2011 MLB Preview: Albert Pujols, Roy Halladay and B/R's NL Award Predictions
Opening Day is less than two weeks away, which means everyone and his mother is spouting predictions for the coming MLB season.
With so many talking heads out there, where can you go to find a variety of opinions together in one place?
Yesterday, 25 of Bleacher Report's MLB Featured Columnists—representing 17 teams—pooled our collective wisdom (or ignorance, if you disagree with us) with our picks for who will win the major American League awards in 2011: Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie, Manager and Comeback Player of the Year.
Today, we tackle the National League.
For each award, I've included the full vote totals so you can see how we were divided. In addition, writers who voted for the winner and an "interesting pick" for each honor wrote in to explain their choices.
Thank you to everyone who voted and submitted commentary!
Most Valuable Player: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals—44 percent
2. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies—12 percent
T3. Ryan Braun, Brewers—8 percent
T3. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins—8 percent
T3. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—8 percent
T6. Matt Kemp, Dodgers—4 percent
T6. Buster Posey, Giants—4 percent
T6. Dan Uggla, Braves—4 percent
T6. Joey Votto, Reds—4 percent
T6. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals—4 percent
On Albert Pujols
Albert, Albert, Albert. Where to begin? You spoil us year in and year out with a near .330 BA, 100-plus RBIs and 40 HRs. How can you not be the favorite to take home MVP honors?
What should really strike fear into the hearts of pitchers and non-Cardinals fans is the fact that this beast is in his contract year. He is playing for the big pay day. If that isn’t enough motivation to post another MVP, possible Triple Crown-like season, then I don’t know what is.
Pujols can carry the load and then some. His 2011 numbers will have experts saying, "Joey Votto who?"
Interesting Pick: Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves
In his five seasons with the Marlins, Dan Uggla hit no fewer than 27 home runs and had at least 88 RBI.
Now that Uggla is on a team with a more consistent lineup, he will likely have more opportunities to bat with runners on base as well as see more at-bats per game.
Uggla has also hit well at Turner Field—in the 45 games he’s played there, he’s posted a .354 batting average with 36 RBI.
Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
1. Roy Halladay, Phillies—36 percent
2. Josh Johnson, Marlins—16 percent
3. Tim Lincecum, Giants—12 percent
T4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers—8 percent
T4. Cliff Lee, Phillies—8 percent
T6. Zack Greinke, Brewers—4 percent
T6. Cole Hamels, Phillies—4 percent
T6. Tim Hudson, Braves—4 percent
T6. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies—4 percent
T6. Matt Latos, Padres—4 percent
On Roy Halladay
What more is there to be said about Roy Halladay?
In 2010, finally freed from the pressure cooker of the AL East, Halladay turned in one of his finest seasons to date, winning 21 games with a 2.44 ERA, 6.6 WAR and a perfect game en route to a unanimous Cy Young Award.
Given his strong peripherals—Halladay’s 7.3 K/BB ratio and 2.92 xFIP both led the league—there’s no reason to think Doc can’t keep up his success in 2011.
Interesting Pick: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
Hamels has been overshadowed and pushed down further and further on the depth chart in the past two years, but he’s responded by continuing to pitch like an ace.
Hamels is a legit strikeout machine who can be counted on for 200 innings, an ERA under 3.50 and a WHIP under 1.20.
He’s going to pile up wins in bunches in 2011, and the counting stats to go with it will be too much for voters to ignore.
Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
1. Freddie Freeman, Braves—54 percent
2. Aroldis Chapman, Reds—25 percent
3. Brandon Belt, Giants—13 percent
T4. Domonic Brown, Phillies—4 percent
T4. Mike Minor, Braves—4 percent
On Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman might not be the highest-rated prospect in the NL, but he has one thing that many others don’t going into 2011: a guaranteed starting role.
After producing a terrific .319/.378/.521 slash line as a 20-year-old in Triple-A, Freeman is ready to contribute on the major league level.
More importantly, he did a terrific job adjusting after a slow start in Triple-A, so there’s no reason to be worried about his less than stellar numbers after being called up in September.
Interesting Pick: Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies
At a strong 6’5”, Brown looks like he can join a crop of super-athletic young outfielders like Mike Stanton, Carl Crawford and Justin Upton.
He has tremendous core strength, the speed to steal many bases and excellent defensive ability. Provided that Brown learns to be more patient at the plate and strikes out at a much lower rate than 2010’s 38.7 percent, he will be a superstar.
He has the potential to put up a .300 average with 25 home runs and 90 RBI this year.
Manager of the Year: Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
1. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves—26 percent
T2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers—17 percent
T2. Jim Tracy, Rockies—17 percent
4. Dusty Baker, Reds—13 percent
5. Charlie Manuel, Phillies—9 percent
T6. Bruce Bochy, Giants—4 percent
T6. Tony La Russa, Cardinals—4 percent
T6. Don Mattingly, Dodgers—4 percent
T6. Mike Quade, Cubs—4 percent
On Fredi Gonzalez
Fredi Gonzalez might have seen his tenure cut short with the Florida Marlins after being fired midseason in 2010, but he is primed to fill in the massive shoes left by longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox.
Gonzalez, who specializes in the major league development of young, talented players, inherits a squad featuring youthful studs like Tommy Hanson, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Heyward.
In replacing the legendary Bobby Cox, Gonzalez has some huge shoes to fill. If the Braves can secure the NL’s Wild Card spot, Gonzalez could be a front runner for the NL Manager of the Year.
Interesting Pick: Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs
When it comes to Manager of the Year, the best way to win is to be in the right place at the right time.
Specifically, the right place is with any team that could outperform its preseason projections by 10 or more games, and the right time is within the first three years of your tenure there.
If, as I expect, the Cubs surprise some people and win 85-plus games, he fits the profile to a T.
Comeback Player of the Year: Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs
1. Carlos Pena, Cubs—17 percent
2. Carlos Beltran, Mets—13 percent
T3. Chipper Jones, Braves—9 percent
T3. Nate McLouth, Braves—9 percent
T3. Pablo Sandoval, Giants—9 percent
T3. Chris Young, Mets—9 percent
T3. Jordan Zimmerman, Nationals—9 percent
T8. Rod Barajas, Dodgers—4 percent
T8. Jason Bay, Mets—4 percent
T8. Lance Berkman, Cardinals—4 percent
T8. Aaron Harang, Padres—4 percent
T8. Carlos Lee, Astros—4 percent
T8. Edinson Volquez, Reds—4 percent
On Carlos Pena
Carlos Pena is due for a comeback for one simple reason: his miserable 2010 was the result of bad luck.
That’s an enormous boost already, but there’s more: Pena is moving from the rough AL East to the bandbox of Wrigley Field. Look for him to run away with this award in 2011.
Interesting Pick: Rod Barajas, Los Angeles Dodgers
After he was released by the New York Mets in August of 2010, the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed Barajas off waivers, and in 25 games wearing Dodger Blue, he produced a healthy .297/.361/.578 slash line while contributing three doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI.
With the departure of Russell Martin, Barajas is expected to see the bulk of the time behind the dish for the Dodgers in 2011. If he picks up where he left off last year, a NL Comeback Player of the Year Award certainly isn't out of the question.