As prediction columns start to pop up around the web, it seems it’s that time of year where I throw out my own guesses for the coming year. My track record isn’t great (to put it mildly), but it’s always fun to go through the various end of season awards every spring and take a stab at the winners. Here’s my calls for the junior circuit.
MVP – Evan Longoria
Although there are no division winners being picked here, the Rays would be my choice to take the AL East this year as I’m anticipating a big year from their third baseman. Longoria took a big step forward in his walk rate last year, taking a free pass in 3% more of his plate appearances than he had previously managed, but his numbers were held down by an incredibly low .239 BABIP. If that number normalizes as it should, Longoria should find his batting average back up around the .280-.290 mark and career highs in all three triple slash numbers wouldn’t be a surprise. He’s also, along with Adrian Beltre, the class of the defensive third basemen in the American League. The rest of the Rays line up is good enough to give him the RBI and runs scored numbers that many voters still look for and if the Rays can win the AL East behind a good year from Longoria he’ll have the strong narrative behind him that any MVP candidate needs.
Also considered – Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista
Cy Young – Dan Haren
Whether it’s a result of a career spent almost entirely on the west coast, being the perceived second fiddle to the likes of Brandon Webb or Jered Weaver or something else entirely, it seems that Dan Haren never quite gets the credit he deserves. He’s second among active pitchers in strikerouts to walk ratio behind Kevin Slowey (yes, really) and ahead of Roy Halladay, he’s never been hurt and pitches comfortably over 200 innings every single year. He’s a completely different type of pitcher but he produces similar (if lesser) results to what Curt Schilling used to put up year in, year out. Haren is, however, much more handsome than Schilling. By putting up the sort of strong numbers he does every year there’s good reason to think he’s the sort of player for whom one day everything will click and his stats will separate him from the pack.
Also considered – Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, David Price, CC Sabathia
Rookie of the Year – Matt Moore
Moore’s ridiculous minor league numbers (sub 2 ERA and over 12 strikeouts per nine in the upper minors) have left him with nothing to prove on the farm and he’ll begin the season in the Rays rotation. Job and playing time opportunity are usually bigger factors in who wins this award than either current or future talent but Moore is blessed with all of those attributes. The Rays will likely handle him carefully but even if he ‘only’ pitches 160 or so innings he should have more than enough opportunity to stake his claim for the hardware. On a per innings basis he could well be the Rays best starter this year.
Also considered – Mike Trout, Yu Darvish, Jesus Montero, Addison Read
Manager of the Year – Joe Maddon
No-one seems to have much of an idea of the criteria for winning the manager of the year award so I’ve gone for the man I believe is the best manager in the game and whose team also has a chance to win more games than some might expect.
Comeback Player of the Year – Adam Dunn
As with the manager award, the criteria for this award is pretty fuzzy. What exactly do you need to be coming back from to qualify? Assuming a player essentially needs to have been bad or hurt the previous year to stake a claim for the award, I’ve gone for the one player who surely can’t be any worse than in 2011. Dunn’s precipitous fall in production was as dramatic as I can remember any player having in recent years. Maybe it’s over optimistic of me but I could see a .230/.350/.430 type year with 25 homers from Dunn in 2012.
Also considered – Alex Rios, Brett Anderson