MLB: Who Are the Early Favorites to Take Home Baseball's Top Honors?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 15:  Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers plays against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the spring training baseball game at Camelback Ranch on March 15, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

One week down, plenty of panic buttons pushed.

It's been an upside down week for Major League Baseball. The Red Sox look like a slumbering bear just awoken from hibernation. The Twins actually won in the Bronx. And the Reds are quietly keeping busy—not that any of us have noticed...or have we?

But no matter how many curse words you've shouted at your beloved Cubs or Mets, how many snickering gestures you've made toward your rival team, the time has come: let's predict who will take home MLB's honors this season.

It's early, I know. There's well over 100 games left, along with a number of home runs Albert Pujols must make up for. We haven't reached the annual time of year when the Yankees find pitching troubles and sign a big name scapegoat, either. Nor have we seen the rise and fall of the Dodgers, there's plenty of time though.

It's only been seven days, and a handful of these guys could wind up on the curb come September. For now, here's who the favorites are. A few surprises are in store.

AL MVP: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

Nelson Cruz has been the missile man this past week. He strapped his helmet on, slapped four home runs and six RBI's to his name, and is already putting the zing back in the Rangers' World Series efforts early this season.

Like all good things in life, Cruz's home run streak ended yesterday against Seattle. But that doesn't mean his April dominance hasn't earned him a spot in many voters eyes.

Marx Teixeira has Cruz's number in the stat department right now. The Yankees' bats have been on overdrive, but for a Teixeira to outplay Cruz throughout the upcoming months is a questionable call.

He will have stiff competition as the year progresses. Miguel Cabrera is a threat in himself. So is Alex Rodriguez and Evan Longoria. They say the first two weeks are meaningless in baseball, but for Cruz, he is setting his own path to silverware nicely.

NL MVP: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

If the Red Sox have muddled up your World Series predictions for the time being, quietly change to the Phillies, no one will notice, except Orioles fans of course.

There's a reasonable amount of causes for Philadelphia's hot stove start, but none is more obvious though than Ryan Howard's batting. Two home runs and eight RBI's, Howard currently bears a .524 average, and looks to be rounding the bend toward an MVP season.

The Phillies performance as a team will help Howard immensely. It's kind of like Tom Brady—if the Patriots are winning, he's a shoo-in for MVP.

It's a long brick road. But MLB will be more than comfortable awarding Howard the MVP, instead of the normally favored Albert Pujols.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are 2-3. Justin Verlander has thrown 17 strikeouts. Things don't quite match up just yet.

At 31 years old, Verlander is an Cy Young possibility. Detroit may struggle in the Central when the Twins and White Sox heat up, but if the Tigers pitching can maintain consistency—who cares—Verlander will still be a prize pick for the Cy Young award.

Perhaps the only concern is Verlander's ERA as time goes on. One week into the season doesn't offer much of a peak. But if injury and an unusual amount of runs are given up, all the strikeouts in the world may not be enough to keep C.C Sabathia at bay.

NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw is a tempting pick in the National League. As a Dodger, though, it's a fickle scenario, one that could collapse when the season really shifts into fourth gear.

For now, Tim Lincecum is still numero uno. He's thrown one less strikeout behind Justin Verlander (17) to start the season, and will become a vital part of the Giants rotation as the Rockies and Padres play "catch me if you can" in the West.

ERA is no real problem for Lincecum—although injury is. It's a long season for a guy who has the eating habits of an ignorant 10 year old, but it hasn't hurt him that much in the past.

Like always, it's a case of wait and see with Lincecum. One man to keep an eye on while we wait is Kevin Correia of Pittsburgh. Yes, the Pirates are winning. And yes, Correia is pitching well with two wins in his top pocket.

Gold Glove: Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks

I sat and watched Chris Young play the Cubs on Wednesday and was stunned. He made two diving plays to retire two of Chicago's hitters—one of them being Kosuke Fukudome.

The Gold Glove award normally comes down to eye-dazzling plays, and Young has provided us with a bag full already. Better than just catching, he can also bat, a sign that makes Diamondback fans smile despite a worrisome season.

The usual first base prospects will attempt to steal the show later in the year. Thank you Albert Pujols, Mark Texeira. If you want a show to watch now, tune into Young. He actually makes watching the Diamondbacks exciting.

Consider, Don't Bet

A seven day stretch doesn't mean much. It's as irrelevant as preseason football really. Red Sox fans may disagree. Reds fans, you are quietly happy in the corner.

Some of you have pushed the big red button that says "panic". Others have held back willingly. Until we all know for sure, take this list with a grain of salt. All of these guys may become pancakes in the next few months, and fall out of the race in a heartbeat.

Until then, it's a wide open platter of talent. 

It's just a matter of sorting the contenders from the pretenders like always.

Fortunately, baseball does that for us.

Check out Ryan Cook's new blog: The Front Page.

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