When I was named a Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Indians last year, my fellow FC Samantha Bunten invited me to be a part of Tribe Talk, a weekly round table in which the top Indians writers on Bleacher Report talk about recent news and discuss how the team could better itself in the future.
Last week, as I was filling out Samantha's latest survey, I had the idea of creating a poll for not just one team's top writers, but for passionate fans around the league.
Not knowing if anyone would even take the time to read my message, I wrote up a poll about the 2010 player awards and sent it to all MLB FCs for their opinions.
Much to my delight, 42 people responded, representing 22 different teams.
In these slides are the predictions of three-and-a-half dozen knowledgeable baseball writers for MLB's MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Relief Man of the Year awards.
In addition to listing the top finishers in each category, for each award I have asked one person who made a somewhat surprising pick to explain the reasoning behind his/her choice.
I hope this slideshow will inspire thoughtful debate and that this will be the first of many Featured Columnist polls. Enjoy!
1. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (28.6%)
2. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (21.4%)
3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (16.7%)
There is no clear favorite for AL MVP; 10 players received votes, seven of whom were named at least twice.
Interesting pick: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (Dan Hanzus)
"He’s hitting smack in the middle of a loaded Yankees lineup...how can the guy not drive in 120+ RBI? Throw in a .300+ average and 28+ homers, and you have a bona fide MVP candidate."
My vote: Longoria
1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (71.4%)
2. Troy Tulowitski, Colorado Rockies (11.9%)
3. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins (7.1%)
While six other promising players split a dozen votes, a vast majority of FCs agree that Pujols will take home his third consecutive MVP trophy.
Interesting pick: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (Samantha Bunten)
"Everything would have to come together perfectly for Panda to be a top NL MVP contender, but this could be the year it happens. He can deliver the necessary high average and defensive performance to compete, and let's face it: being a likeable guy never hurts in an MVP race."
My vote: Pujols
1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (28.6%)
2. CC Sabathia, Yankees (26.2%)
3. Justin Verlander, Tigers (14.3%)
This race is pretty wide open as well. Noteworthy is the absence of Zack Greinke (last year's winner) from the top finishers.
Interesting pick: Matt Garza, Rays (Andrew Brining)
"I swear this isn't purely for shock value; he's the survivor of a process of elimination. I looked at the best candidates from every team (if they've got one) and I liked Garza's mix the best when considering his low-profile support, exceptional potential, ability to bring it to bear consistently, and age."
My vote: Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (65.9%)
2. Tim Lincecum, Giants (14.6%)
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (9.8%)
Halladay's move to the NL seems to have upset the prior equilibrium; Lincecum, the incumbent Cy Young, finished a distant second, while last year's runner-up Chris Carpenter didn't get a single vote.
Interesting pick: Ricky Nolasco, Marlins (Nino Colla)
"I was impressed with the control Ricky Nolasco displayed during the spring and I think that will go a long way for him in 2010. If he can add the precise control to his already high strikeout potential, he could...have baseball talking about a two-headed monster atop the Marlins rotation."
My vote: Halladay
1. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (40.5%)
2. Brain Matusz, Baltimore Orioles (33.3%)
3. Austin Jackson, Tigers (16.7%)
Feliz and Matusz appear to be the front-runners, but this race is traditionally the hardest to predict. Be honest, had you even heard of Andrew Bailey this time last year?
Interesting pick: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (Lewie Pollis)
"Any doubts that Santana's bat wasn't ready for the Majors have been shattered by his Ruthian performance so far in Triple-A (four homers, 1.333 OPS in 10 games). He's likely to force his way into the Tribe's lineup by the end of May, and could be an immediate impact player."
My vote: Santana
1. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves (92.9%)
2. Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds (4.8%)
3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (2.4%)
The numbers here pretty much speak for themselves.
Interesting pick: Leake (Illya Harrell)
"Leake impressed the Reds’ brass enough to make the squad — even though they knew keeping him on the farm would save them money and a year of free agency. The kid has incredible mound presence and an arsenal of pitches that make the wiliest of vets blush."
My vote: Heyward
T1. Justin Duchscherer, Oakland Athletics (21.4%)
T1. Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox (21.4%)
3. Grady Sizemore, Indians (19.0%)
A whopping 14 players received votes in this category, from those who struggled with injuries last year (Ben Sheets) to guys who plain-old sucked (Vernon Wells).
Interesting pick: Eric Chavez, Athletics (Joseph Lopez)
"Chavez has played in only 121 games over the past three seasons, and as a result he’s been made Oakland’s starting DH...When healthy, Chavez could easily hit 20+ homers and drive in his share of runs."
My vote: Carlos Quentin, White Sox
1. Troy Glaus, Braves (26.2%)
2. Conor Jackson, Arizona Diamondbacks (21.4%)
3. Derek Lowe, Braves (14.3%)
With 13 names mentioned, this is another close race for individual players. It's worth noting, though, that a full half of the votes cast went to the Atlanta Braves.
Interesting pick: Brad Penny, Cardinals (Nick Cafferky)
"I think his 2009 numbers might have been more because of the adjustment to the much tougher American League batting, than his skills deteriorating. In addition, if there is one guy you would want to help Penny get back to his old form, it’s Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan."
My vote: Tim Hudson, Braves
1. Mariano Rivera, Yankees (54.8%)
2. Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (14.3%)
T3. Andrew Bailey, Athletics (7.1%)
T3. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox (7.1%)
Much as I hate the Yankees, there is no denying that Rivera is the greatest closer of his generation.
Interesting pick: Jon Rauch, Twins (Joseph DelGrippo)
"When Rauch has a 50+ save season, with very few blown saves and sub-2.00 ERA, and the Twins win the AL Central handily, Rauch...will accumulate many points for the Relief Man award. But what will really be special is when...Rauch will get serious consideration for the AL Cy Young Award."
My vote: Billy Wagner, Braves