With pitchers and catchers just reporting and spring training looming, the 2012 MLB season has unofficially started.
Last season, the winners of the major awards were Justin Verlander of the Tigers (pictured above), who took home both the MVP and the Cy Young in the American League, young Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who took home the National League Cy Young, and Ryan Braun of the Brewers, who won the National League MVP despite the controversy that now surrounds him.
And with that, it's never too early to start predicting who will win the next batch of major awards, as we await the longly-anticipated 2012 MLB season.
The National League Central is up for grabs, as the reigning champion Cardinals lost three-time MVP Albert Pujols. The division-champion Brewers meanwhile lost the all-powerful Prince Fielder and may very well lose All-Star Ryan Braun to a 50-game suspension.
In come the Reds, who strengthened up their team this offseason, adding closer Ryan Madson and trading for ace Matt Latos. With an already strong team, the Reds are in prime position to sneak away with the NL Central title.
If they win the division, Dusty Baker wins the Manager of the Year award.
Runner Up: Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks
As we've seen over the last five years, we can never count the Rays out. Last season, the Rays managed an insurmountable comeback on the last day of the season to sneak into the playoffs.
Residing in what is largely considered the strongest division, the AL East, the Rays will have a tough time making the playoffs. If the Rays manage to once again overcome the odds and make the playoffs, Joe Maddon will win the Manager of the Year for a second straight time.
Runner Up: Jim Leyland, Tigers
Now, I don't think Bryce Harper will make the Nationals team out of spring training, but I do think that the former No. 1 overall draft pick will be up early enough to make an impact for the Nationals and make a run at the Rookie of the Year.
Expect Harper to put up a line similar to this one:
20 HR, 75 RBI, .295 AVG
Runner(s) Up: Drew Pomeranz, Rockies and Yonder Alonzo, Padres
With just one regular season start on his resume, the Rays trusted the pitching phenom to pitch Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS vs. the Rangers. Moore didn't disappoint, pitching seven innings of no-run ball.
Moore is the favorite for the Rookie of the Year, and his pitching line could look something like:
13 Wins, 3.00 ERA, 180 K's
Runner Up: Jesus Montero, Mariners
While this may be taking the easy way out, I think Roy Halladay will take back the NL Cy Young. The two-time winner will have a much easier time this year, as the NL as a whole got weaker.
20 Wins, 2.65 ERA, 225 K's
Runner Up: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Reigning winner Justin Verlander (although still awesome) will most likely regress, so you can look for the Yankee ace to pull away from the rest of the competition this year.
With three top-five finishes in as many years pitching for the Yankees, Sabathia will finally get his award.
21 Wins, 2.95 ERA, 220 K's
Runner Up: Justin Verlander, Tigers
In my opinion, Matt Kemp deserved the MVP last season. Now, with reigning MVP Ryan Braun most likely out for 50 games, and both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder out of the NL, Matt Kemp could run away with the MVP this year.
41 HR, 43 SB (yes a 40-40), 123 RBI, .329/.403/.591
Runner Up: Joey Votto, Reds
Not too bold. Longoria has always been an All-Star but has constantly been injured. Expect him to finally put everything together in 2012, paired up with Gold Glove defense at the hot corner.
34 HR, 114 RBI, .295/.380/.530
Runner(s) Up: Robinson Cano, Yankees and Jose Bautista, Blue Jays