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Bleacher Report's Experts Predict Winners for All Major 2013 MLB Awards

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2013

Bleacher Report's Experts Predict Winners for All Major 2013 MLB Awards

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    MLB predictions incite healthy debate, which is why Bleacher Report's baseball experts made predictions for all the major 2013 awards.

    To be clear, those include Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player.

    The 15 participants included editors, lead writers and other reputable, league-wide columnists: Jason Catania, Joe Giglio, Benjamin KleinRobert Knapel, Jason MartinezDoug Mead, Stephen MeyerMark MillerJoel Reuter, Mike RosenbaumZachary D. RymerChris StephensRick WeinerAdam Wells and myself.

    We independently picked our favorites from the American and National Leagues. In the following slides, you'll see the rationale behind many of the selections.

    After reading through, take the time to leave your predictions in the comments section. Then, come November, evidence of your genius will still be here, and you can—respectfully—rub it in people's faces.

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Mariano Rivera

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    Expert support: 46.7 percent (seven votes).

    Others receiving votes: Lance Berkman (two), Brett Gardner (two), Victor Martinez (two), John Lackey (one) and Brian Roberts (one).

     

    Our rationale

    Chris Stephens speaks for a handful of us:

    If he has more than 30 saves, there's no question the award will go to Mariano Rivera. It's his final year before retirement and that will play into it.

    On the other hand, Rick Weiner sees a wide-open race. He insists that one of Rivera's teammates on the New York Yankees will spoil the closer's storybook ending:

    It was only two years ago that Brett Gardner played Gold Glove-caliber defense in left field for the Yankees while swiping 49 bases. ... Limited to only 16 games in 2012 due to an elbow injury, Gardner is healthy and primed to reclaim his spot as one of the more underrated players in the game, providing speed and excellent defense.

    The MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award was only created in 2005. Mike Rosenbaum believes Lance Berkman will become the first two-time winner in its history, this time for the Texas Rangers:

    As long as he can stay on the field, the 37-year-old should receive a bulk of his at-bats as the Rangers' DH, and could conceivably post All-Star-caliber numbers in heart of the team's order.

     

    Additional commentary

    This honor has never been bestowed upon a player who missed the entire previous season. Lackey and Martinez—coming off Tommy John surgery and a torn ACL, respectively—could change that.

    More so than the others, Berkman should benefit from his surroundings. The heat of Arlington lends itself to high-scoring affairs. Power-hitting guys, in particular, historically see their statistics improve upon arrival.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies)

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    Expert support: 33.3 percent (five votes).

    Others receiving votes: Tim Lincecum (four), Carl Crawford (three), Adrian Gonzalez (one), Ryan Howard (one) and Justin Upton (one).

     

    Our rationale

    The face of the Colorado Rockies lasted just a fraction of the 2012 season before succumbing to a groin injury.

    Benjamin Klein expects a dramatic rebound from Troy Tulowitzki akin to the previous two summers:

    Tulowitzki has to avoid the disabled list this year. If he can do that, there's no reason to doubt that he could have an MVP-caliber season. The Rockies aren't going to win anything in 2013, but Tulowitzki could.

    Similar sentiments from Joe Giglio:

    When healthy, he's the best shortstop in the game. There won't be much to watch this season in Colorado other than Tulo.

    Carl Crawford will strive to justify his humongous salary by at least getting into the everyday lineup again. Mark Miller reviews the speedster's recent history:

    Just a couple years ago it seemed like Crawford was poised to become one of the best outfielders in the game. But ever since signing his massive contract with the Boston Red Sox, he's been a non-factor in the league. In the Dodgers outfield, Crawford will have plenty of opportunities to make his mark on the stat sheet once again, and...he'll definitely see plenty of pitches to hit.

     

    Additional commentary

    Los Angeles Dodgers manager tells Ted Berg of USA Today that spring training star Yasiel Puig is "knocking on the door" early in his professional career. The Cuban-born outfielder could conceivably snatch Crawford's job if the production doesn't come.

    Gonzalez and Upton were curious selections, seeing as how both participated in 150-plus contests last summer. Held in high regard prior to Opening Day 2012, neither contributed the extra-base hits expected of franchise cornerstones.

    Perhaps being traded will be a motivating factor.

AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    Expert support: 46.7 percent (seven votes).

    Others receiving votes: Aaron Hicks (four), Trevor Bauer (one), Jackie Bradley (one), Dylan Bundy (one) and Bruce Rondon (one).

     

    Our rationale

    Jason Catania isn't worried about when the Tampa Bay Rays will recall Wil Myers to the majors. So long as he debuts in 2013, he'll win Rookie of the Year:

    Most of the top rookies are in the NL, so even if he comes up in June, I'll bank on Myers beating out Leonys Martin of the Rangers and the rest of the competition for the AL award.

    Benjamin Klein agrees that starting late won't necessarily be a problem:

    Once Myers gets called up to the big leagues, he's going to make an immediate impact in the Tampa Bay lineup. I could see him having a Mike Trout-like year. OK, maybe not that good, but still the best of the AL rookies.

    But spending all six months in the big leagues definitely helps, according to Rick Weiner

    Aaron Hicks might not hit .300 sitting atop Minnesota's lineup, but he's got all the qualities a team looks for in a leadoff hitter: the ability to get on base regularly and the speed to cause havoc for opposing batteries once he gets there. With enough pop in his bat to go deep 10 to 15 times a year and a solid glove in center field—coupled with the fact that he'll be in the big leagues from Opening Day to the last game of the season—he gets my vote.

    Mark Miller chooses Bruce Rondon because he has a strong supporting cast:

    Rondon is set up for big things. The Tigers offense may have struggled to gain its footing early on last year, but with the key pieces back in 2013 and Torii Hunter now in the fold, he'll no doubt get plenty of opportunities to close out games. Early on in spring training, it looked like the Tigers might miss (Jose) Valverde in the late-inning role, but Rondon has been strong of late.

     

    Additional commentary

    At one point this preseason, Rondon had a streak of five consecutive scoreless appearances (0.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP).

    However, he began slumping again the following week. The Detroit Tigers still haven't decided whether he'll be with them on April 1 (via John Lowe, Detroit Free Press).

    He didn't receive any love from us, but starting pitcher Brandon Maurer will definitely begin the year in the Seattle Mariners rotation (via Greg Johns of MLB.com).

NL Rookie of the Year: Julio Teheran (Atlanta Braves)

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    Expert support: 26.7 percent (four votes).

    Others receiving votes: Adam Eaton (three), Jedd Gyorko (three), Gerrit Cole (two), Shelby Miller (one), Hyun-jin Ryu (one) and Tyler Skaggs (one).

     

    Our rationale

    Chris Stephens loves what he's seen from Julio Teheran in major league camp:

    He seems to have his issues worked out and has been lights-out in the spring. If he can be even half of that during the season, he'll easily win the award.

    In case you're curious, halving Teheran's spring stats would give him a 2.08 earned run average, 1.24 WHIP and 1.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    Doug Mead prefers a position player:

    Gyorko has handled the transition to second base quite well, and it hasn't done anything to hurt his offense. With Chase Headley sidelined for the first couple of weeks, the San Diego Padres will look for others to pick up the offensive slack. Gyorko could be a big key in supplying that offense during Headley's absence and long after he returns.

    The posting system that brings players from the Far East to Major League Baseball can be hit or miss. The Los Angeles Dodgers made a wise choice over the winter, in Robert Knapel's opinion:

    There will certainly be some ups-and-downs for Hyun-jin Ryu as he transitions to pitching in the United States, but with the staff surrounding him, he will be able to make up for them. Ryu should get better as the year goes on.

    Likewise, Mike Rosenbaum voted for Eaton, a relatively mature prospect:

    The 24-year-old has the potential to lead all NL rookies in a host of offensive categories while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center.

     

    Additional commentary

    Eaton's elbow sprain certainly puts a damper on this race. Even in a "best-case scenario," Arizona's projected leadoff hitter will be sidelined until early May (via ESPN.com).

    The Atlanta Braves recently parted with a lot of starting pitching depth to address other needs. With Randall Delgado, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens out of the picture, Teheran will be on a long leash.

    One interesting observation: 10 of the past 13 NL ROY winners have been position players.

AL Manager of the Year: 3-Way Tie (John Farrell, John Gibbons and Ned Yost)

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    Expert support: 20 percent (three votes) each.

    Others receiving votes: Joe Girardi (two), Joe Maddon (two), Terry Francona (one) and Eric Wedge (one).

     

    Our rationale

    We couldn't reach a consensus.

    Benjamin Klein closely follows the Boston Red Sox and has a bright outlook for their upcoming season:

    Farrell has a tough job, turning the Red Sox into a contender after two failed seasons. GM Ben Cherington, however, has given him plenty of talent to work with. I think the Red Sox are going to be surprisingly good in 2013.

    Rick Weiner also expects the team to respond positively to the change in leadership:

    After posting their worst regular-season record in 47 years and dealing with clubhouse turmoil...the Boston Red Sox turned to a familiar face to help guide their team back to respectability. John Farrell has the respect of quite a few veterans on the roster and has been instrumental in the development of several pitchers on the Red Sox staff. If the Red Sox can rebound with anything close to an 85- to 90-win season, Farrell will more than deserve this honor.

    John Gibbons isn't a managerial savant, writes Mark Miller. He simply got brought into a great situation:

    With a suddenly relevant roster in the AL East, we might see the Toronto Blue Jays finally make their way back into postseason play. A top-tier pitching trio including R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle will make it easy for Gibbons to look good, and with Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera added to an already potent offense, we could see big things from north of the border in 2013.

     

    Additional commentary

    Manager of the Year honorees typically: 1) dominate their league from start to finish, 2) compete with an inexperienced/unheralded roster or 3) dramatically improve from the previous season.

    In any case, it's a results-driven award.

NL Manager of the Year: Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals)

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    Expert support: 26.7 percent (four votes).

    Others receiving votes: Davey Johnson (three), Bud Black (two), Kirk Gibson (two), Bruce Bochy (one), Fredi Gonzalez (one), Clint Hurdle (one) and Don Mattingly (one).

     

    Our rationale

    Every Bleacher Report voter who recommend Mike Matheny had a different reason for doing so.

    Zachary D. Rymer:

    There's no easy pick in the NL, so I'm going to go with the guy who should improve the most as a manager. That's Matheny, who went through some growing pains last year.

    Jason Catania:

    There’s so much young talent ready to help this club in 2013. As long as Matheny can put a few of the puzzle pieces together, St. Louis could be scary-good.

    Joel Reuter:

    With Kyle Lohse gone, and Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal injured, the team already has an uphill battle to make another playoff push. If they can do it, Matheny's leadership will play a major role.

    Because the Arizona Diamondbacks have designed the club around their skipper, Mike Rosenbaum anticipates a lot of success in the desert:

    Despite the Diamondbacks' questionable offseason moves, they still boast a very talented and deep roster. And with so many players who fit Kirk Gibson's preferred "grinder" player-type, the Diamondbacks are a major sleeper headed into the upcoming season.

    The 2013 San Diego Padres resemble last year's fourth-place edition.

    Not a problem—Joe Giglio reminds us that the club was very competitive in the National League from July through season's end:

    San Diego went 47-36 down the stretch last season. They'll battle in a top-heavy NL West.

     

    Additional commentary

    Only five active National League managers have one of these awards on their mantles, so odds are it will go to a first-timer.

    Remember that early firings occasionally put teams in the hands of capable interim leaders. Of course, those moves can't really be predicted.

AL Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)

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    Expert support: 53.3 percent (eight votes).

    Others receiving votes: Yu Darvish (two), Felix Hernandez (two), R.A. Dickey (one), Chris Sale (one) and Jered Weaver (one).

     

    Our rationale

    Joel Reuter sums up the pro-Justin Verlander argument without resorting to stats:

    After winning the AL MVP and Cy Young in 2011, Verlander could have very easily taken home the Cy Young again this past season. He's the best pitcher in the game pitching for perhaps the best team in the American League.

    Jason Catania is in the minority that didn't select him:

    It’s boring to type "J-U-S-T-I-N V-E-R-L-A-N-D-E-R." Plus, Darvish is ready to take the leap in season No. 2. If he cuts the walk rate a tad and gets to 200 innings, the rest of his numbers may be too good to ignore.

    But he has company. Adam Wells also insists that Darvish has loads of potential:

    I loved what I saw from Darvish in the last two months of 2012, then saw how electric the stuff is in person during spring training.

    MLBDepthCharts.com founder Jason Martinez was the only one of us to stick his neck out for a defending Cy Young Award winner. He has confidence that Dickey's knuckleball will translate just fine as he returns to the American League as a full-time starter.

     

    Additional commentary

    The last couple AL Cy Young Award winners totaled at least 20 victories, but that misleading stat is gradually being phased out of the voting process. The selections of Zack Greinke (2009) and Felix Hernandez (2010) attest to that.

    Team record and run support are beyond a pitcher's control, especially in the DH league. Even high strikeout totals aren't prerequisites anymore.

    Weaver's style contrasts with the rest, but you can't fault Zachary D. Rymer for picking him.

NL Cy Young Award: Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals)

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    Expert support: 46.7 percent (seven votes).

    Others receiving votes: Clayton Kershaw (five), Gio Gonzalez (one), Cole Hamels (one) and Mat Latos (one).

     

    Our rationale

    With Stephen Strasburg freed from his innings limit, Joe Giglio is already salivating:

    Pitch-for-pitch, there's no one better in baseball. Even if he comes just under 200 IP, the K's and ERA will be too good to deny.

    Robert Knapel is going with a more established player:

    Clayton Kershaw has been absolutely dominant over the past two years, and as a result he has finished in first and second of the NL Cy Young voting. It should be more of the same for Kershaw in 2013.

    Doug Mead stands by a starter who has annually handled a hefty workload:

    Hamels has become the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies staff, and for good reason. He's been remarkably consistent for much of his career and he uses a combination of power pitches and off-speed stuff to continually keep hitters guessing. A top-10 finisher in Cy Young balloting over the last two seasons, Hamels finally breaks through this year.

    The southpaw has also enjoyed the best spring training of the bunch (3-0, 0.95 ERA).

     

    Additional commentary

    It's been a decade since a reliever in either league stole the Cy Young, but Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel both annihilated their opposition in 2012. They can throw a wrinkle—and some overpowering fastballs—into this race by improving at age 25.

AL Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)

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    Expert support: 33.3 percent (five votes).

    Others receiving votes: Evan Longoria (three), Robinson Cano (two), Albert Pujols (two), Jose Bautista (one), Miguel Cabrera (one) and Josh Hamilton (one).

     

    Our rationale

    Benjamin Klein holds Trout to a very high standard. Just like Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, he doesn't expect offseason weight gain to hinder the kid's base-stealing ability:

    Trout got robbed of the MVP last season by Miguel Cabrera, and this season he'll prove he's the real deal. If he stays healthy, there's a chance he goes 40-40 this season, and who knows, maybe even 50-50. Trout is a remarkable young talent, and while Cabrera took home the Triple Crown in 2012, Trout could be the one to do it in 2013.

    Jason Catania doesn't make the same statistical projections, though he ultimately voted for Trout too:

    Some regression is inevitable, but remember, he missed the first month of 2012, too, so the overall numbers might not drop that much anyway. The Rays’ Evan Longoria finally stays healthy and makes it close.

    Nice transition!

    Coming off an injury-riddled season, Longoria could actually beat out "Wonderboy," writes Joe Giglio:

    He makes the Rays offense. Could lead the AL in WAR with a full season of power and defense.

    Rick Weiner notes that Cano has the limelight to himself on the New York Yankees. His one-man-army act might resonate with the voters while boosting his free-agent price tag:

    Literally the last All-Star standing in the Bronx, the absence of Robinson Cano's talented teammates will only serve to push his considerable talents to the forefront. ... While Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout remain formidable candidates, both are likely to regress a bit from their record-setting 2012 seasons, allowing their talented teammates (Prince Fielder in Detroit, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols in Los Angeles) to creep into the MVP discussion. ... Cano won't have that issue in 2013, and a MVP award will only serve to drive his asking price up when he hits the open market at the end of the season.

    Deputy MLB editor Stephen Meyer remains loyal to Miguel Cabrera following his AL Triple Crown triumph. Like the aforementioned contenders for this award, the third baseman has posted strong spring training stats.

     

    Additional commentary

    If Trout drops off in any category, it will probably be batting average. A .383 BABIP is unsustainable, even for veterans with comparable speed (Ichiro Suzuki) and swing trajectory (Hamilton).

    As Joe Giglio alludes to, the sabermetric community lauds Longoria's fielding. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he provided 8.5 defensive WAR between 2008 and 2011 (tops among AL players).

    Of equal importance, his third-base skills pass the eye test to satisfy baseball traditionalists.

NL Most Valuable Player: Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)

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    Expert support: 40 percent (six votes).

    Others receiving votes: Joey Votto (two), Ryan Braun (one), Jay Bruce (one), Jason Heyward (one), Matt Kemp (one), Andrew McCutchen (one), Yadier Molina (one) and Justin Upton (one).

     

    Our rationale

    B/R prospect guru Mike Rosenbaum is convinced that Harper can approach his limitless ceiling as a sophomore:

    Since reaching the major leagues early last season, Harper has continued to improve in all facets of the game. His ability to make adjustments is unparalleled for a player of his age and lack of experience. ... The 20-year-old has the potential to put up absolutely gaudy offensive numbers.

    Zachary D. Rymer agrees that he will go far beyond 22 home runs and 59 runs batted in as the No. 3 hitter for the Washington Nationals:

    Harper had the best season ever by a 19-year-old last year, and he ended it with an impressive hot stretch. I'm expecting big improvements across the board this year, including in homers and RBI. The voters will love him.

    That late-season hot streak he hints at propelled Harper to the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year award. From Aug. 29 through season's end, the phenom flaunted a .341/.407/.690 batting line.

    Robert Knapel expects reigning award winner Buster Posey to excel again, only to be leapfrogged by last season's fourth-place finisher:

    It is entirely possible that the NL MVP race in 2013 comes down to two catchers. Yadier Molina has gotten better and better over time, and last season he took his game to the next level. Molina is ready to be an MVP, and this could be the year that he does it.

    Joe Giglio observes that Bruce has increased his home run total each season. He led the Cincinnati Reds with 34 round-trippers in his age-25 campaign.

     

    Additional commentary

    With Opening Day around the corner, Harper is quietly dealing with a jammed thumb, MLB.com's Joey Nowak reports. The outstanding outfielder even removed himself from the lineup in hopes of accelerating the healing process.  However, he was back in the Nats' lineup again on Thursday.

    The concern, obviously, is that he might not be able to generate the usual torque on his swing while wearing a thumb guard.

    Juicy storylines surround his main competition too.

    As ESPN.com's Jayson Stark details, Votto was amid a Ruthian season in 2012 before needing a lengthy DL stint to recover from knee surgery. Replicating his .337/.474/.567 batting line over 700 plate appearances would make him the NL MVP front-runner.

    Molina's offensive skills garnered little respect through 800 major league games. What a rich narrative it would be if he continued his rapid improvement at age 30.

    And Harper has athletic opposition like Braun, Heyward, McCutchen and Upton. Though slightly older, all are former first-round draft picks who excite viewers on so many occasions.

     

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