Complete 2014 Major MLB Awards Predictions Entering Opening Day

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2014

Complete 2014 Major MLB Awards Predictions Entering Opening Day

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    From the Miguel Cabrera-versus-Mike Trout debate for AL MVP to a deep NL Rookie of the Year class that saw Jose Fernandez beat out spark-plug Yasiel Puig to a wide-open NL MVP race that ended with Andrew McCutchen on top, there was no shortage of excitement in the 2013 MLB awards voting.

    The 2014 season should be much of the same, and what follows is a breakdown of my predictions for each of the five major awards in both leagues and the top candidates.

    I've named my predicted top three in voting for Manager of the Year, top five in voting for Comeback Player of the Year and top in voting for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP, and then given a quick overview of each award.

    Agree with my choices? Feel someone was unfairly overlooked? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and I'll look forward to what should be some good debate.

NL Manager of the Year

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    Predicted Top Three in Voting

    NameLast Year's Finish
    1. Mike Matheny, STL 4th
    2. Fredi Gonzalez, ATL 3rd
    3. Don Mattingly, LAD2nd

     

    Candidate Overview

    In my opinion, the best team in the league heading into the 2014 season looks to be the St. Louis Cardinals. There are teams with better offenses and better pitching staffs, but their complete roster top to bottom and incredible depth make them the team to beat.

    Manager Mike Matheny is entering his third season at the helm after replacing Tony LaRussa. After finishing fifth in voting in 2012 and fourth in voting last year, he is my choice as the favorite to take home NL Manager of the Year this season.

    Fredi Gonzalez will have his work cut out for him in Atlanta here in the early going with a depleted pitching staff. With the Washington Nationals looking tough, the Braves likely won't run away with the division like they did last year. If they can take home the NL East title once again, Gonzalez would be a clear candidate.

    If the Cardinals are the best team in the NL heading into the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a close second. It took a big second-half push for the Dodgers to turn things around last year, with those two teams meeting in the NLCS. Manager Don Mattingly finished second in the voting last year for the job he did keeping the roster together.

AL Manager of the Year

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Predicted Top Three in Voting

    NameLast Year's Finish
    1. Ned Yost, KC7th
    2. Joe Maddon, TB5th
    3. Brad Ausmus, DET N/A

     

    Candidate Overview

    Last year, the Cleveland Indians were the year's surprise postseason team, and new manager Terry Francona wound up taking home AL Manager of the Year honors as a result.

    A popular pick to be this year's dark-horse playoff team is the Kansas City Royals, and I will admit that I am buying in and have them claiming an AL wild-card spot. If they can pull that off, Ned Yost would have to be the front-runner to take home the trophy (is there a trophy?) this year.

    Joe Maddon continues to do a great job utilizing his entire roster top to bottom and playing the matchups. He has helped lead the small-market Tampa Bay Rays to four playoff trips in the past six years. The Rays are my pick to win the AL pennant this year; if they do, Maddon would certainly be in the running for his third Manager of the Year honor.

    The Detroit Tigers have been hit hard by injuries this spring after a busy offseason that saw them deal Prince Fielder and Doug Fister to free up some payroll room. With the retirement of Jim Leyland, former Tigers catcher Brad Ausmus has taken the reins and will lead a new-look roster to a fourth straight AL Central title.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Predicted Top Five in Voting

    Name2013 Stats
    1. SP Brett Anderson, COL16 G, 5 GS, 1-4, 6.04 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 46 K, 44.2 IP
    2. SS Starlin Castro, CHI161 G, .245/.284/.347, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 59 R
    3. SP Johnny Cueto, CIN11 GS, 5-2, 2.82 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 51 K, 60.2 IP
    4. RF Curtis Granderson, NYM61 G, .229/.317/.407, 7 HR, 15 RBI, 31 R
    5. 1B Ryan Howard, PHI80 G, .266/.319/.465, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 34 R

     

    Candidate Overview

    The Rockies acquired left-hander Brett Anderson from the Oakland A's for pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen, as they look to take another step forward after their rotation was significantly improved last year.

    Oakland's Opening Day starter last year, Anderson has frontline stuff, but he has struggled to stay on the field since his rookie season, making a combined 54 appearances (43 starts) over the past four years. He managed just 44.2 innings of work last year, but the potential is there for a big bounce-back.

    Shortstop Starlin Castro made back-to-back All-Star teams in 2011 and 2012, emerging as the face of the Cubs franchise. He saw his OPS drop from .753 to .631 last year, with his average falling nearly 40 points. The 24-year-old still has the tools to be a star as he looks to improve from a subpar 2013.

    The Mets signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal just before the winter meetings, and they are hoping he can provide some much-needed protection for David Wright in the lineup. A pair of freak HBP injuries limited him to just 61 games last year, but he topped the 40-home run and 100-RBI marks in each of the previous two seasons.

    Once one of the most feared sluggers in the game, Ryan Howard has played just 151 total games the past two seasons while dealing with a ruptured Achilles and knee surgery. He still has three years and $75 million left on his deal, and the Phillies are hoping he can return to form in 2014.

AL Comeback Player of the Year

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Predicted Top Five in Voting

    Name2013 Stats
    1. 1B Albert Pujols, LAA 99 G, .258/.330/.437, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 49 R
    2. SP Michael Pineda, NYY *10 GS, 2-1, 3.32 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 41 K, 40.2 IP
    3. SP John Danks, CWS 22 GS, 4-14, 4.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 89 K, 138.1 IP
    4. CF Grady Sizemore, BOS Injured, did not play.
    5. SP Phil Hughes, MIN29 GS, 4-14, 5.19 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 121 K, 145.2 IP

    *Minor league stats

     

    Candidate Overview

    Two years into his 10-year, $240 million mega deal, things have not gone well for Albert Pujols during his time in an Angels uniform. A left foot injury cost him 61 games down the stretch last season, and the 34-year-old will be looking to get his Hall of Fame career back on track with a big season.

    Michael Pineda has yet to throw a pitch at the big league level for the New York Yankees, as surgery to repair a torn labrum cost him all of 2012; he was still recovering for much of last season. A big spring earned him the team's No. 5 starter spot, and he'll be looking to return to his impressive rookie form.

    After signing a five-year, $65 million extension prior to the 2012 season, John Danks has gone just 7-18 with a 5.02 ERA and made a total of 31 starts over the past two years. He's been slowed by shoulder problems, but he looked great this spring and could turn himself into an attractive trade chip with a bounce-back season.

    Grady Sizemore has not seen action at the big league level since 2011 and has not been a legitimate full-time option since 2008. Finally healthy, he won the Red Sox's starting center field gig out of spring training, and he will get every chance to keep the job. He may not be the same dynamic player he once was, but at 31 there is still plenty left in the tank.

    Looking to improve their rotation, the Twins added a number of players this offseason, including Phil Hughes on a three-year, $24 million deal. The former top prospect never quite lived up to expectations in New York, but he's had a nice spring; out from under the bright lights of the Bronx, he could thrive.

NL Rookie of the Year

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    Predicted Top 10 in Voting

    Name2013 Minor League Stats
    1. 2B Kolten Wong, STL 107 G, .303/.369/.466, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 68 R, 20 SB
    2. CF Billy Hamilton, CIN 123 G, .256/.308/.343, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 75 R, 75 SB
    3. SP Archie Bradley, ARI26 GS, 14-5, 1.84 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 162 K, 152 IP
    4. RP Carlos Martinez, STL 16 GS, 6-3, 2.49 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 72 K, 79.2 IP
    5. RF Gregory Polanco, PIT127 G, .285/.356/.434, 12 HR, 71 RBI, 66 R, 38 SB
    6. 3B Mike Olt, CHI107 G, .201/.303/.381, 15 HR, 42 RBI, 49 R
    7. SS Chris Owings, ARI125 G, .330/.359/.482, 12 HR, 81 RBI, 104 R, 20 SB
    8. SP Eddie Butler, COL28 GS, 9-5, 1.80 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 143 K, 149.2 IP
    9. CF Jake Marisnick, MIA70 G, .289/.350/.489, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 45 R, 11 SB
    10. 3B Maikel Franco, PHI134 G, .320/.356/.569, 31 HR, 103 RBI, 89 R

     

    Candidate Overview

    Last year's Rookie of the Year race was as good as any in recent memory, with Jose Fernandez edging out the likes of Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Yasiel Puig and a handful of others. The 2014 field does not look quite as deep, but there are a number of players who are in a position to make an impact.

    St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong and Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton will both break camp as the unquestioned starters at their positions. They have to be considered the two favorites at this point, and while Hamilton will no doubt make an impact with his blazing speed, my money is on Wong to be the more consistent performer of the two and take home the award.

    Right-hander Archie Bradley will open the season in the minors, but he's one of the game's elite pitching prospects, and it likely won't be long before he's in Arizona. Once he arrives, he could immediately be the team's best starter.

    Gregory Polanco is another player who could see an early call-up. After winning Dominican Winter League MVP, he looks ready to break out. It shouldn't take him long to overtake Jose Tabata in right field, and his addition will give the Pirates perhaps the most athletic outfield in all of baseball.

    The Cardinals gave Carlos Martinez a look as a starter this spring but opted to keep him in the eighth-inning role to open the year. He may wind up in the rotation at some point, but regardless of his role, he'll play a big part in the success of a good Cardinals team.

    Mike Olt and Chris Owings both emerged from camp with roster spots after competing in position battles. Eddie Butler will likely beat fellow Rockies prospect Jon Gray to the majors, and both Jake Marisnick and Maikel Franco figure to find themselves in significant roles by the second half of the season.

AL Rookie of the Year

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    Predicted Top 10 in Voting

    Name2013 Minor League Stats
    1. 1B Jose Abreu, CWS Played in Cuba
    2. SP Yordano Ventura, KC25 GS, 8-6, 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 155 K, 134.2 IP
    3. SS Xander Bogaerts, BOS 116 G, .297/.388/.477, 15 HR, 67 RBI, 72 R
    4. SP Masahiro Tanaka, NYY Played in Japan
    5. SP Jake Odorizzi, TB22 GS, 9-6, 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 124 K, 124.1 IP
    6. 3B Nick Castellanos, DET 134 G, .276/.343/.450, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 81 R
    7. RP Dellin Betances, NYY 38 G, 6-4, 2.68 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 108 K, 84 IP
    8. OF Michael Choice, TEX132 G, .302/.390/.445, 14 HR, 89 RBI, 90 R
    9. SP Aaron Sanchez, TOR20 GS, 4-5, 3.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 75 K, 86.1 IP
    10. C Josmil Pinto, MIN126 G, .309/.400/.482, 15 HR, 74 RBI, 65 R

     

    Candidate Overview

    The AL rookie crop was fairly thin last year, as Wil Myers was called up in June and wound up taking home the award. It looks to be a much deeper field this year, with international imports Jose Abreu (Cuba) and Masahiro Tanaka (Japan) joining Red Sox phenom Xander Bogaerts and flame-throwing Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura to form an impressive foursome.

    With legitimate 30-HR power, Abreu is my pick to take home the award, but it should be an interesting race. While Tanaka has gotten a lot of the hype and should have a solid season, I think Ventura surprises and turns in the better season.

    I'm not the only one who's high on Ventura, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today picked him to take home the hardware in an award predictions video he did. In the video, Nightengale said that several scouts this spring called Ventura "the best prospect they've seen pitching-wise since Dwight Gooden with the Mets."

    Bogaerts may be the odds-on favorite, and while he has all of the makings of a future superstar, it's important to remember he's still just 21 and could go through some ups and downs as a rookie. He'll be solid, but expecting superstar numbers is asking a little much.

    Jake Odorizzi opens the season with a spot at the back of the a great Rays rotation. He could be the next in a long line of plus arms to make their way to Tampa Bay.

    Nick Castellanos will be the Detroit Tigers' everyday third baseman and looks like a future star himself, while Dellin Betances has moved from starter to reliever and looks like a candidate to be the New York Yankees' primary setup man after an impressive spring.

    Michael Choice could play his way into DH at-bats in Texas after being traded from Oakland in the offseason, while Josmil Pinto opens the season as the backup catcher in Minnesota but could quickly overtake veteran Kurt Suzuki. Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez had a great spring and could be this year's Michael Wacha.

NL Cy Young

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    Predicted Top 10 in Voting

    Name2013 Stats
    1. SP Clayton Kershaw, LAD33 GS, 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 232 K, 236 IP
    2. SP Stephen Strasburg, WAS30 GS, 8-9, 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 191 K, 183 IP
    3. SP Madison Bumgarner, SF31 GS, 13-9, 2.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 199 K, 201.1 IP
    4. SP Adam Wainwright, STL 34 GS, 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 219 K, 241.2 IP
    5. SP Cliff Lee, PHI31 GS, 14-8, 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 222 K, 222.2 IP
    6. RP Craig Kimbrel, ATL 68 G, 50 SV, 1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 98 K, 67 IP
    7. SP Julio Teheran, ATL 30 GS, 14-8, 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 170 K, 185.2 IP
    8. SP Gerrit Cole, PIT19 GS, 10-7, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 100 K, 117.1 IP
    9. RP Kenley Jansen, LAD75 G, 28 SV, 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 111 K, 76.2 IP
    10. SP Andrew Cashner, SD26 GS, 10-9, 3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 128 K, 175 IP

     

    Candidate Overview

    With three straight ERA titles and two NL Cy Young Awards in the past three years, Clayton Kershaw is the consensus choice for the title of best pitcher in the game. After signing a huge extension in the offseason and entering his age-26 season, there's no reason to bet on anyone but him taking home the award once again.

    A monster season from Stephen Strasburg, who has yet to put together the breakout year he's capable of, could make for an interesting race. The 25-year-old pitched far better than his 8-9 record suggested last year and with a new slider at his disposal could be in for a huge year.

    “I think it was a natural pitch that I think could really help my game," Strasburg said, per The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. "Just based on what guys were doing off me in years past, it’s kind of an equalizer. They can’t really sell out on a single pitch anymore.”

    Veteran aces Adam Wainwright and Cliff Lee will be right in the thick of things once again, while 24-year-old Madison Bumgarner had the best season of his young career last year and still has room to get better.

    Closers Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen are in a league of their own as far as NL relievers are concerned, and they should have plenty of save chances pitching for contenders. Big strikeout numbers and another dominant year should put both of them in the mix.

    Julio Teheran and Gerrit Cole were out-pitched by fellow rookie Jose Fernandez last year, but I think both will wind up putting together better sophomore campaigns. Despite his lack of inclusion here, I still think Fernandez will have a solid year, just not as dominant as he was last season.

    Rounding out my projected top 10 is San Diego Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner, who assumes the role of staff ace after going 5-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 second-half starts. Pitching in spacious Petco Park and entering his age-27 season, a great season seems like a reasonable prediction.

AL Cy Young

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Predicted Top 10 in Voting

    Name2013 Stats
    1. SP Chris Sale, CWS 30 GS, 11-14, 3.07 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 226 K, 214.1 IP
    2. SP Justin Verlander, DET 34 GS, 13-12, 3.46 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 217 K, 218.1 IP
    3. SP David Price, TB27 GS, 10-8, 3.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 151 K, 186.2 IP
    4. SP James Shields, KC34 GS, 13-9, 3.15 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 196 K, 228.2 IP
    5. SP Justin Masterson, CLE 29 GS, 14-10, 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 195 K, 193 IP
    6. SP Max Scherzer, DET 32 GS, 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 240 K, 214.1 IP
    7. SP Yu Darvish, TEX32 GS, 13-9, 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 277 K, 209.2 IP
    8. SP Jon Lester, BOS 33 GS, 15-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 177 L, 213.1 IP
    9. SP Felix Hernandez, SEA31 GS, 12-10, 3.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 216 K, 204.1 IP
    10. SP Alex Cobb, TB22 GS, 11-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 134 K, 143.1 IP

     

    Candidate Overview

    A return to form by Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander looks like a real possibility after he twirled 20 scoreless innings this spring, and such a return would put him right in the thick of the AL Cy Young race. Still, my pick to win it is White Sox ace Chris Sale.

    He's finished sixth and fifth in voting the past two seasons, and all signs point to the 24-year-old again being one of the game's best. He may not have a great record pitching for a White Sox team that's not expected to contend, but his peripheral numbers could be enough to win him the award.

    The Tampa Bay Rays are my pick to win the AL pennant this season, and the one-two punch of David Price and Alex Cobb will anchor what is one of the better staffs in all of baseball. While we're on the subject of teammates, another big season from Max Scherzer seems likely in a contract year.

    Right-handers James Shields and Justin Masterson and left-hander Jon Lester are also in contract years, and all three could be in position for $100 million-plus paydays if they can pitch like the staff aces their teams are expecting them to be.

    Yu Darvish has battled some neck soreness this spring, something that could plague him off and on throughout the season even if he does make his season debut shortly after Opening Day. That said, he's still too talented to leave off my projected top 10.

    Felix Hernandez remains one of the game's best, and the Seattle Mariners look like an improved team overall even if they don't contend for a playoff spot. It's hard to see him finishing outside of the top 10 in voting unless he misses time.

NL MVP

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    Predicted Top 10 in Voting

    Name2013 Stats
    1. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, ARI160 G, .302/.401/.551, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 103 R
    2. LF Bryce Harper, WAS118 G, .274/.368/.486, 20 HR, 58 RBI, 71 R
    3. CF Andrew McCutchen, PIT157 G, .317/.404/.508, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 97 R
    4. 3B David Wright, NYM 112 G, .307/.390/.514, 18 HR, 58 RBI, 63 R
    5. RF Jason Heyward, ATL 104 G, .254/.349/.427, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 67 R
    6. C Yadier Molina, STL 136 G, .319/.359/.477, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 68 R
    7. SS Hanley Ramirez, LAD86 G, .345/.402/.638, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 62 R
    8. RF Giancarlo Stanton, MIA116 G, .249/.365/.480, 24 HR, 62 RBI, 62 R
    9. 1B Joey Votto, CIN 162 G, .305/.435/.491, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 101 R
    10. C Buster Posey, SF148 G, .294/.371/.450, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 61 R

     

    Candidate Overview

    Last year's NL MVP race was wide-open right down to the season's final weeks, with Andrew McCutchen eventually edging out Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina thanks to a big second half that helped the Pittsburgh Pirates snap their 21-year playoff drought.

    Those three should be in the mix once again in 2014, and my choice to walk away with the honors is Paul Goldschmidt after he led the NL in home runs and RBI last season in what was just his second full year.

    Bulking up in the offseason may be enough to keep Bryce Harper on the field for a full slate of games. If the Washington Nationals are going to make a run at the playoffs, he'll likely have a lot to do with it. A 30/30 season with 100 RBI and 100 runs is not out of the question.

    Jason Heyward is another player with a world of talent who has yet to put it all together for one huge season, and slotting him at No. 5 in these predictions is me banking on that breakout coming in 2014.

    David Wright should benefit from having Curtis Granderson hitting behind him in the lineup; Wright is another player who needs only to stay on the field for a full slate of games to be a serious contender. The same can be said for slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is my pick to win the NL home run title this year.

    Hanley Ramirez probably would have walked away with NL MVP last season if not for missing significant time early in the season, and a full year of similar production would make him the Dodgers' top candidate. Joey Votto and Buster Posey round out the top 10, and those two will be in the running for the foreseeable future as the faces of their respective franchises.

AL MVP

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    Predicted Top 10 in Voting

    Name2013 Stats
    1. CF Mike Trout, LAA 157 G, .323/.432/.557, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 109 R
    2. 1B Miguel Cabrera, DET 148 G, .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 103 R
    3. 1B Joe Mauer, MIN113 G, .324/.404/.476, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 62 R
    4. 3B Evan Longoria, TB160 G, .269/.343/.498, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 91 R
    5. 1B Eric Hosmer, KC159 G, .302/.353/.448, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 86 R
    6. 2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS 160 G, .301/.372/.415, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 91 R
    7. 3B Adrian Beltre, TEX161 G, .315/.371/.509, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 88 R
    8. 1B Chris Davis, BAL 160 G, .286/.370/.634, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 103 R
    9. RF Wil Myers, TB88 G, .293/.354/.478, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 50 R
    10. 1B Prince Fielder, TEX162 G, .279/.362/.457, 25 HR, 106 RBI, 82 R

     

    Candidate Overview

    One of these years, Mike Trout is going to unseat Miguel Cabrera and take home AL MVP honors—and my money is on it being this year. Both players should be great once again, and they won't have any distractions after both signed huge extensions this offseason.

    In another article, I predicted Trout becoming the first player to tally 200 hits, 30 doubles, 10 triples, 30 home runs, 30 steals, 100 RBI and 100 runs in a season. That would win him the award in my opinion.

    Right behind those two is Joe Mauer, who looks primed for a big offensive season with the full-time move from catcher to first base. Still one of the game's best pure hitters and on-base threats, a boost in his power numbers would be enough to make him a serious candidate once again.

    Evan Longoria and Dustin Pedroia remain the driving forces behind their respective offenses and catalysts for two of the best teams in baseball, so expect them to finish high.

    The one-two punch of Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder in the middle of a Texas Rangers offense that also has on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo leading things off should make for big numbers in Arlington.

    Chris Davis seems unlikely to match his monster 2013 output, but another 30-home run, 100-RBI season is likely with a run at a 40-home run, 120-RBI season seeming very realistic as well.

    Like many, I have the Kansas City Royals earning a playoff spot this year. If they do, Eric Hosmer looks like a strong candidate to finish high in the voting. Rounding things out is reigning AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, who will move to the cleanup spot in what looks like a solid Rays lineup.