Opening Day is almost upon us and what better way to open the official baseball regular season article season with a 2016 MLB Award Preview and Predictions. There are many question marks and storylines coming into the season like Will Jose Fernandez stay healthy, ever? Will David Price perform in Boston? Will Pablo Sandoval, well do anything productive? And How much of the hype of Bryce Harper should we buy into. So without further ado, N2K’s 2016 Award Preview and Predictions.
The Candidates: Carlos Correa, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Mike Trout
The Prediction: Josh Donaldson, Third Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays
The AL MVP race is going to be a very tight one, literally any of those five names could walk away with the hardware, I guess that is what makes them candidates but anyways. Although Manny Machado is one hell of a player, and he could win it but I’m not convinced just yet. Mike Trout is a perennial threat to win and will be for years to come but I just don’t see it from the Angel. Mookie Betts very well could put together an MVP caliber season and if the Red Sox punch their tickets to the playoffs, Mookie will be a big reason for that. Carlos Correa seemingly does it all and I think Correa will finish as runner up to Donaldson.
Bottomline, Josh Donaldson is a RBI Machine and with one of, if not the most potent offenses in baseball alongside him he should compete once again for the Triple Crown. With flawless defensive play and a team on the fast track to make the playoffs, Donaldson should take home the honor for a second year in a row.
The Candidates: Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Clayton Kershaw
The Prediction: Paul Goldschmidt, First Baseman, Arizona Diamondbacks
I love all of these candidates as players and it is tough for me to single out one but I did it, not all heroes wear capes. Now to the nominees. Andrew McCutchen has looked impressive in Spring Training and will be the centerpiece offensively for the Pirates. If the Pirates can make another Wild Card run it will look nice on both Cutch’s and Cole’s respective resumes. Bryce Harper will have a down year I believe. Harper wants to be the star and he has been since he was proclaimed the next coming from Sports Illustrated at the age of fifteen. I predict Harper will get into a slump around June and when it has a marginal effect on the success of the Nationals he will try to do too much therefore hurting his stats, and his MVP chances. Anthony Rizzo and Clayton Kershaw will continue to put up their expected numbers but could walk away with the award if the field put together an off year. Buster Posey will be the MIP (Most Invaluable Player) because his veteran leadership behind the plate with an ensemble pitching staff leading them to the playoffs will get under appreciated. But Posey will hit over 0.315 , book it.
The Diamondbacks are in win-now mode and Goldschmidt is behind the wheel of their bandwagon. Goldschmidt will hit over 35 dings, two more than last year’s total of 33. Paul should continue his consistency of being a 0.300+ hitter (last season 0.321) but his RBI numbers will decrease a tad from 110 due to AJ Pollock’s injury. Either way Goldschmidt will be, as I mentioned before be in the driver’s seat for this talented Diamondbacks roster.
AL Cy Young
The Candidates: Chris Sale, Carlos Carrasco, Sonny Gray, David Price, Marcus Stroman
The Prediction: Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics
Chris Sale should win this award due to the White Sox revamped lineup but I see Sale getting off to a rocky start due to the issues within Chicago’s clubhouse. Carlos Carrasco could challenge Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez for the strikeout crown and if he does, a bunch of Cy Young votes will come with it. David Price will perform in Beantown but I don’t know if he’ll win Cy Young in his first year here. He could, and I for one want him to but I think Gray will pitch too well for Price to win. Stroman is a bit of a sleeper but he’s got something to prove, the strikeout numbers will be there and so will the wins. If Stroman can keep the ERA down close to 3.00 he very well could win it.
The only thing in my mind that might stop Sonny Gray from winning the AL Cy Young is the possibility of the Oakland Athletics front office trading him. To Billy Beane nobody is untouchable and if he can get a good package of prospects and cash, Gray very well could be wearing a different uniform by the end of 2016. With that being said it is very hard to win Cy Young when you have switched teams, no matter the statistics (see David Price in 2015).
NL Cy Young
The Candidates: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole
The Prediction: Clayton Kershaw, Starting Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Cy Young in the NL could be a one horse race, Clayton Kershaw is leaps and bounds better than the next guy in line, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll win it. Gerrit Cole should have a great year with a sub 3.00 ERA leading the Pirates to another Wild Card game only to lose, like every year. But if Cole can get hot going into the playoffs maybe the Pirates will compete for the NLDS this season. Max Scherzer will most likely throw another no hitter or two, and pitching for a talented Nationals team should earn him around 15 wins, but not enough to challenge Kershaw. Madison Bumgarner (Silver Slugger Winner for 2016 too) will remain steady around the 3.10 ERA mark all year while racking up strikeouts via his filthy slider, but although MadBum won’t win the award he’ll probably single-handedly win the Giants the World Series (again) if they make the playoffs. Stephen Strasburg has the talent and in a contract year, the sky’s the limit. Strasburg could flirt with 250 strikeouts if he can stay on the field.
Clayton Kershaw is simply the best pitcher in the game right now. He’ll pick up the slack from Greinke leaving for Arizona and Clayton will have a career year, which is saying a lot considering his track record.
AL Rookie of the Year
The Candidates: Byron Buxton, Tyler Naquin, Byung-ho Park, Joey Gallo, AJ Reed
The Prediction: AJ Reed, First Baseman, Houston Astros
The Rookie of the Year awards are hard to predict because they’re mostly dependent on playing time and/or opportunity. Byron Buxton has been great defensively during his stints in the majors but not so great offensively. For Buxton, the bat will eventually come around but I don’t think he’ll be too consistent this season. Byron will play well in August and September but he still needs time to get used to the MLB. Tyler Naquin is a sleeper, and he’ll finish in second place for the honor. He had a great spring training for the Indians. Naquin is a quick outfielder from Texas A&M and he’ll make up for ground lost in the outfield due to Brantley’s offseason shoulder surgery. Byung-ho Park has shown us some of the most vicious bat flips in the history of the game (watch the following slideshow)…
…but I don’t expect to see that many bat flips, therefore long balls from him in his debut MLB season. Joey Gallo, similar to AJ Reed has a lot of raw power. But Gallo has the tendency to strikeout a lot which will hurt his batting average and give himself a disadvantage for the voting of the AL Rookie of the Year.
I’m going with AJ Reed because of his raw power and ability to put up sizable home run numbers. He’ll have to beat out Tyler White at first base who had a great spring but regardless Reed will get his reps at the plate.
NL Rookie of the Year
The Candidates: Steven Matz, Hector Olivera, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Lucas Giolito
The Prediction: Corey Seager, Shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers
Braves rookie Hector Olivera impressed this Spring Training, batting 0.393. The Cuban Amateur Free Agent was signed by the Dodgers in 2015 until being traded to the Braves costing them pitcher Alex Wood. Hector is big wild card entering the season and if his spring numbers continue into April he could challenge Corey Seager for Rookie of the Year. Mets pitching prospect Steven Matz could burst onto the scene similar to Noah Syndergaard did in 2015 and if that happens Matz also could challenge frontrunner Seager. Trea Turner will need to battle his way past Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew for the starting shortstop role but if he does that early enough and gets his bat going, he could contend as well. Lucas Giolito who I had the pleasure to see pitch in Spring Training this year could be special. I’ve been saying that for a while now and if he bursts onto the scene this year, with the veteran pitching leadership from guys like Max Scherzer in the clubhouse, Giolito could find himself challenging Strasburg for the number two starting role by the end of the season.
The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year is Corey Seager’s to lose. Now I’m not saying he already has the trophy but looking at his stellar 2015 call-up, everybody expects him to take it home. But I am still pulling for Giolito.
Do you agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter @N2KSports
Cover Photo via Learning In 21
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