Prediction columns are the best. Every spring they’re as ubiquitous as daisies, and they always remind me of being a kid: the smell of a freshly oiled baseball mitt, a bright blue morning sky with just a hint of breeze, and the constant knowledge that no matter what you choose, you’re going to choose wrong and end up looking foolish.
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers. He’ll miss his first start, but that won’t stop him from winning this award. Last year he really came into his own and flat-out dominated hitters. He struck out fourteen or more five times last year and ten or more twelve times. Wow. He’ll also benefit from having to start every Rangers game this year since every other starter is hurt, but it’s only for one year, and even in Texas they have plenty of ice.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Angels. He should have won this award the past two years and this year he does. With a move back to CF and continued maturation at the plate, he might approach 20 WAR (season, not career), which I don’t even know is possible. I refuse to do the math. He’s baseball’s Willy Wonka. Anything is possible.
AL ROY: Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox. The Yankees Masahiro Tanaka will make this a close race, and I’m rooting most for the Royals Yordano Ventura, a 22-year-old fireballer from the Dominican Republic, but I believe Bogaerts will win. Playing in Boston didn’t faze him last year, neither did the postseason. In Fenway he’ll hit a ton of doubles, and when all is said and done, Boston will win the AL East and Bogaerts will be a big reason why.
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals. Hooray for homer pick! Really I wanted to go with the Reds Mat Latos. He and his tattoos were due for a magical season until he had left knee surgery to repair meniscus cartilage. Reports are that he’s fine. Still. Landing 250 pounds repeatedly on a surgically repaired knee is asking a lot. Anyway. This is the year Strasburg wins his first Cy Young as his numbers will be inflated pitching against the Mets and Marlins offensively challenged lineups, the Phillies slow pitch softball team, and those 6+ free ABs against the Braves pitchers, Dan Uggla, and BJ Upton. Plus he’s a new dad. Don’t think he won’t be especially motivated to go longer into games to avoid changing diapers. Ugh.
NL MVP: Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals. Molina is a trendy pick this spring for MVP and it’s easy to see why. His bat has finally caught up to his defense, and for the past two years he’s produced 6+ WAR, last year ranking 4th in the NL with 6.9, and he’s won six straight Gold Gloves. If he produces anywhere near those numbers again, barring a Bryce Harper protein shake powered rampage or you pick the Dodger tour de force, Molina will win this award. The Cardinals are stacked, and Molina will be the steady presence to help all of those young Red Bird arms mature.
NL ROY: Archie Bradley, SP, Diamondbacks. Service clock shenanigans will force him to start the year in the minors, but I think he’ll find his way to the Diamondbacks and pitch well. He won’t make anyone forget Jose Fernandez’s 2013, but after SI’s Tom Verducci mentioned Bradley alongside Dwight Gooden, I’m sold.
On a side note, there’s always the Reds Billy Hamilton. How long until some enterprising manager decides to just walk the pitcher in front of him? By June? That would effectively neutralize the one legitimate weapon Hamilton has, his otherworldly speed, and take away the infield single with the force out at second. If this happens, I predict Mat Latos wins the Silver Slugger award, Cy Young, and MVP with the highest OBP ever recorded.
My Latos love knows no bounds.
AL Division: Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics
Wild Cards: Rays, Royals
Conference Champs: Tigers
NL Division: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers
Wild Cards: Braves, Reds
Conference Champs: Cardinals
World Series Champs: Cardinals
At the end of the season, I’m delighted to see just how badly I understand this game.