL MVP Candidate – Nolan Arenado, 3B Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado is the best third-basemen in the MLB, just above Kris Bryant. Arenado is a 3x All-Star and Silver Slugger. He is also a 5x Gold Glove Award Winner, making him one of the best defensive players in the league. In 2015 and 2016 Nolan lead the National League in HRs and RBIs. The most absurd stat in this whole article is that Arenado has had at least 130 RBIs in the last three seasons. He has finished in the top eight for MVP each of the last three seasons. Last season he had a 7.2 WAR (3rd), hit .309 (8th), with 37 HRs (T-3rd), and 130 RBIs (2nd). Over the last three seasons’ he has averaged .297 BA, with 40 HRs, and 131 RBIs. Arenado is one of the best players in the league and will be an MVP candidate for years to come. 2018 may finally be the time Arenado gets what he deserves.
NL MVP Candidate – Charlie Blackmon, OF Colorado Rockies
Charlie Blackmon had an outstanding season for the Rockies in 2017. He had a 6.0 WAR (6th), with a .331 BA (1st), 37 HRs (T-3rd), and 104 RBIs (8th). Blackmon is a 2x All-Star, has won the Silver Slugger the last two seasons, and won the 2017 NL batting title (given to the player with the highest batting average). He is entering his age 31 season with a career .305 BA and has steadily increased his power numbers since he entered the league. He has really taken off the last two seasons and looks primed for another run in 2018.
NL MVP Candidate – Kris Bryant, 3B Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant is one of the great young players in the game right now. Entering his age 26 season, Bryant is a 2x All-Star, 2015 Rookie of the Year, 2016 NL MVP, and World Series Champion. Last season Bryant hit .295, with 29 HRs, and only 73 RBIs. In his MVP season one-year prior Kris hit .292, with 39 HRs, and 102 RBIs. Despite Bryant’s low RBI count in 2017, he still finished 7th in the NL MVP race. Kris is the face of a perennial playoff contender making him a perennial MVP candidate. He has a legitimate chance to become a two-time MVP before his age 27 season.
NL MVP Candidate – Freddie Freeman, 1B Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman hit .307, with 28 HRs and 71 RBIs. He was on pace for an MVP caliber season before getting injured and only playing 117 games. Freeman is a 2x All-Star, a career .290 hitter, and one of the most consistent power hitters in the National League. He has five 20+ HR seasons, which includes his 34 HR season in 2016, his last healthy year. Freddie is not a front-runner because of the team he straps up for. His RBI numbers are low because he does not have enough offense around him. This will be his Achilles heel and more than likely lead to Freeman getting MVP votes but not enough to win it.
NL MVP Candidate – Paul Goldschmidt, 1B Arizona Diamondbacks
Paul Goldschmidt is a legit MVP candidate entering his age 30 season. Last year Goldschmidt had a 5.8 WAR (8th), hit .297 (15th), with 36 HRs (T-6th), and 120 RBIs (4th). He is the face of the Diamondbacks and a perennial MVP candidate. He has never won an MVP but has come in 2nd twice (2013, 2015) and 3rd last season. Paul is a 5x All-Star (2013-2017), three-time Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger award winner. He is a five-tool player; he even stole 18 bases last year as a first baseman. Could 2018 be the year that Goldy gets the hardware he deserves?
NL MVP Candidate – Bryce Harper, OF Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper is another example of an MVP candidate who went down due to injury in 2017 (Mike Trout). He appeared in 111 games, hit .319, with 29 HRs, and 87 RBIs. He would have a lot more hardware if he hadn’t averaged 128 games per season in his first six years of his career. Bryce is entering his prime, and that’s a scary thought. Harper already has one MVP under his belt, as well as 5 All-Star games, and a Silver Slugger. If he can stay healthy, he is a prime MVP candidate going into a contract year.
NL MVP Candidate – Clayton Kershaw, P Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw is the most talented pitcher in the MLB. He is one of the best pitchers of all time. Kershaw won the MVP in 2014. Clayton is a 3x Cy Young Winner (2011, 2012, 2014). He is a 7x All Star (2011-2017) and has won the National League ERA Title 5 times. In 2011 Kershaw won the Triple Crown for a pitcher (Lead League in Wins, ERA, and Strikeouts). Clayton Kershaw is a generational talent that could take home the MVP as a pitcher for the second time in 2018.
NL MVP Candidate – Marcell Ozuna, OF St. Louis Cardinals
Marcell Ozuna was part of the Marlins fire sale this offseason. He had a 5.8 WAR (12th), a .312 BA (6th), with 37 HRs (T-3rd), 124 RBIs (3rd), won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, and participated in the All-Star game the last two seasons. Ozuna had an MVP caliber season, behind the actual National League MVP. If he can build on what he did in 2017, he will be a top MVP candidate next season. Ozuna joins the Wild Card contending Cardinals in 2018, improving his chance’s for taking home some more hardware. He should immediately become the number three hitter in the lineup, with solid contributors around him. Having Yelich and Stanton ahead of him last season certainly helped his numbers last season. This season we will learn if he has what it takes to become the guy in St. Louis.
NL MVP Candidate – Joey Votto, 1B Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in recent history. Votto is one of the most underrated players in all of sports. The future Cincinnati Red Hall of Famer has 5 All-Star games under his belt, won an MVP Award in 2010, and a Gold Glove Award in 2011. In his age 33 season Votto had a 7.5 WAR (2nd), hit .320 (4th), with 36 HRs (T-6th), and 100 RBIs (10th). Over his 11-year career, here are his 162 game average stats: .313 BA, with 29 HRs and 94 RBIs. Joey is one of the best players in the National League and has been over the last decade. He will be hindered by his below average team and the fact that he is entering his age 34 season. Despite finishing 2nd in MVP in 2017, Votto is still a dark horse for the 2018 MVP.
NL MVP Candidate – Christian Yelich, OF Milwaukee Brewers
Christian Yelich jumped into the offseason frenzy in late January after hearing rumors that he may be held hostage in Miami as the face of the franchise. Yelich broke out in 2017 much like fellow outfielder Marcell Ozuna and to a degree even Giancarlo Stanton. Christian hit .282, with 18 HRs, and 81 RBIs last season. He also stole 16 bags for the Marlins. Yelich has had two great seasons back to back and will now get to contend for a championship with a new look Brew Crew. With Travis Shaw and Lorenzo Cain (acquired the same day as Yelich) in the front of the order, the team will have a solid lineup. They will also have great pieces like Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun, Orlando Arcia, and Eric Thames to keep resetting the lineup, giving Yelich at-bats and RBI opportunities. He is a long shot for MVP but will have the pieces around him to lead his team to the playoffs and rack up some hardware along the way.
My Pick: Bryce Harper: Bryce Harper is one of the best players in the National League, if not the best. He is in a contract year and will break the bank next offseason. If Harper can stay healthy, he will be the favorite to win MVP, with Nolan Arenado breathing down his neck. Bryce will continue to be the Lebron James of baseball, with his second MVP award in his age 25 season.
Here is a list of my Top Ten in order:
1. Bryce Harper
2. Nolan Arenado
3. Paul Goldschmidt
4. Charlie Blackmon
5. Kris Bryant
6. Clayton Kershaw
7. Freddie Freeman
8. Joey Votto
9. Marcell Ozuna
10. Christian Yelich
American League Cy Young Candidates
The Cy Young is one of the most recognized awards in sports. The best pitcher in each league is given the respect of a true ace. These are five game changers that can come into 2018 and put the team on his back every five days. This is my top five American League Cy Young Candidates in order.
AL Cy Young Winner – Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale is the most dominant pitcher in the American League. Sale has finished in the top six for Cy Young in each of the last six seasons, since he became a starter in 2012. Sale is my heavy favorite for the American League Cy Young despite blowing his case late last season. Sale had the Cy Young locked up until John Farrell showed his lack of coaching ability by making a 178 pound stick figure lead the league in innings pitched. Cora will know to rest Sale so he will not break down in September. In 2017 Sale went 17-8 (2nd in Wins), with a 2.90 ERA (2nd), with 308 strikeouts (1st) in 214.1 IP (1st). His slider is lethal, as proven by Mark Trumbo’s lack of hand-eye coordination: (ouch)
AL Cy Young Candidate (2nd) – Corey Kluber, Cleveland
Corey Kluber is the reigning American League Cy Young award winner. He also won in 2014 and looks primed for another run. Last season Kluber went 18-4, (1st in Wins) with a 2.25 ERA, (1st) and 265 strikeouts (2nd). He had an 8.0 WAR which was first by two full points, ahead of Chris Sale (6.0 WAR). Klubot was placed on the disabled list with a back injury on May 2nd, and did not return until June 1st. When he returned he made American League hitters flail at his wiffle-ball slider with a 15-2 record, 1.62 ERA, and 0.76 WHIP. The only reason Chris Sale is ahead of Kluber is because he is able to rack up more strikeouts which is weighed heavily in Cy Young voting. Also Sale is due; I do not envision Sale ending his career without a Cy Young or two, maybe even three. Back to Kluber he’s extremely dynamic and underrated. Watch how tight the previously mentioned wiffle-ball slider is:
Also Chris Sale is not the only pitcher capable of making Mark Trumbo look stupid:
AL Cy Young Candidate (3rd) – Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman is the most electric pitcher in the American League. Sale is known as the overall best American League pitcher, but Stroman is the most fun to watch. The Stro Show will make you lose your balance and then celebrate in your face:
While I love how Stroman oozes confidence on the mound, and put Team USA on his back in the World Baseball Classic, this is not why I picked him. Stroman went 13-9 on a 76-86 4th place Blue Jays team. He had a 3.09 ERA (4th), with 164 strikeouts (14th) in 201 IP (T-6th). He also maintained a 1.31 WHIP (13th). Stroman has a combination of velocity and movement that is unlike no other. Here are four reasons why you should expect Marcus Stroman to end the season in the Cy Young discussion:
His Two-Seamer froze Yankee legend Derek Jeter:
And Mookie Betts…
He has a devastating slider that made Carlos Correa swing out of his shoes:
As well as a lethal change-up:
He even throws a 12-6 curveball when he needs it:
His cutter and two-seamer are almost parallel but this is his cutter:
AL Cy Young Candidate (4th) – Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
Keuchel? What about Verlander? I’m not going to lie I had Verlander on this list originally, but changed my mind as I wrote this article. While Verlander was incredible as an Astro (1.06 ERA in 5 Starts), people are expecting 2011 Verlander (2.40 ERA, MVP, Cy Young Winner). The problem is that Justin is heading into his age 35 season while Keuchel is still in his prime. I still believe Verlander has the makeup of an ace and should start game one. However Keuchel has the best chance to repeat as a Cy Young winner.
Keuchel only started 23 games due to injury. In those games he went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA. He pitched like a Cy Young winner last season. In my opinion, Dallas verified his Cy Young status that he obtained when he won in 2015. Keuchel is going to win roughly 20 games because he is in the front of the Astros rotation and will go deep into games. The Astros are a really good team and could see Keuchel, Verlander, Cole, and McCullers in the Cy Young discussion. Out of these four elite pitchers I’m taking Dallas Keuchel.
AL Cy Young Candidate (5th) – Luis Severino, New York Yankees
Luis Severino broke out last season. He is the unquestioned ace of the New York Yankees. Severino will get an opportunity to pitch with the most powerful offense in baseball behind him. He could win 20+ games even if he doesn’t have a Cy Young caliber season. Last year Severino went 14-6, with a 2.98 ERA (3rd), with 230 strikeouts (4th), and a 1.04 WHIP (3rd). He racked up a 5.3 WAR good for 5th for American League Pitchers. His record did not due him justice last season, expect even more out of Luis in the wins department. He is almost a lock for 15+ wins and could easily get over 20. Severino will look to build on a phenomenal year going into his age 24 season.
National League Cy Young Candidates
The Cy Young is one of the most recognized awards in sports. The best pitcher in each league is given the respect of a true ace. These are five game changers that can come into 2018 and put the team on his back every five days. This is my top five National League Cy Young Candidates in order.
NL Cy Young Winner – Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw is the most talented pitcher in the MLB. He is one of the best pitchers of all time. Kershaw won the MVP in 2014. Clayton is a 3x Cy Young Winner (2011, 2012, 2014). He is a 7x All Star (2011-2017) and has won the National League ERA Title 5 times. In 2011 Kershaw won the Triple Crown for a pitcher (Lead League in Wins, ERA, and Strikeouts). Clayton Kershaw is a generational talent that will scoop up the Cy Young if healthy.
NL Cy Young Candidate (2nd) – Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Max Scherzer is the reigning National League Cy Young winner which puts him a three for his career (2013, 2016, 2017). Scherzer has been a beneficiary of Kershaw’s nagging back injury. With Kershaw out Scherzer has cruised to two straight Cy Young Awards. Max is a 5x All-Star (2013-2017) who is one of the most consistent players in the Majors and will be the favorite if Kershaw’s back injury returns. That said, it is not unrealistic for Scherzer to beat a healthy Kershaw, like he did in 2013 when he went 21-3. Expect a close race at the top.
NL Cy Young Candidate (3rd) – Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasburg is an elite pitcher who is an ace in his own right, behind previously mentioned Max Scherzer. The first pick of the 2009 MLB Draft has lived up to his potential thus far. He is a 3x All-Star (2012, 2016, 2017), with two top ten Cy Young finishes. Last year he came in third for Cy Young, with a 15-4 record, 2.52 ERA (3rd), and 204 Ks (4th) in 175.1 IP. He had a 6.5 WAR, good for 3rd in the National League, trailing teammates Gio Gonzalez (6.6) and Max Scherzer (7.3). Strasburg dominates with his 96 MPH fastball, and almost equal usage of curveballs and changeups, and throws a slider into the mix 3.8% of the time over his career.
Here is an example of his changeup that is regarded as one of the best in the league:
His curveball can sweep across the plate and freeze the reigning AL MVP:
Or he can throw more of a 12-6 and make people swing out of their shoes:
Stephen Strasburg should be considered a favorite entering his age 29 season, squarely in his prime. If Kershaw tweaks his back or has any type of stint on the disabled list, and Scherzer regresses in his age 33 season, Strasburg might just take home the Cy Young in 2018. I could even see him taking on a healthy Kershaw and Scherzer if everything goes right for him.
NL Cy Young Candidate (4th) – Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
The man appropriately named Thor has come into the MLB just started murdering people. Here is a GIF of Noah Syndergaard assassinating Yunel Escobar in 2015. Syndergaard was a rookie back then and has added 1.2 MPH to his fastball since then (98.3 avg in 2017) Last season Syndergaard suffered a partial lat tear that limited him to just 30.1 IP. He had a 2.97 ERA in limited action and has a career 2.89 ERA in 364 IP.
Syndergaard blows people away with his fastball that averaged 98.3 MPH last season and was used 51.1% of the time according to Fangraphs. What makes him effective is not his fastball but the fact that hitters have to gear up for 100 MPH and then are unable to adjust to his off-speed pitches. Here is an example of Thor using his changeup which averages 90.2 MPH and was used 18.6% of the time in his brief 2017 campaign:
Thor’s go-to pitch was his 92.5 MPH slider. I mean who wouldn’t feature a slider that is thrown harder than a lot of big leaguers fastballs. He used his slider 19.9% of the time in 2017, and made Salvador Perez lose his balance on this pitch:
Syndergaard also breaks out the 84.4 MPH curveball 10.5% of the time just for fun:
NL Cy Young Candidate (5th) – Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Jacob deGrom has been mowing down National League hitters since he joined the league in 2014. He has the same pitch mix as Syndergaard with a similar usage, featuring his slider as his main off-speed pitch followed by his changeup, then curveball. He won Rookie of the Year in 2014, and made the All-Star game the following year. He has a career 2.98 ERA and should be considered with this upper echelon of talent. He is not a heavy favorite to win the award but could put it together. He has a back injury that is expected to keep him out of action for his first game and could ruin his chances. If he heals up then he is a peg up from a dark horse for the Cy Young in 2018
American League Rookie of the Year
Michael Kopech – P, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox flame throwing prospect is ready for the big leagues. That said, the Chi-Sox are going to wait a couple weeks to call him up to reserve a year of eligibility. When he arrives to the big leagues he will start immediately. Between AA and AAA last season Kopech put down opponents with a 2.88 ERA in 134.1 IP. He struck out 172 batters for an insane 11.5 K/9. He is going to go off in the majors if he can keep the walks down. Kopech walked 65 batters with a 4.4 BB/9. He throws over 100 MPH which creates control issues for most. Kopech will have to limit the walks and keep his pitch count low if he wants to succeed. That said, he has more potential than almost all American League rookies and has a great opportunity with the White Sox.
Shohei Ohtani is a clear favorite in a lot of people’s eyes. The 23-year-old Japanese Superstar has as much potential as any prospect I have seen in years. However, he has a lot of issues surrounding him. For starters he is hitting .107 with zero extra-base hits in Spring Training to go along with his 27.00 ERA in only 2.2 IP. I don’t like to take Spring Training too seriously but Ohtani has struggled mightily with the bat and has only logged 2.2 less than stellar innings on the mound. He also will have to be managed cautiously as the first two-way player in years. Shohei is also at a higher injury risk with that kind of workload and with the history of Japanese players coming into the MLB and going down early. I did not intend to bash Ohtani here but I did need to raise points as to why he is not my pick for Rookie of the Year. I hope he proves me wrong as he may be the most exciting player in baseball this season.
Michael Kopech Throwing 101 MPH in the Futures Game
National League Rookie of the Year
Ronald Acuna – OF, Atlanta Braves
Ronald Acuna is one of the most anticipated Major League prospects in baseball. He came into the spring with a ton of eyes on him and produced. Acuna is hitting .432 with 4 HRs, and 11 RBIs in only 44 at-bats and 52 plate appearances. I predicted that Acuna would take home the National League Rookie of the Year trophy on Around the Diamond a couple weeks back and could not be more confident in my pick. He is an all around stud that has now proven he can hit for power, which was my only personal concern with Acuna. He had eight home runs in his first two seasons before mashing 21 last season at the age of 19. He is expected to start the season in the minors then get called up in April to save a year of eligibility, much like the Cubs did with Kris Bryant years ago. In 2017 Acuna hit .325 with 82 RBIs, and 44 stolen bases in only 139 games between A+, AA, and AAA. He is a five tool prospect that is going to tear it up at the MLB level when given the opportunity.
Acuna Snagging a Pop Fly – a Metaphor for Snagging the ROY Award
American League Manager of the Year
Mike Scioscia – Los Angeles Angels
Scioscia has already won the Manager of the Year Award twice (2002, 2009) and is primed for another run. Manager of the Year Awards are typically given to small market managers that turn a team around from one year to the next. The Angels went 80-82 last season, but made notable additions. The Angels acquired Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler, and most notably Shohei Ohtani. Cozart will move over to Third Base while Kinsler will man Second Base. Ohtani is a big reason why Scioscia is my pick for Manager of the Year. Ohtani will be the most complicated player to manage in the MLB. He will be used as the 4th Starter in the Angels rotation and DH on his “off days”. If Ohtani is successful, Scioscia will get credit, and deservedly so. Scioscia will be responsible for resting Ohtani to be able to pitch, while getting him enough at-bats to keep the rust off. Shohei will have more general soreness and minor injuries than just about any other player in the league. He will have to throw 100 pitches every five days, get his side work in, and hit in between. Also, he will have to adjust to the MLB from the Nippon Professional Baseball League, a transition many athletes have had trouble doing. If Ohtani can stay fairly healthy, and have a quality season, the Angels will only have one thing left to do. For Mike Scioscia to win the Manager of the Year Award for the third time, I believe all the Angels have to accomplish is a playoff berth via Wild Card and win at least 90 games. With the improvements they have made in the offseason, the Los Angeles Angels have a good shot of doing so, not to mention they will finally have a healthy Garrett Richards, the best pitcher on their staff.
National League Manager of the Year
Gabe Kapler – Philadelphia Phillies
The Baseball Writers Association love to vote for rookie Managers for the Manager of the Year Award. Gabe Kapler is coming into a team that went 66-96 in 2017, with a positive mindset. He is known as one of the most positive personalities in baseball, and this team has a lot to be positive about. The Phillies went out and got the top starting pitcher in free agency, signing Jake Arrieta to a three year, $75 million contract. They also acquired Carlos Santana on a three year, $60 million deal. This is great for so many reasons. There is the obvious on-field abilities of these top free agent signings. Then there is the fact that the Phillies are starting to spend money, which is a big deal in baseball. The Phillies will also have a full year of Rhys Hoskins and will be calling up Scott Kingery to man Second Base, who they already gave an extension to, which should give fans confidence. Gabe Kapler has an embarrassment of riches to turn around a 5th place team in the NL East a year ago. The Phillies should have the biggest win differential in baseball this year, which would give voters reason to select Gabe Kapler for the National League Manager of the Year in 2018.
American League Comeback Player of the Year
Michael Brantley – OF, Cleveland Indians
Michael Brantley was one of the best players in the game before being sidelined at the end of 2015. He only played 11 games in 2016, and 90 in 2017. Brantley was an All-Star, finished 3rd in MVP, and won a Silver Slugger Award in his last full season (2014). He is a bonafide stud capable of tearing up the MLB when healthy. Brantley will be entering his age 31 season in 2018, still in his prime years. When he came back last season he hit .299 with 9 HRs and 52 RBIs in limited action. This year he is expected to land on the 10 day Disabled List then be a part of the everyday lineup by the middle of April.
Projected Stat Line: .312, 39 2B, 3 3B, 18 HRs, and 102 RBIs
National League Comeback Player of the Year
Noah Syndergaard – P, New York Mets
Noah Syndergaard had a phenomenal All-Star season in 2016. He went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA in 183.2 IP. He had 218 Ks compared to 43 walks. Syndergaard led the National League in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) with a 2.29. Thor was having a great season in 2017 with 2.97 ERA but was shut down for the season after 30.1 IP. He was diagnosed with a partial lat tear that ended his season and makes him a prime candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Syndergaard is a Cy Young caliber pitcher that will win this award by a landslide if he can stay healthy in 2018.
Projected Stat Line: 17-7, 2.69 ERA, 241 Ks in 201.2 IP
Gold Glove Predictions
This is an absurdly long article so I will make this brief by just writing a name next to a position. Lets keep this short and simple.
American League Gold Glove Awards
C – Christian Vasquez, Boston Red Sox
1B – Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
2B – Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels
3B – Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
SS – Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels
LF – Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
CF – Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
RF – Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
P – Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
National League Gold Glove Awards
C – Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2B – Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
3B – Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
SS – Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
LF – Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals
CF – Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves
RF – Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
P – Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
American League Silver Slugger Awards
C – Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
1B – Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
2B – Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
3B – Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
SS – Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (for now)
OF – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
OF – Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
OF – Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
DH – J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
National League Silver Slugger Awards
C – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
1B – Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres
2B – Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
3B – Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
SS – Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF – Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
OF – Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
OF – Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals
P – Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
Thank you for reading or at least skimming this massive MLB Preview. This took me a lot of time and effort. Before I end this im just going to give a my 2018 standings and playoff predictions.
Way Too Early World Series Prediction: Washington Nationals over Boston Red Sox in Five
Scott Neville – Head Baseball Writer – WTF Sports Nation