2011 MLB Preview: Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano and B/R's AL Award Predictions

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIMarch 17, 2011

2011 MLB Preview: Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano and B/R's AL Award Predictions

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 30:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers celebrates a solo home run in the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants in Game Three of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 30, 2010 in Arlingto
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The lead-up to Opening Day is a time for excitement. It's a time for optimism and hope. And it's a time for predictions.

    Yes indeed, there are predictions.

    Everyone and his mother has an opinion about which teams will make the playoffs and which will collapse, which players will rise to stardom and which will fade into obscurity. With so many people putting in their two cents, how can we keep it all straight?

    Luckily, Bleacher Report's Featured Columnists are here to help with the first installment in our season-long series of FC Polls.

    Twenty-five of B/R's top MLB writers, representing 17 teams, offered their predictions for the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie, Manager and Comeback Player of the Year awards for each league.

    Today, we look at the American League awards (NL to come tomorrow). For each honor, I've included our vote totals, as well as explanations by the writers who named the winners on their ballots.

    Thanks so much to everyone who voted and submitted commentary!

Most Valuable Player: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox and Robinson Cano, Yankees

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    FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 14:  Infielder Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox takes the throw at first against the New York Yankees during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 14, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo b
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    T1. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox—24 percent

    T1. Robinson Cano, Yankees—24 percent

    3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—16 percent

    T4. Carl Crawford, Red Sox—Eight percent

    T4. Josh Hamilton, Rangers—Eight percent

    T4. Joe Mauer, Twins—Eight percent

    T7. Nelson Cruz, Rangers—Four percent

    T7. Justin Morneau, Twins—Four percent

    T7. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees—Four percent

On Adrian Gonzalez

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    FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 14:  Infielder Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the New York Yankees during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 14, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Ima
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Gonzalez, 29 has proven to be an absolute monster throughout his career despite playing the bulk of his games in the most pitcher-friendly park in Major League Baseball.

    Gonzo is making the move to a ballpark that is tailored to his swing and a team chock-full of legitimate offensive weapons.

    When you toss in his Gold Glove-caliber defense, durability and the fact that he’s in the midst of his peak, it’s not a stretch to say we’re about see the very best of Adrian Gonzalez.

    Jeremiah Graves

On Robinson Cano

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20:  Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees reacts after he scored on his solo home run in the bottom of the third inning against the Texas Rangers in Game Five of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 20
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    In 2010, Cano had a .319 batting average, .381 OBP, .534 SLG, .914 OPS and 142 OPS+ with 29 home runs, 109 RBI and 200 hits.

    Cano will benefit from another year under Kevin Long's tutelage and a possible move to third in the lineup if Mark Teixeira gets off to a slow start.

    His best-in-the-game defense at second base and the potential for a .330 batting average, 30-plus HRs, 115-plus RBI and an OPS closer to 1.000 with an OPS+ closer to 150 scream “MVP” to me.

    Rich Stowe

Interesting Pick: Nelson Cruz, Rangers

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers bats against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    If Nelson Cruz ever gets a full-time job, may God have mercy on the rest of the league. 

    Over the last two years, minor injuries and Ron Washington’s baffling lineup choices have limited Cruz to just 236 games. But boy, has he made the most of limited opportunities. 

    Cruz hit .318/.374/.576 last year in 108 games while playing great defense (12.4 UZR/150). Projected over a full season, he was on pace for 33 homers, 117 RBI, 90 runs, 26 steals and 7.7 WAR.

    That, my friends, is an MVP—as long as Wash remembers to play him.

    Lewie Pollis

Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox

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    FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Pitcher Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox throws during a Spring Training Workout Session at the Red Sox Player Development Complex on February 19, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    1. Jon Lester, Red Sox—44 percent

    2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners—28 percent

    T3. Francisco Liriano, Twins—Eight percent

    T3. Justin Verlander, Tigers—Eight percent

    T5. Brett Anderson, Athletics—Eight percent

    T5. David Price, Rays—Four percent

    T5. CC Sabathia, Yankees—Four percent

On Jon Lester

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Starting pitcher Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 13, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Jon Lester, 27, is arguably the best left-hander in the game today.

    Lester throws four plus pitches—a fastball, cutter, curve and changeup—and he's struck out 450 batters (9.8 K/9) over the last two seasons.

    Lester certainly has the peripheral stats and pitching ability of a Cy Young contender, and his spot as the clear ace of the Red Sox, along with the backing of a solid offense, gives him a great chance at a 20-win season. Despite King Felix's 2010 victory, wins are still considered an important part of the Cy Young equation.

    Dan Hartel

Interesting Pick: Brett Anderson, Athletics

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    PHOENIX - MARCH 17:  Starting pitcher Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB spring training game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on March 17, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Giants defeated the A's
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Brett Anderson is a very hittable pitcher. His 92 mph fastball is underwhelming, and he had a pedestrian 6.01 K/9 last year.

    But Anderson is the real deal.

    In 2010, he improved his fastball (1.7 weighted runs, up from -7.8); add this to one of the game’s best sliders and an underrated curveball, and Anderson has quite a good repertoire of pitches.

    This is the year that Anderson establishes himself as an elite southpaw pitcher, goes 16-5 with a 2.60 ERA and wins the AL Cy Young for the surprising A’s.

    Eli Marger

Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

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    FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  (EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN CONVERTED TO SEPIA) Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22, 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlot
    Elsa/Getty Images

    1. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays—46 percent

    2. Desmond Jennings, Rays—13 percent

    T3. Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays—Eight percent

    T3. Jesus Montero, Yankees—Eight percent

    T5. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays—Four percent

    T5. Hank Conger, Angels—Four percent

    T5. Mike Moustakas, Royals—Four percent

    T5. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins—Four percent

    T5. Michael Pineda, Mariners—Four percent

    T5. Chris Sale, White Sox—Four percent

On Jeremy Hellickson

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 5: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws in relief against the New York Yankees March 5, 2010 at the George M. Steinbrenner  Field in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Hellickson has excellent movement on his fastball, a plus curveball and also a plus changeup. He has excellent control of all his pitches and a clean yet deceptive delivery that allows him to strike out batters at a ratio of nearly one per every inning he is on the mound.

    He was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, the International League Most Valuable Pitcher and the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year in 2010.

    Simply put, the kid has the stuff and flat-out knows how to pitch.

    Brandon McClintock

Interesting Pick: Mike Moustakas, Royals

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    SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals bats during a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Mike Moustakas. Remember the name.

    Moustakas ripped the cover off the ball in AA and AAA last season. Over the combined 118 games he played at both levels, he accumulated 36 HRs and 126 RBI and hit a whopping .322.

    This guy is ready for the big leagues. It will be difficult for the Royals to keep their future superstar in the minors for much longer—the competition is just not there.

    When he makes the leap to the bigs this season, you might as well hand him the ROY award.

    Shaun McPartlin

Manager of the Year: Bob Geren, Athletics

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 16:  Head coach Bob Geren of the Oakland Athletics speaks with the media during a MLB spring training practice at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    1. Bob Geren, Athletics—24 percent

    T2. Terry Francona, Red Sox—16 percent

    T2. Jim Leyland, Tigers—16 percent

    T2. Buck Showalter, Orioles—16 percent

    T5. Ron Gardenhire, Twins—Eight percent

    T5. Joe Maddon, Rays—Eight percent

    T7. Joe Girardi, Yankees—Four percent

    T7. Ron Washington, Rangers—Four percent

    T7. Eric Wedge, Mariners—Four percent

On Bob Geren

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Manager Bob Geren of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during media photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 24, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Luck and coincidence usually dictate who wins Manager of the Year honors—which is good news for the Oakland Athletics' Bob Geren. 

    The Elephants were almost literally gutted by the injury bug in 2010—80 percent of the anticipated starting rotation, the closer and most of the major contributors on offense spent at least 15 days on the DL. 

    With just slightly better luck on the injury front, the Athletics should be serious contenders given their revamped offense and maturing staff—which is even better news for Geren because he should be polishing a shiny trophy by year's end.

    Andrew Brining

Interesting Pick: Joe Maddon, Rays

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    FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22, 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    "Mad Joe" Maddon has become the darling of the league's intelligentsia, yet he still knows how to work an old-school reporter in the standard interview.

    Even better than his charm is the fact that so many expect Maddon's team to fall off a cliff after losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and the bullpen.

    When Maddon's squad—better than anyone thinks—manages 85 wins and stays in the wild-card hunt all season, Hoodie South will look even more like the evil genius from whom he takes his stylistic cues.

    Matt Trueblood

Comeback Player of the Year: Brandon Webb, Rangers

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    SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25:  Brandon Webb #33 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during Spring Training Media Day on February 25, 2011 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    1. Brandon Webb, Rangers—25 percent

    2. Grady Sizemore, Indians—17 percent

    T3. Jake Peavy, White Sox—13 percent

    T3. Manny Ramirez, Rays—13 percent

    T5. Kendry Morales, Angels—Eight percent

    T5. Joe Nathan, Twins—Eight percent

    T7. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox—Four percent

    T7. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays—Four percent

    T7. Derek Jeter, Yankees—Four percent

    T7. Vernon Wells, Angels—Four percent

On Brandon Webb

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    SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Brandon Webb #33 of the Texas Rangers gets ready to deliver a pitch at Surprise Stadium on February 18, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Comeback Player of the Year is always a challenge to forecast, but Brandon Webb is an obvious choice.

    Things were looking up for Webb in 2008 when he posted a 22-7 record with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he has since struggled with numerous shoulder and arm injuries.

    Stashed in the middle of the rotation, a prolific Rangers offense and other spacious AL West ballparks should help the ground-ball master Webb become a pleasant surprise for the Rangers and baseball in general, as long as he is healthy.

    Gregory Pinto

Interesting Pick: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

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    SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 27:  Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of the Boston Red Sox  catches a fly ball against the Baltimore Orioles during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Ed Smith Stadium on March 27, 2010 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Jacoby Ellsbury had a great season in 2008, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, his defense took a giant step back, but he improved with the bat, hitting over .300 and leading the American League in triples (10) and steals (a franchise-record 70).

    But 2010 was a lost year after he injured his ribs in early April.

    Now healthy, he does not have to do anything exceptional to be a contender for the award—2010 was such a disappointment that even playing at his 2009 level will put him in the running.

    Adam MacDonald

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