The moment Major League Baseball fans have been waiting for since October is finally here. Spring Training has arrived.
It's been a busy week for baseball, as Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder and 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun had his 50-game suspension overturned after an arbitrator found procedural issues in the way that Braun's test was handled.
With Braun back in Milwaukee's lineup, the Brewers now have a hitter that will likely be, at the very least, the team's MVP in 2012.
While some teams have a clear winner for who will be their most valuable player in 2012, others, like Detroit and Los Angeles, have a variety of players who could take the honor.
The Yankees have a few guys who could take this award, including Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia. However, second baseman Robinson Cano is playing at an elite level, and could also be the American League MVP in 2012.
Although Cano's average and on base percentage dropped a bit last season, his RBI total jumped, and at 29 years old, Cano is in the midst of his prime.
As a lefty, Cano has the advantage of hitting to Yankee Stadium's right field wall, which isn't exactly a difficult place to hit a home run.
Defensively, Cano is very much above average, as he is one of the better defensive second baseman in baseball.
Sometimes, the word "valuable" is lost in the shuffle. What makes Cano so valuable is the position that he plays. Sabathia is valuable, of course, but there won't be another second baseman in baseball that can do what Cano does.
Furthermore, Cano is projected to be the most consistent hitter in New York's lineup in 2012. While Granderson came up big in 2011, he wasn't nearly as consistent as Cano was.
This was a close call between Longoria and starting pitcher David Price for a number of reasons.
First of all, Price is an ace. He's a mid-top 10 pitcher, and he's poised to have another great season.
Longoria, on the other hand, is coming off a foot surgery and a rough year in 2011. His .244 average and .355 OBP aren't exactly what one would call impressive for someone who's supposed to be an elite hitter.
However, this will be a great year for Longoria. While he probably won't have an average above .300, he'll set a career mark for home runs and RBI in 2012.
In terms of who will have the better season, I think that Price and Longoria are going to be about even. Since it is such a close race, I have to give the edge to the hitter, so Longoria takes it by a nose.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a huge year in Beantown in 2011.
In his first year in Boston, Gonzalez set career marks for average, OBP, hits and runs. If not for the historic charge from Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, Gonzalez could have won the American League MVP award.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury may also be a contender for the honor of team MVP, but when all is said and done, Gonzalez will take the honor. Like the previous two players on this list—and many players on this list, for that matter—Gonzalez is in the midst of his prime.
While he may not improve upon his numbers in 2012, Gonzalez is likely to hold steady, which is more than enough to make him the team's MVP.
Unlike the previous choices for team MVP, this choice wasn't even close.
Jose Bautista proved to be one of baseball's most prolific hitters in 2011, knocking 43 home runs over the fence while hitting a career high in average, OBP and OPS.
There is no truer definition of value than Jose Bautista. While with him in the lineup, his Blue Jays finished with only an 81-81 record in 2011, without Bautista this is a team that wins 70 games or less.
The Blue Jays probably will not win the AL East in 2012. They also will probably miss a wild-card spot. However, this is a team that is on the rise, and Bautista is the biggest reason for that.
On a sub-par team like Baltimore, there are very few bright spots. However, shortstop J.J. Hardy is one of these bright spots and then some.
While his numbers weren't spectacular in 2011, Hardy did hit 30 home runs and tied his career high in RBI with 80.
While catcher Matt Wieters is the future of the Orioles franchise, Hardy is the present. Wieters still has a year or two before he hits his prime, while Hardy is in the midst of it.
Not to say that the Orioles have no chance of winning the AL East this season, but their chance can be classified as "very small." Because of this, Hardy will probably not get the recognition he deserves in 2012.
That being said, he will still have a good season, and will be one of the more underrated players in 2012.
On most other teams, Miguel Cabrera would be a no brainer for team MVP. On this team, though, the decision wasn't as easy.
With the signing of new first baseman Prince Fielder and the likely continued success of 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Cabrera is far from a lock as team MVP.
However, Cabrera is still poised to win the team MVP award in 2012. He hit fewer home runs last season than he did in 2010, but he became a much more consistent hitter in the process.
This season, Cabrera has already been said to have lost a great deal of weight, meaning that he's probably become much more athletic in the process.
If he can solidify his defensive play enough even to be half as solid as his offensive ability, Cabrera could be an early favorite to win AL MVP in 2012.
Asdrubal Cabrera is by no means an elite shortstop, but he is in the top 10 in the league. And he's going to be the best that Cleveland has to offer in 2012.
Cabrera's numbers took a weird turn in 2011. While he shot way up as a power hitter, his average, OBP and strikeout numbers took a huge dip—something that you don't really want to see from a hitter who is supposed to be one of the more consistent on your team.
Shin-Soo Choo could also be the team's MVP this season, but a rocky 2011 makes me reluctant to put him above Cabrera.
I have this team projected to be at the very bottom of the American League Central in 2012. That being said, Konerko is still poised to have a good year.
His numbers probably will not be as great as they were last season. Expect Konerko to hit around .290 with 25 home runs.
On a team without a great deal of talent, though, Konerko will be the guy that earns the most praise. He's been the best hitter on this team for the past couple of seasons now. Look for that to continue in 2012.
Gordon's numbers saw a definitive spike in 2011, as the left fielder hit for career numbers in many areas. Look for his numbers to increase again this season, especially his home runs and RBI.
This is a Kansas City team that could potentially finish second in the division this season, and will be battling with Cleveland for the spot all year. Gordon will be the biggest reason for this.
Due to injury, Joe Mauer saw his playing time drop in 2011. His numbers, in turn, dropped as well.
However, this is a guy that hit for a .365 average just a few years ago. If Mauer can stay healthy, there is no doubt he will be the team's MVP in 2012.
Mauer had a down year last season, but was still able to hit for a .287 average and a .360 OBP. Those are more than solid numbers for most Major League catchers.
His home run total probably will not be high. But if other players can get on base, he'll be able to drive them in and his RBI total will jump significantly from last season.
Josh Hamilton went on a bit of a decline in 2011, as his numbers weren't quite as good as his MVP caliber season in 2010. However, they were still solid numbers, as Hamilton hit .298 with 25 home runs.
Look for Hamilton's numbers to go back up in 2012. They probably will not be as solid as they were in 2010, but won't be as low as they were last season.
While there are plenty of candidates for team MVP on this stacked Rangers roster, Hamilton will be the one that leads this team to the playoffs in 2012.
Jered Weaver is the first pitcher on this list, and for good reason. The righty would have been a Cy Young winner last season, if not for the spectacular performance of Justin Verlander.
Weaver had the best season of his career in 2011, going 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA. This season, I predict that he will improve upon those numbers and win 20 games.
While first baseman Albert Pujols would be the easy choice for team MVP, no one will be more valuable than Weaver. I picked this team to win the AL West a month ago, and I think that Weaver will be the biggest reason for that.
Jemile Weeks is good player on a not-so-great Oakland Athletics team. This is a team that may take a couple of steps back this season, but Weeks will not be the reason why.
Weeks hit .303 last season in 97 games, while holding an OBP at .340 in his rookie season.
On most other teams, Weeks would probably not even be a candidate for team MVP. On this depleted A's team, though, Weeks is a pretty solid choice.
This one was an easy selection. Ichiro is on the decline, and Hernandez is thriving.
His numbers aren't overwhelming. However, his win-loss record should be thrown out the window completely, as 14-14 does not accurately represent Hernandez's ability.
This season, Hernandez may not see an increase in his win-loss record, but his ERA should drop. His strikeout total is always impressive, and he could be a dark horse candidate for the Cy Young award.
Two pitchers could easily win this award. Along with righty Roy Halladay, lefty Cliff Lee could also be a contender for team MVP. Both are contenders for the NL Cy Young Award, as well.
That being said, Halladay will be the team's Most Valuable Player in 2012. Halladay could be worth as many as 10 wins for Philly in 2012, making him perhaps one of the most valuable players in all of baseball in 2012.
Last season, Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA. This season, Halladay will hold steady with those numbers, making him the team's best player.
Brian McCann had a pretty solid season in 2011, and has catapulted himself up the ranks as one of the best catchers in baseball.
McCann will have his best season yet in 2012. Expect his average to be up near .300 with fewer strikeouts than what he had last year. While his home run number will hover around 23, his RBI total should be above his career average this year.
There are a few other solid players on this Braves' roster that are also poised to be team MVP. When all is said and done, though, McCann will do enough to be the team's most valuable player.
Coming out of the draft, Strasburg was one of the most highly-touted picks ever. He didn't disappoint at the minor league level, and is poised to do big things in the nation's capitol.
While his body of work isn't particularly large in the majors, he does have some excellent numbers so far. Disregard the win-loss record, because that's merely a product of how mediocre this team's offense has been.
In the past two seasons, Strasburg is first in all of baseball in strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP. He is also towards the top in strikeouts-per-walk and batting average allowed.
This season will be the best Strasburg has had so far. He should be a dark horse candidate for the NL Cy Young award, and will certainly be the best player on an average Nationals team this season.
On a team that's poised to have a horrible year in 2012, David Wright is set to potentially be the lone All-Star. He will also be the team's MVP.
Wright saw his numbers dip a bit in 2011, but expect those numbers to increase in 2012. Wright is a career .300 hitter, and his average in 2012 should be much closer to that than the .254 he hit last season. His OBP, which was .345 last season, should also increase.
As a power hitter, what you see is what you get. Wright will not give you a ton of power, but could hit 20 home runs this season. I picked this Mets team to finish last in the National League East, but it will not be because of David Wright.
There have been many articles questioning whether or not Hanley Ramirez will be able to gel with his new teammate, short stop Jose Reyes.
Not only will he gel, but he'll also thrive in 2012.
Ramirez could be an NL MVP candidate by the time this season is over, and will definitely have a monster year this season. Look for Ramirez's average to be over .300, and his OBP to be over .400 this season.
His home run total should hover just below 20 this year, which means he isn't going to be extremely impressive in terms of power. But he'll make up for that and then some with his consistency, and should put the Marlins into contention for a wild card spot.
Ryan Braun's overturned suspension turned the Brewers from a potential afterthought to a potential World Series contender. There are only a handful of players in baseball with that ability, and Braun is the biggest name.
Braun has the potential to repeat as NL MVP in 2012, and will definitely be Milwaukee's MVP. While he may not have the same monstrous season that he had in 2011, Braun will come out with something to prove, which will undoubtedly bring great results for Brewers fans.
Many people determine "value" differently. To me, value means how many wins a player is worth.
No player is worth more wins to his team than Braun. If the suspension would have been upheld, the Brewers would have probably ended their first 50 games with a record of 20-30 or so. Now, they could expect to be 30-20 or better. That 10 game swing could easily make the difference between a playoff spot and sitting on the couch in October.
Last year's World Series MVP will be this year's team MVP.
With first baseman Albert Pujols heading west, this Cardinals need a new star. David Freese is poised to be that star, and least for the recent future.
This will be a closer contest than people might think, though. Catcher Yadier Molina was one of the most underrated players in all of baseball last season, and could be a breakout star this season.
Expect Freese's home run total to take a jump this season—it'll probably almost double. His average should continue to hover around .300, and his RBI total and OBP should see a solid increase.
The Cincinnati Reds are a dark horse team to do big things this season in a top-heavy NL Central, and first baseman Joey Votto is a dark horse to win his second NL MVP award.
Regardless of whether or not either or both of these things happen, Votto is poised to be his team's MVP in 2012.
Last season, Votto's numbers dipped slightly, though they were still some of the best numbers for someone at his position.
Votto hit at a .309 average with 29 home runs and 103 RBI. This season, Votto's average will go above .310 and his home run total will jump back above 30.
While there are other teammates who could take the award of team MVP, Votto is undoubtedly the team's best player, and will prove that in 2012.
Andrew McCutchen is going into his fourth season of Major League Baseball, and this season will definitely be his best so far.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates won't be winning the division this year, they are poised to be outside contenders for a wild card spot.
McCutchen's average took a bit of a dip last season, though his home run and RBI numbers rose significantly and his OBP stayed about the same.
This season, McCutchen is going to be a breakout player. Look for his numbers in nearly every category to be career bests, especially his home run and RBI totals.
Coming into his third season, Castro has risen from an under-the-radar rookie to a star for the Chicago Cubs. This season, Castro is set to take the next step from team star to baseball star.
Arguably no fan base is more deserving of a good team than the fans of the Cubs, but things probably won't be improving just yet. In a pretty good NL Central, the Cubs could end up being the fourth best team again.
However, Castro will have himself an All Star caliber season in 2012. His home run total will approach 15, and his RBI total should approach 80. His OBP will be his calling card, though, as his consistency with getting on base will make him the best player on a weak Cubs team.
This was kind of tough, because the Astros are the worst team in baseball by a huge margin going into 2012.
Out of all of the options, though, left fielder-turned-first baseman Carlos Lee will be the least disappointing. His numbers were by no means bad last season, but he's the worst team MVP on this list for sure.
Last season, Lee hit for an average of .275 with an OBP of .342. This season, I expect Lee to hit around .260 with 20 home runs and nearly 100 RBI.
With the lack of talent at the big league level in Houston, the Astros could have a surprise rookie that contends for this team MVP. However, until one shows himself, Lee is destined to be the MVP of the weakest team in baseball.
At only 24 years old, Justin Upton is already a contender for NL MVP. Earlier this year I picked the Diamondbacks to play the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, and I think Upton will be the biggest reason for this.
Last season, Upton saw his home run total jump to 31. This season, that number will jump even higher, and could even approach 40. His RBI total will jump above 100, and his average will go well above .300.
On a team with a few different options for team MVP, Upton will have just enough extra to win the award. I predict that he will also finish in the top three in MVP voting, and perhaps could even win the NL MVP award in 2012.
Last season, Buster Posey's year was abruptly ended when a play at the plate turned into a horrible knee injury.
This season, Posey will return back to form and be a contender for Comeback Player of the Year. Despite having two excellent pitchers for teammates—Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain—Posey will still be San Francisco's MVP in 2012.
Posey should return to his 2010 numbers this season. His home run total will take a bit of a jump (probably around 20), and his average will jump above .300 again.
While many people are picking the Giants to win the NL West this season, they're more likely a wild card team than a division winner at this point. However, if Posey performs as well as he should, the Giants could be neck-and-neck with Arizona all season.
This was the toughest decision to make. Despite this team's struggles last season, they have the 2011 NL Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw, and the player I thought should have won the NL MVP award in Matt Kemp.
However, when all is said and done, Kershaw will do just enough to be the team's MVP in 2012.
Last season, Kershaw carried a 21-5 record with a 2.28 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. His numbers should be just as solid this season, if not better.
Expect Kershaw to win at least 20 games again, especially if his offense comes up big for him. His ERA should hover around 2.40 and his WHIP could stay under 1.00 again this season.
While Kemp will be just as explosive this season as he was in 2011, Kershaw is going to do just enough to be LA's MVP.
Carlos Gonzalez's numbers dropped a bit in 2011, but they should rise back up again in 2012. Even so, if last season was a down year for Gonzalez, it was one of the best down years a player could wish for.
Gonzalez should see his average jump above .300 this season, and his home run total will take a big jump, as it could potentially hit 40. He will be one of the best run producers in all of the NL in 2012, and will take nearly 60 walks this season.
While the Rockies are capable of being a surprising team this season, chances are they will finish fourth yet again. If they manage to move up the ranks, though, Gonzalez will be the biggest reason why.
The Padres just signed Cameron Maybin to a pretty good contract. Maybin will live up to that contract this season.
I've been following Maybin pretty closely since he came up through the ranks in Detroit, and this season Maybin is poised to do big things.
Last season, Maybin proved that he was able to get on base pretty consistently. This season, Maybin will increase his OBP, which in turn means that he will be able to get into scoring position.
Maybin is one of the best base stealers in baseball, and he will continue to steal 40+ bases this season. His run production will increase in 2012, as will his batting average. His power is below average for the MLB level, but he'll make up for this with consistent hitting.