Bleacher Report's 2014 MLB Award Predictions at Start of Spring Training

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Bleacher Report's 2014 MLB Award Predictions at Start of Spring Training
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Who says you have to wait until the start of the regular season to make awards predictions?

Bleacher Report's six Major League Baseball lead writers have decided to break the convention, both because they are an impatient group and couldn't wait to anoint a certain Angel as Most Valuable Player, to provide you with predictions at the start of spring training. 

These are not set in stone, as there will be another prediction piece coming out at the start of the season, when we have a chance to see what players look like and who gets injured, but it's an early snapshot of where our heads are at right now. 

We also have complete analysis of every prediction and why we made those choices. 

Bleacher Report MLB Lead Writer 2014 Awards Picks
Award Jason Catania Joe Giglio Jason Martinez Zach Rymer Mike Rosenbaum Adam Wells
AL MVP Mike Trout Mike Trout Mike Trout Mike Trout Mike Trout Mike Trout
NL MVP Bryce Harper Hanley Ramirez Andrew McCutchen Paul Goldschmidt Bryce Harper Andrew McCutchen
AL ROY Masahiro Tanaka Xander Bogaerts George Springer Xander Bogaerts Xander Bogaerts Nick Castellanos
NL ROY Archie Bradley Kolten Wong Gregory Polanco Oscar Taveras Oscar Taveras Oscar Taveras
AL Cy Young Justin Verlander Yu Darvish Anibal Sanchez Yu Darvish Yu Darvish Yu Darvish
NL Cy Young Stephen Strasburg Clayton Kershaw Jose Fernandez Gerrit Cole Stephen Strasburg Jose Fernandez
AL MOY Bob Melvin Mike Scioscia Ned Yost Joe Maddon Joe Maddon Joe Maddon
NL MOY Matt Williams Bud Black Bud Black Matt Williams Matt Williams Bud Black

Bleacher Report

Joe Giglio's AL MVP Analysis (Mike Trout)

Via MLB Advanced Media

It's time. After back-to-back years of falling short to Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, the best player in the sport, will claim his first AL MVP. Even if the 22-year-old star doesn't necessarily top his outrageous early career standards, a bounce-back year from the Angels could boost his credentials in the eyes of some voters, especially if he is playing in meaningful September games. 

Also, as odd as it is to say, Trout could earn this based on lifetime achievement. Three years is far from a lifetime, but consider this: He ranks eighth all-time in bWAR (20.8) among players age 22 or younger. Of course, Trout just completed his age-21 season. By the All-Star break, he will likely be the most valuable player ever at his age. 

 

Jason Catania's NL MVP Analysis (Bryce Harper)

Via MLB Advanced Media

Harper's sophomore season seemed slightly disappointing given that he battled through a serious knee injury that limited him to only 118 games, and the Nationals as a whole fell quite short of expectations.

It's easy, then, to overlook that the 21-year-old posted better triple-slash stats (.274/.368/.486) than he did as a rookie (.270/.340/.477) as well as improved walk and strikeout rates, while also nearly matching his totals in doubles (24 to 26), homers (20 to 22) and RBI (58 to 59) despite exactly 100 fewer plate appearances and the aforementioned injury.

When the Nats do in 2014 what they were supposed to do in 2013, Harper should be at the very center of it, which will make him a top MVP candidate.

 

Zach Rymer's AL Cy Young Analysis (Yu Darvish)

Via MLB Advanced Media

Darvish's 2013 campaign had quite the "next step" feel to it, as he went from being an abstract thing in 2012 to a guy with a 2.83 ERA and an absurd 32.9 K% (the highest in a season since Randy Johnson in 2001).

And as I wrote at length recently, there's still room for the Rangers ace to get even better in 2014. If he gets ahead in the count a bit more often and mixes up his pitch selection just a little bit, he'll be playing a video game with the settings on easy.

 

Jason Martinez's NL Cy Young Analysis (Jose Fernandez)

Via MLB Advanced Media

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Fernandez showed no signs of weakness as a rookie in 2013 and was actually getting stronger as the season went along with a 1.32 ERA and 11.1 K/9 over his last 10 starts while holding opposing hitters to a .461 OPS. 

If the Marlins hadn't shut down the 21-year-old for the season after his September 11 start, he may have been able to do enough in his last few outings to beat out Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. He settled for third in NL Cy Young voting and an NL Rookie of the Year award.

It will be a different story in 2014. He won't be shut down early in his second big league season. He won't suffer from a sophomore slump. And he'll be the hands-down winner for the 2014 NL Cy Young award. 

 

Adam Wells' AL Rookie of the Year Analysis (Nick Castellanos)

Via Baseball Instinct

While I certainly understand the majority pick of Boston's Xander Bogaerts for AL Rookie of the Year, there are two reasons Nick Castellanos gets my vote. 

First, while there's no doubt in my mind Bogaerts will be the better player long term, Castellanos is more MLB-ready in 2014. He's already reached his peak physical condition, grown into his power and knows how to use it in games. 

Bogaerts, for all his skills with the bat, still has room to grow into his power and will likely be a 12-15 homer player in 2014. 

Second, and far less scientific, this looks like a deep AL Rookie class, with five or six strong candidates to choose from. Castellanos is the most ready to help this year, so why not take the chance on a very good hitter with solid defensive acumen at third base?

 

Adam Wells' NL Rookie of the Year Analysis (Oscar Taveras)

Via MLB Prospect Portal

Usually the strategy for making a Rookie of the Year prediction is just going with the best player guaranteed to be on a roster out of spring training. That doesn't necessarily apply to St. Louis' Oscar Taveras, who only played 47 games last season and may need more time in Triple-A to get his timing all the way back and fix the few holes in his offensive game. 

That said, Taveras is the Cardinals' best right field option and isn't likely to be in the minors very long. When he does come up, look out, because the bat is really special. He's got the plate coverage of Vladimir Guerrero with slightly less power. 

Pardon me if I start gushing too hard for Taveras, because he's going to be an elite hitter for a long time. 

 

Final Thoughts

It should come as no surprise that Mike Trout is a unanimous choice for AL MVP. He's been the best player in the sport for two years, improved his offensive game last year and has a good enough team around him to get some absent-minded voters to finally do the right thing. 

What's surprising is that, while there was no deviation from the AL MVP vote, the group tried to branch out in every other category. Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher in baseball, but with the exception of Mr. Giglio, we all think there is going to be a first-time Cy Young winner in the NL. 

It speaks volumes to the number of high-quality young arms in the NL that no pitcher given a Cy Young vote is over the age of 26, with Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole preparing to start their second seasons after impressive rookie campaigns. 

The NL MVP race looks to be fascinating. Andrew McCutchen was the best player in the league last year but could only manage two votes. Yadier Molina's absence is a surprise, just because of his positional value and ability to hit for average and power. 

Last year, Bryce Harper was a trendy pick for MVP before injuries derailed his season. As long as he's healthy, there's no reason to think the young slugger won't be a factor in the race this year. 

As for the AL and NL Manager of the Year awards, all you really have to look for are the skippers with good teams and a low payroll (Joe Maddon) or an underrated team that will play better than most people think (Bud Black). 

Of course, Maddon is the best tactical manager in baseball, so another award for him would be a well-deserved honor. In fact, with the exception of Ned Yost, there really wasn't a bad manager listed in the group. 

As always, feel free to offer up your thoughts on all the major awards and any other honors you feel are worthy of discussion. 

 

Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. 

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