Predictions for 2013 MLB Award Winners
Spring is in the air, and that means baseball.
All baseball fans are itching to get started, as there are many storylines to follow going into the upcoming 2013 MLB season.
Will the New York Yankees be able to play well despite losing the left side of their infield? Are the Kansas City Royals finally going to get over the hump after the addition of James Shields? Will the Toronto Blue Jays live up to the hype? It will all be decided soon enough.
This is a list predicting this year's award winners. Many variables go into deciding an MLB award winner. He must stay healthy, perform consistently throughout the year and post league-leading numbers. Only the best will have the honor to hoist his respective trophy.
AL MVP: Evan Longoria
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In a league dominated last year by Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, the MVP award is tough to achieve. If anyone has the talent and surrounding lineup to do it, and unseat those two dominating players, it's Evan Longoria.
As always, the main issue with Longoria will be his health. Last season, he played in only 74 games, but posted a .289 average with 17 long balls and 55 RBI. He also posted a career high in OBP and OPS.
The telling stats about Longoria, however, are not his individual numbers. It's his teammates. With new infield acquisitions of Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar, Longoria has more lineup protection than last year. Up-and-coming Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce will also be part of an underrated outfield that will, before too long, include the best power-hitting prospect in the minors, Wil Myers.
One also cannot discount Longoria's stellar Gold Glove defense. The man in Tampa Bay's hot corner will be on a mission this year, and he has the surrounding cast to help him get it done.
Others considered: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Adam Jones, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
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It's hard to go against the best pitcher of our generation.
That's why Justin Verlander is on this list. Over the last two years, he is 41-13. That's just incredible. Since 2011, he has a 2.52 ERA and leads MLB in strikeouts with 489. Those numbers are exceptional, especially considering the fact that he faces a DH for most of his season.
Verlander will soon begin to decline, considering his age (30) and innings pitched (537 2/3 in 2011-2012 including the postseason). But for now, he is far and away the premier right-hander in the American League.
Others considered: David Price, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Brett Anderson
AL Rookie of the Year: Jurickson Profar
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Another popular pick indeed, but for good reason. Jurickson Profar is a stud.
As evidenced in his first career at-bat, Profar has the plate discipline (he held up on a tough first pitch) and the power of a smooth follow through. The only question about his batting stance is some squirmy hand movements before the swing. But that's just nitpicking.
With an elite combination of plus power, plus speed and plus plus defense, Profar might be the second coming of Miguel Tejada, someone with whom Texas Rangers fans are more than familiar.
Others considered: Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy, Aaron Hicks
AL Comeback Player: Victor Martinez
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The Detroit Tigers were perfectly fine without Victor Martinez last year, as they participated in the Fall Classic.
But having him back will make them that much better.
After missing the whole 2012 season due to a knee injury suffered in spring training of that year, Martinez may come out of the box a bit rusty. But primarily playing DH will allow him to avoid the pressure of kneeling behind the plate and focus on what he does best: hitting.
Martinez is good for a plus-.300 batting average and double-digit home runs, while touting a stellar OBS and strong clubhouse presence. And with Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder projected to bat in front of him, the RBI will come streaming in.
Others considered: Ryan Madson, Brett Anderson, Sergio Santos, Brian Roberts, Mariano Rivera
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon
The Tampa Bay Rays operate best while under the radar. And this year, that's exactly where they find themselves.
This offseason, the Blue Jays have overhauled their roster, the Yankees have brought in a bunch of prove-it veterans and the Baltimore Orioles look to continue their ascent into the spotlight. The Boston Red Sox, well, are a few years away.
The job Joe Maddon has done with the Rays is unparalleled. The team has a complete new image, and his player management is second to none. This year, he inherits a stock of players who have talents, but did not fit in at their previous stops. Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar join a talented infield with Longoria and one of MLB's most underappreciated players, Ben Zobrist. Oh, and their rotation goes five deep with five young, impressive pitchers.
Maddon's main job will be integrating all these solid players into their lineup, something he hasn't had to deal with thus far in his career.
Others considered: Terry Francona, Ned Yost, Mike Scioscia, Joe Girardi
NL MVP: Matt Kemp
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The Bison is due.
In 2011, Matt Kemp led the NL in home runs (39), RBI (126), runs scores (119) and total bases (353).
In 2012, before his body was destroyed by knee and shoulder injuries, he was flirting with a 40/40 season. Clearly, the guy is talented. But can he stay healthy?
This year, he will roam a stacked outfield of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, so the pressure to be everywhere defensively will not be there. He will also be protected in the lineup by Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Ethier. In other words, there will not be nearly as much pressure on him as an individual.
That's the recipe for an incredible year for one of the NL's top talents.
Others considered: Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman
NL Cy Young: Johnny Cueto
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Just like Kemp, Johnny Cueto has had his chances, and is a premier player at his position.
The biggest knock on him is his longevity. His inability to go deep into games on a regular basis tends to hold him back. Besides that, his stuff is magical.
Last year, Cueto twirled a 2.78 ERA and a 19-9 record. His BB/9 is two, a very good number for a power pitcher. Not known to rack up the strikeouts, he did register 170 last year, while posting an very admirable 3.47 K/BB. With these numbers, he came in fourth in the Cy Young voting.
Others considered: Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Stephen Strasburg, Yovani Gallardo, Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels
NL Rookie of the Year: Travis d'Arnaud
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He will always be known as the centerpiece of the New York Mets' haul for 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. And after Travis d'Arnaud gets some playing time under his belt, he'll be remembered as the best player in the trade.
At 24 years old, he already has two minor league titles to brag about, including the 2012 Eastern League Championship. The guy is already a winner.
He was named the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League, and he was the second-best prospect in the EL, behind only some guy named Bryce Harper. He's the sixth-best overall prospect on MLB.com's top-100 list.
D'Arnaud hit .343 in 16 exhibition games this season, and multiple scouts say he is easily major league ready, and can "hold his own" in the majors (per Newsday's Marc Carig).
It appears as if d'Arnaud will begin the season in Triple-A, but he will be called up as early as late April. He will battle John Buck, another member of the Dickey trade, for playing time. Before long, the job will be his.
Others considered: Shelby Miller, Gerrit Cole, Tyler Skaggs, Julio Teheran, Jedd Gyorko
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Chase Utley
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The guy has been injured for, basically, the last two years. Injuries have been the only thing to slow down the best second baseman of the decade.
With a new season and a full offseason of recovery, Chase Utley says his knees are feeling better than ever. This is the year Utley reclaims himself as one of the most feared left-handed power bats in the Nation League.
It can be assumed Utley's glove may lose a bit of its quickness, and his baserunning numbers may go down, but the guy can rake. And if he returns to his 2010 form, this award will be a runaway.
Others Considered: Ryan Howard, Tim Lincecum, Ricky Nolasco
NL Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly
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Don Mattingly has overseen the development of two of baseball's best players: Kemp and Kershaw. Ethier has also progressed under his guidance. And he's one hell of a strategist.
With a roster full of stars, it'll be interesting how he handles the likes of Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke. If they can bring all the pieces together, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be very, very good, and Mattingly will be a large part of it.
Others considered: Dusty Baker, Clint Hurdle, Fredi Gonzalez