I already have my list for the top NL Cy Young Award contenders posted, and now it is time for the top Cy Young Award contenders in the American League.
Just like in the NL, the AL is chock-full of pitchers who could have great seasons in 2012. Narrowing the field down to just five players was difficult to do, but here are the five pitchers I believe will stand out above the rest in the AL.
These picks are in no particular order, except for the last slide, which contains my prediction for the winner.
2011 Stats: 12-13, 3.49 ERA, 224.1 IP, 218 K, 1.14 WHIP
David Price followed up his outstanding 2010 season with a very mediocre year in 2011. However, I think Price will be back in top form in 2012.
The 26-year-old southpaw has shown that he has all the potential in the world for Tampa Bay, but he will need to show more than just potential if he wants to be a Cy Young candidate.
The Rays have an extremely talented pitching staff, and the emergence of Price this season will only add to it. I look for Price to continue to improve as a young pitcher in the AL and to make a return to the All-Star Game.
If Price can get his ERA down and improve his winning percentage, he will be a strong AL Cy Young Award candidate this year.
2011 Stats: 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 223.1 IP, 206 K, 1.19 WHIP
C.J. Wilson was one of the most sought after free agents in the 2011 offseason. Wilson ended up returning to his home state of California, joining the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
With Wilson joining the rotation in L.A., the Angels feature one of the most feared rotations in all of MLB.
There is a lot of pressure on Wilson to perform in L.A., but I think he will handle the pressure very well. In Texas, Wilson was the focal point of a very strong starting rotation. In Los Angeles, Wilson will likely be the No. 2 starter behind Angels' ace Jered Weaver.
Much of Wilson's success will be determined by whether he can shut down his old team, the Texas Rangers. The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners do not feature feared offenses, and that should help Wilson out a lot, but the Rangers feature one of the strongest lineups in all of baseball.
Wilson will be a key piece for the Los Angeles Angels this season, and I expect him to do an outstanding job filling his role with them, just like he did in Texas.
2011 Stats: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 237.1 IP, 230 K, 1.23 WHIP
CC Sabathia is the definition of a workhorse. Over the past five seasons, Sabathia has gone over 230 innings pitched, and he will likely do so again this year.
The Yankees ace is impressive because of the quality of the lineups he has to face consistently in the AL East. Not only does he consistently face Boston and Tampa Bay, but he also pitches against the lineups of Toronto and Baltimore, which I believe are both underrated.
The Yankees will once again be a contender for the playoffs in 2012, and Sabathia will again be the focal point of the rotation. It will take another supreme effort from him if the Yankees want to clinch the very competitive AL East division.
Sabathia will be a strong contender for the AL Cy Young Award this year, and I would not be surprised to see him win the award as he did in 2007 with the Cleveland Indians.
2011 Stats: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251.0 IP, 250 K, .92 WHIP
Many of you are probably outraged right now. How can I not pick the defending AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award winner to repeat in 2012?
Well, first of of all, I expect Justin Verlander to be dominant in 2012, just not as dominant as he was in 2011. Verlander will have another outstanding year, but last year was unbelievable.
Every stat I listed above, with the exception of his 250 strikeouts, was by far a career high for Verlander. I think he will lean more toward the stats he showed in 2009 and 2010, in which he had 19-9 and 18-9 records, respectively.
His stats are obviously outstanding, and that is why he's one of the top five Cy Young contenders, but I don't think it will be enough for him to win the award.
Verlander will likely lead the Tigers back to the postseason in 2012, but the numbers will fall just short for him to win his second AL Cy Young Award.
2011 Stats: 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 235.2 IP, 198 K, 1.01 WHIP
The only man, in my opinion, who can dethrone Justin Verlander as the AL Cy Young Award winner is Jered Weaver.
Weaver is another member of the stacked Los Angeles Angels pitching rotation, and he is the leader of it.
Much like Justin Verlander did last year, Weaver exploded with a huge season in 2011. Unlike Justin Verlander, I think Weaver will have a better year than he did last year.
Weaver is definitely in the prime of his career, but I think the best is yet to come. Weaver's stats should benefit from the weak lineups in the AL West, but like his counterpart C.J. Wilson, Weaver will have to be strong against the tough lineup featured in Texas.
Look for Jered Weaver to have a huge season in 2012, one that will rival the season Justin Verlander had in 2011. I like Weaver to win the AL Cy Young Award, and maybe even make a run for the AL MVP Award.