Bleacher Report's Full 2014 MLB Awards Preview, Predictions

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterNovember 7, 2014

Bleacher Report's Full 2014 MLB Awards Preview, Predictions

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    Clayton Kershaw could wind up winning two individual awards for his fantastic 2014.
    Clayton Kershaw could wind up winning two individual awards for his fantastic 2014.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    As the baseball industry awaits the first big transaction of the offseason—sorry, Adam Lind for Marco Estrada doesn't exactly get the juices flowing—the focus shifts temporarily to another matter, the individual awards.

    Until there's a major move either in the free-agent market or on the trade front, the chases and races for MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year and Rookie of the Year hold our attention.

    Starting Monday, Nov. 10, and continuing every evening through Thursday, Nov. 13, the winner of each honor in either league will be announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

    With all of the finalists—three per for all four awards—having been determined earlier this week, here's a preview of the choices and a rundown of the predicted winners.

AL Rookie of the Year

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    Date of Announcement: Monday, Nov. 10

    Finalists: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox; Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees; Matt Shoemaker, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

    There's less of a question of who is going to win this than which two other rookies should have been nominated as finalists. The AL crop was stacked in 2014, to the point where Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals, Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays and Collin McHugh of the Houston Astros all have cases to be alongside Jose Abreu in the final three.

    Not that it matters, though. Because the White Sox first baseman is going to win this going away.

    In fact, the voting should be unanimous for the 27-year-old former star of Cuba's Serie Nacional who hit .317/.383/.581 with 73 extra-base hits, including 36 homers.

    But here's guessing that a few writers will go with Matt Shoemaker for two reasons: to make a point about how Abreu is only a rookie by the technical definition and because of the narrative that comes with going from a no-namer to a key cog in the rotation of the team with the best record in baseball.

    Predicted Winner: Abreu

NL Rookie of the Year

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    Date of Announcement: Monday, Nov. 10

    Finalists: Jacob deGrom, RHP, New  York Mets; Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds; Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

    After a first half in which he steadily adjusted and improved to the point where he was hitting .285/.319/.423 with 47 runs, 38 RBI and 38 stolen bases, it appeared that Billy Hamilton had this award in hand.

    But a combination of a terrible post-break performance (.200/.254/.257, 25 R, 10 RBI, 18 SB) by the Reds center fielder and a rapid rise by Jacob deGrom, who went from a 3.18 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 8.8 K/9 to a 2.16 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 in the second half, shifted the momentum—and likely the votes—behind the Mets' right-hander.

    "Once I get two strikes on a guy—it's 1-2 or 0-2—I'm trying to strike them out," deGrom said, via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com after his penultimate start of the season in September. That explains how he racked up 144 of them in only 140.1 innings.

    That also is a big reason why deGrom will be deWinner. (Sorry.)

    Predicted Winner: deGrom

AL Manager of the Year

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    Date of Announcement: Tuesday, Nov. 11

    Finalists: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels; Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles; Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals

    Both Mike Scioscia, who guided the Angels to the No. 1 overall seed after a pair of disappointing seasons, and Ned Yost, who helmed the Royals as they ended their record 29-year run without a playoff appearance, present enticing arguments to win this award.

    Too bad it will go to neither of them, but instead to Buck Showalter. The Orioles skipper is widely regarded as perhaps the top bench boss in the sport, not only for his handling of players, the bullpen and in-game situations but also for his preparedness and meticulous attention to detail.

    All of which came in handy as he helped Baltimore win the AL East and tie for the second-best record in baseball despite being without All-Stars Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis for practically all, half and a chunk of the season, respectively.

    Showalter will win, although he'd rather have beaten Yost's Royals in October.

    Predicted Winner: Showalter

NL Manager of the Year

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    Date of Announcement: Tuesday, Nov. 11

    Finalists: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants; Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates; Matt Williams, Washington Nationals

    This one is a total tossup.

    Do you prefer the fiery, charismatic skipper of the underdog-turned-upstart bunch that made it to October for the second straight season? Or the long-timer whose steadiness was a part of why his club reached the postseason (and won it all) for the third time in five years? Or perhaps the first-year manager whose team had the NL's top mark?

    Since a choice has to be made, we'll take the latter, if only because the Pirates' Clint Hurdle just won NL Manager of the Year in 2013 and the Giants' Bruce Bochy also has one on his mantle (albeit from 1996 with the San Diego Padres). Overcoming injuries that wiped out Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos and Gio Gonzalez, among others, for swaths of the season certainly helps Matt Williams' case.

    "He has a calmness to him," general manager Mike Rizzo said, via James Wagner of The Washington Post. "When things were at their toughest, he was at his calmest.

    As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: "Nationals manager Matt Williams is favored after guiding Washington to a league-best 96 wins in his rookie managerial season."

    Not bad for a first-timer, eh?

    Predicted Winner: Williams

AL Cy Young

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    Date of Announcement: Wednesday, Nov. 12

    Finalists: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners; Corey Kluber, RHP, Cleveland Indians; Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox

    Look, Chris Sale was just as dominant as any pitcher in the AL this year (2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.8 K/9), but he missed more than a month to injury early on, leaving him some 60 innings behind the other two finalists. Sorry, but that's too much to overcome.

    Especially when those other two finalists—Felix Hernandez with his 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 9.5 K/9, as well as Corey Kluber and his 2.44 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 10.3 K/9—had numbers that were more or less as good.

    Separating the Mariners and Indians right-handers is an exercise in splitting aces (and hairs), but King Felix gets the nod here for being slightly more consistent all year long (2.12 ERA in the first half, 2.16 in the second) and for actually leading the AL in both ERA and WHIP.

    Predicted Winner: Hernandez

NL Cy Young

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    Date of Announcement: Wednesday, Nov. 12

    Finalists: Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

    Rather than waste too many words on Clayton Kershaw here, let's save them for the debate that's two clicks away.

    Apologies to Johnny Cueto, who really was fantastic (2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) from his first start to his last and hurled an NL-high 243.2 innings.

    But the Dodgers left-hander is going to win his third Cy Young in four years, just like he won MLB's ERA title for the fourth straight season—the first ever to do so. Oh, and even if he did miss six weeks at the start of the year, that 0.86 WHIP and 10.8 K/9 also were markedly better than Cueto's.

    Besides, the 26-year-old already has won some awards this offseason, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes:

    Kershaw became the first player ever to win three Players Choice Awards in a single season: Major League Baseball player of the year, National League outstanding pitcher and Marvin Miller Man of the Year.

    The Man of the Year award recognized Kershaw’s charitable endeavors.

    Predicted Winner: Kershaw

AL MVP

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    Date of Announcement: Thursday, Nov. 13

    Finalists: Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians; Victor Martinez, 1B/DH, Detroit Tigers; Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

    Whatever side of the argument you were on between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in the past two AL MVP debates, it's safe to say that the Angels center fielder isn't going to be beaten by a Tigers slugger—a different one—for a third consecutive year.

    Not that Victor Martinez didn't put up a worthy fight with his .335/.409/.565 line, a career-high 32 homers and a remarkable 42 strikeouts. He just loses steam for spending three quarters of his time without playing defense and being a subpar baserunner.

    The Indians' Michael Brantley, meanwhile, was the most underrated position player in the entire sport this year, as his .327/.385/.506 triple-slash, 94 runs, 20 homers and 23 steals hardly seemed to receive much recognition. Seeing him in this final three was probably a surprise to some, but a well-deserved one.

    And in case you haven't noticed, think about this for a second: There's a good chance Cleveland could have the runners-up in both AL Cy Young and MVP.

    But after two second-place finishes of his own, Trout is going to grab this honor for his all-around game. Not only did he hit .287/.377/.561 with 36 homers while leading the AL with 111 RBI and topping the majors with 115 runs, but he did all that at a premium, up-the-middle position, too.

    Predicted Winner: Trout

NL MVP

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    Date of Announcement: Thursday, Nov. 13

    Finalists: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

    This final race is fascinating for oh-so-many reasons.

    There's the whole should-a-pitcher-be-allowed-to-win-MVP debate. And between the two position players, there's the argument over which one actually had the better season in the end.

    Based on the narrative and attention he received, most would think Giancarlo Stanton holds the edge over Andrew McCutchen there. Except the Pirates center fielder actually had a better batting average (.314 to .288), OBP (.410 to .395) and OPS (.952 to .950), and did as much in only one more game and 10 more plate appearances.

    Somewhat fittingly, all three finalists missed a few weeks due to injury, but Stanton's was the most memorable, as a scary hit-by-pitch to the face took him out in mid-September.

    Ultimately, there's no problem here with awarding MVP to a pitcher, as long as the performance and numbers are so great—so historic—that they cannot be ignored even when compared to the other candidates.

    That describes what Kershaw did in 2014. Even at a time when pitching is dominating the sport as a whole, he stood out from the pack.

    Predicted Winner: Kershaw

    Statistics are accurate through the 2014 MLB season and are courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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