Updated Favorites for All Major 2013 MLB Awards, Mid-Spring Training Edition

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2013

Updated Favorites for All Major 2013 MLB Awards, Mid-Spring Training Edition

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    Back in early January, I wrote an article breaking down who I viewed as the preseason favorites to win the four major MLB awards: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year.

    It's hard to put too much stock in what happens during spring training, but my outlook for those awards has nonetheless changed here at the midway point.

    Whether it's due to injuries, roster battles or a simple matter changing my mind, here is a look at my updated rankings for the five favorites for the major MLB awards in 2013.

AL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees
    2. 3B Evan Longoria, Rays
    3. 1B Eric Hosmer, Royals
    4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
    5. DH Victor Martinez, Tigers

    Rivera remains my pick to win the award, and after announcing that he will retire at the end of the year (h/t ESPN), he should be even more motivated to bounce back with a big year and go out with a bang.

    Longoria was admittedly a glaring omission from my first awards prediction article, as injuries limited him to just 74 games last season, and he has the potential to be an MVP candidate if he stays on the field.

    Hosmer, who finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting with a great debut season in 2011, took a big step backwards last season. His OPS fell from .799 to .663, and he will look to get back on the path to stardom.

    Arguably the best position player in the American League in 2011, Ellsbury also played just 74 games in 2012, and he managed just four home runs over 303 at-bats as a shoulder injury sapped him of his power.

    Finally, there's Martinez, whose return ranks as the Tigers' biggest offseason acquisition. After hitting .330 with 103 RBI in his first season in Detroit in 2011, he'll look to return to form.

     

    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees
    2. 1B Eric Hosmer, Royals
    3. DH Victor Martinez, Tigers
    4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
    5. RP Ryan Madson, Angels

    Madson, signed to be the closer in Los Angeles, is doubtful to start the season as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. He'll likely still receive the closer's job once he returns, but health is a big enough question to drop him off the list.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
    2. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants
    3. LF Carl Crawford, Dodgers 
    4. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies
    5. C Wilson Ramos, Nationals

    Arguably the best all-around shortstop in the game entering 2012, Tulowitzki battled a nagging groin injury all season and played in just 47 games. Having him back in the lineup will only help the Rockies' attempts to offset their subpar rotation with offensive firepower.

    Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young winner, was nothing short of terrible last year with a 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA. The Giants sent him to the bullpen for the postseason, where he dominated, allowing just three hits and one run in 13 innings while striking out 17.

    Crawford, still recovering from Tommy John surgery and questionable to start the season, will make his Dodgers debut this coming season. His lone full season in Boston was arguably the worst of his career, and he'll look to get back on track.

    A ruptured Achilles in the 2011 playoffs wound up sidelining Howard much longer than expected last season, as he didn't make his season debut until July 6. He managed 14 home runs in 260 at-bats but posted an OPS of just .718 while hitting .219.

    Ramos, who finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, played just 25 games last year before a torn ACL ended his season. He'll have Kurt Suzuki to contend with for at-bats, but he's the team's long-term answer, so he should reclaim the everyday catcher job relatively quickly.

     

    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
    2. SP Roy Halladay, Phillies 
    3. LF Carl Crawford, Dodgers 
    4. SP Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
    5. RP Drew Storen, Nationals

    Halladay has not looked like himself this spring (11 IP, 7.36 ERA), and his days as an ace may be behind him.

    By all accounts, Carpenter will miss the entire 2013 season, as the same nerve problem that sidelined him last year has returned.

    While Storen is back healthy, he lost his closer's job to free-agent acquisition Rafael Soriano, so his chances of putting up the type of numbers needed to take home the award seem slim.

AL Rookie of the Year

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. SP Trevor Bauer, Indians
    2. RF Wil Myers, Rays 
    3. CF Leonys Martin, Rangers
    4. RP Bruce Rondon, Tigers 
    5. CF Aaron Hicks, Twins

    Acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Shin-Soo Choo deal, Bauer fell out of favor in Arizona but remains a top-flight pitching prospect. He's in the running for the No. 5 starter spot out of camp, and as long as he earns a rotation spot early on, he should put up numbers.

    Given the Rays' financial situation, the team will likely look to push back Myers' arbitration eligibility. However, once he arrives he could have a huge impact in the middle of the team's order, and he could take home the award with a half-season of production.

    Martin, a Cuban defector, is the front-runner to fill the outfield spot vacated by Josh Hamilton in Texas. He hit .359/.422/.610 in Triple-A last season, and he could be a .300 hitter as a rookie.

    Expected to be the front-runner for the Tigers' vacant closer job, the hard-throwing Rondon has struggled (4.76 ERA, 2.47 WHIP) this spring. That said, he could still wind up with the job.

    Hicks, a top prospect in Minnesota since being drafted in 2008, has put himself in position to win a starting outfield spot with a strong spring that includes a three-homer game against the Phillies.


    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. RP Bruce Rondon, Tigers
    2. SP Dan Straily, Athletics
    3. DH Mike Olt, Rangers
    4. RF Wil Myers, Rays
    5. SP Trevor Bauer, Indians 

    Straily, who made seven starts with the A's last season and went 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA, finished the season two-thirds of an inning short of losing his rookie eligibility. However, he's struggled this spring with a 6.75 ERA over 6.2 innings.

    The slugging Olt, who had 28 home runs in 354 at-bats in Double-A last season, has struggled as well this spring, going 4-for-25. He is likely to open the season in the minors as a result.

NL Rookie of the Year

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. CF Adam Eaton, Diamondbacks
    2. SP Shelby Miller, Cardinals
    3. C Travis d'Arnaud, Mets
    4. 2B Jedd Gyorko, Padres
    5. OF Darin Ruf, Phillies

    It's a different Diamondbacks rookie who tops my list this time around, as Eaton looks to have a clear path to the everyday center field job and leadoff spot in the order. He hit .375/.456/.523 in the minors last year and held his own in a late-season audition.

    Provided it's Miller who locks down the No. 5 starter job for the Cardinals, he should have a great chance to thrive as a rookie in St. Louis. He was impressive in his debut last season, fanning 16 in 13.2 innings of work with a 1.32 ERA.

    Franchise catchers are hard to come by, but d'Arnaud has all the tools to be just that. The Mets acquired him in the R.A. Dickey trade, and after hitting .333/.380/.595 at Triple-A in 2012, he likely won't need much more time in the minors.

    Gyorko has plus run production potential, driving in at least 100 runs each of the past two seasons. While he works on shifting from third base to second, it'll be his bat that earns him playing time.

    After slugging 38 home runs in Double-A last season, Ruf has a chance to make some noise in the middle of the Phillies lineup. He is 26 years old though, so he's not your usual high-upside prospect.

     

    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. SP Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks
    2. 2B Jedd Gyorko, Padres 
    3. OF Darin Ruf, Phillies
    4. SP Zack Wheeler, Mets
    5. OF Oscar Taveras, Cardinals

    Though Skaggs remains in the running for the Diamondbacks' No. 5 starter spot, he has struggled mightily this spring with 11 hits and nine earned runs allowed in 6.1 innings of work.

    Wheeler and Taveras both rank among the best prospects in the game, but it remains to be seen how much big league action they'll see this season.

AL Cy Young

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. SP Justin Verlander, Tigers
    2. SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners
    3. SP Yu Darvish, Rangers  
    4. SP Jered Weaver, Angels
    5. SP David Price, Rays 

    The duo of Verlander and Hernandez will likely be front-runners for the AL Cy Young for the foreseeable future, and I'll go with Verlander as the early favorite to take home the award in 2013.

    Verlander could have been the winner this past season, and as long as he keeps cranking out quality starts he'll continue to be the game's top arm.

    The Mariners locked up Hernandez with a seven-year, $175 million deal and now he'll set out to prove he's worth it. There's no reason to think he'll be anything but dominant once again in 2013. 

    Darvish went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191.1 innings of work during his rookie season last year, and he may be ready to take the next step to join the game's elite. He's been great so far this spring, with a 1.04 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work.

    Weaver won an AL-best 20 games last season and finished third in Cy Young voting, and he'll again be the ace of the Angels staff. One thing to note: His K/9 have dropped from 9.3 to 7.6 to 6.8 over the past three years.

    Price will have to deal with what could be a rumor-filled season since he could be dealt by the Rays at some point. He has the makeup to pitch through that sort of thing, but it is enough to bump him down to the No. 5 spot nonetheless.

     

    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. SP Justin Verlander, Tigers
    2. SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners
    3. SP Chris Sale, White Sox
    4. SP David Price, Rays
    5. SP Jered Weaver, Angels

    Nothing against the young left-hander Sale, as he turned in a fantastic first season in the rotation and earned himself a big extension. Darvish just earned a spot with his strong spring, and Sale was the least proven of the group.

NL Cy Young

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. SP Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
    2. SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers 
    3. RP Craig Kimbrel, Braves
    4. SP Cole Hamels, Phillies
    5. SP Matt Cain, Giants

    Strasburg was a serious Cy Young candidate before he was shut down last season, going 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 159.1 innings. Now that he's off the leash and completely healthy, the sky is the limit.

    With back-to-back ERA titles and the 2011 NL Cy Young under his belt, a strong case can be made for Kershaw being the top pitcher in the National League entering the season. Believe it or not, he turns 25 next week, so there is plenty of greatness ahead.

    Kimbrel is without question the most dominant reliever in baseball, as he led the NL in saves each of the past two seasons while striking out a ridiculous 243 batters in 139.2 innings of work. Throw in a 1.61 ERA and 0.866 WHIP, and Kimbrel is a serious Cy Young candidate after finishing fifth last year.

    After going 17-6 last season with a 3.05 ERA and earning himself a six-year, $144 million extension, Hamels is ready to step into the role of staff ace in Philadelphia.

    Cain assumed that staff ace role last year when Tim Lincecum struggled, and he should once again dominate atop the San Francisco rotation. He too earned a major payday with a five-year, $112.5 million extension.

     

    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. SP Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
    2. SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
    3. SP Matt Cain, Giants
    4. RP Craig Kimbrel, Braves
    5. SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

    Nothing against Gallardo, who will have a strong season as the undisputed ace of the Brewers staff, but Hamels had to be included as he moves atop the Phillies rotation.

AL MVP

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. 3B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
    2. 1B Albert Pujols, Angels
    3. 2B Robinson Cano, Yankees
    4. RF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
    5. LF Mike Trout, Angels

    After winning MVP honors last season in a tight race with rookie sensation Mike Trout, and coming off of a Triple Crown, Cabrera has to be viewed as the front-runner once again entering the season.

    Pujols didn't hit his first home run of the season last year until May 6, but once he did, he hit .305 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI the rest of the way. He'll avoid the slow start this time around and put up the numbers fans were accustomed to during his time in St. Louis.

    The Yankees offense has been hit hard by injuries this offseason, but Cano will be back as the team's offensive leader. He's gone 12-for-19 with four doubles and two home runs in four games for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

    Bautista hit 97 home runs in 2010 and 2011, but injuries limited him to just 92 games last season. Despite that, he managed to hit 27 home runs in 332 at-bats. A healthy season hitting alongside breakout slugger Edwin Encarnacion should mean a return to prolific power numbers.

    That leaves us with Trout, who turned in arguably the best rookie season in baseball history and had a strong case for the AL MVP last season. It's hard to see him duplicating last year's numbers, but he should still be a dynamic all-around player.


    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. 3B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
    2. 1B Albert Pujols, Angels 
    3. RF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
    4. 3B Adrian Beltre, Rangers
    5. 2B Robinson Cano, Yankees

    Beltre was a legitimate MVP candidate last season. While he'll finish high in the voting, a weaker lineup around him may result in a slight production drop.

NL MVP

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    Mid-Spring Rankings

    1. 1B Joey Votto, Reds
    2. LF Ryan Braun, Brewers
    3. C Buster Posey, Giants
    4. LF Bryce Harper, Nationals
    5. CF Matt Kemp, Dodgers

    Had it not been for a knee injury that cost him nearly two months, Votto may very well have won his second NL MVP last season. As it was, he led the league with a .474 on-base percentage and continued to show why he is one of the game's best bats.

    Braun, who took home NL MVP in 2011, again displayed his dynamic blend of power and speed in 2012. He hit a career and NL-high 41 home runs and stole 30 bases while posting a .987 OPS.

    Posey captured the award last season, winning the NL batting title with a .336 average, and he'll once again be counted on to carry the Giants offense.

    Though he is just 20 years old and will have to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, Harper is as good a candidate as any to thrive in his second season. As Harper tears up spring training and moves to the No. 3 spot in the order, a 30-HR, 100-RBI season isn't out of the question.

    Kemp kicked off the season with an insane first month, hitting .417 with 12 home runs and 23 RBI in 23 games. Injuries curtailed his season from there, but all the tools are still there for him to put up MVP-caliber numbers.

     

    My Early-Season Rankings (Jan. 4)

    1. 1B Joey Votto, Reds
    2. LF Ryan Braun, Brewers
    3. CF Matt Kemp, Dodgers
    4. C Buster Posey, Giants
    5. CF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

    While McCutchen is a legitimate superstar and one of the most complete players in all of baseball, I'm not quite as sold on the Pirates. Another disappointing season in Pittsburgh would no doubt hurt his candidacy.