After the World Series ends, every baseball fan looks forward to the Baseball Writer’s Association of America’s awards week. The Rookies, Managers, Pitchers and Players of the Year for both League’s will be announced one by one this week. Here are the most accurate predictions I can give.
Rookie of the Year:
National League: Corey Seager- Dodgers
This is a total no-brainer. Corey Seager couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before him, the team was reeling and in danger of falling out of prominence , but now Dave Roberts’ squad has hope for the future. Seager’s rookie campaign was nothing short of remarkable. At just 22, Seager batted .308 with 26 HR, 72 RBI and an .877 OPS, winning the National League’s Shortstop Silver Slugger Award. Washington’s Trea Turner and fellow Dodger Kenta Maeda both had fine seasons as well and deserve their nominations, but I expect Seager to be the winner unanimously here. He was the most consistent NL rookie all season long and looks to be here for the long run. I don’t think he deserves to be an MVP finalist, but he has ROY locked up, no doubt.
American League: Michael Fulmer- Tigers
He wasn’t flashy, but Michael Fulmer was the best rookie in the American League throughout 2016. Even on a team as erratic as Detroit, Fulmer’s numbers were remarkable for a rookie pitcher in the air-tight AL Central. The 23-year-old finished with an 11-7 record and 3.06 ERA with 132 Ks in just 159 IP. It was a welcome performance for a team that has lacked consistent pitching since Max Scherzer departed for Washington. The Yankees Gary Sanchez and the Indians Tyler Naquin are the other finalists. A lot of people are predicting Sanchez as the winner due to his 20 HR in 53 games at season’s end. What we saw from the young backstop was very impressive, make no mistake about it. But that still does not make him worthy of the award over a guy who was terrific all season long. Naquin played his part in getting the Tribe to the Fall Classic, but come on, let’s be real here, is anyone really expecting him? I don’t think so.
Manager of the Year:
National League: Dusty Baker- Nationals
This is going to cause some controversy undoubtedly because all three nominees are so deserving. You have Los Angeles’s Dave Roberts, who guided the team to the NL West title despite not having Clayton Kershaw for half the season. And you have Joe Maddon, who very simply made history by guiding the Chicago Cubs to 100+ wins and their first World Championship since Teddy Roosevelt was President. But, the award has got to go to Dusty Baker for one reason, nobody was expecting anything from Washington this season and they won the NL East. After the Nats couldn’t win the East last year with a formidable rotation and a Herculean season from Bryce Harper, they were cast aside in favor of the Mets. However, Dusty Baker brought the team back to life and welded a cohesive team together with depth and character. Even if the their early exit from the playoffs disappointed, Baker must be rewarded for his efforts in DC.
American League: Terry Francona- Indians
Hardly anyone was expecting big things from the Cleveland Indians in 2016, especially with team MVP Michael Brantley on the shelf for all but 11 games. Where did the team end up? Two runs short of a World Series Championship. Under the ever-intelligent and savvy management of Terry Francona, the Indians turned everyone’s head this season and even stole the spotlight from the NBA Champion Cavaliers. Among other standout performances, Danny Salazar emerged as an elite starter, Corey Kluber returned to Cy Young form and Francisco Lindor proved he is one of the best young shortstops in baseball. The Indians’ classic penchant for “folditis” in the postseason returned and the team blew a 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic, but that doesn’t take away from the team’s incredible year and Tito Francona’s work with the Tribe. A team with very little to work with on paper went to the World Series. That’s why Tito wins for award the second time with Indians.
Cy Young Award:
National League: Max Scherzer- Nationals
This is the toughest award of the entire year in my opinion. Finalists Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer all turned in seasons that are more than deserving of the honor. Jon Lester had a terrific comeback season in Chicago and his teammate Kyle Hendricks was the NL’s best pitcher in the second half of the season. However, I’m going with Scherzer because he was a force to be reckoned with all year in Washington, despite little protection in the lineup besides Stephen Strasburg. Despite a somewhat slow start in April, Scherzer caught fire in May and tore it up from there on out, finishing with a 20-7 record, a 2.96 ERA, 284 Ks, a .97 WHIP and 228.1 IP. His wins, strikeouts, WHIP, and innings pitched totals led the National League. Hendricks or Lester could just as easily pick up the hardware, but I predict that Scherzer wins. He will join Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay and Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to win the honor in both Leagues.
American League: Rick Porcello- Red Sox
Disclaimer: I do not deny being biased because I’m a Red Sox fan and that could be the only reason that this is my choice. But, it’s still very tough not to admire what Rick Porcello did in 2016. Fresh off the worst season of his career in which he went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA, a different side of Porcello emerged this season, and he looked better than he ever has in his career. The sinkerballer quietly led the majors with a 22-4 record and logged a 3.15 ERA, good enough for 5th in the AL alongside a career high 189 Ks. Most impressively in my opinion, however, is that Porcello walked only 32 all season for a 5.91 K/BB ratio, first among AL starters. Corey Kluber and Porcello’s former teammate Justin Verlander are also in the mix. Now, I would not be surprised at all if Kluber won because the BBWAA already gave him one Cy Young that he didn’t deserve (sorry Tribe fans, but Hernandez should have won in 2014). I could totally see that happening again here. The fact that Verlander is a finalist over Zack Britton is a bit of a shock as well. The Orioles closer was a perfect 47 for 47 in saves with a .54 ERA. He should have been a nominee.
Most Valuable Player:
National League: Kris Bryant- Cubs
This award has undoubtedly engendered the most controversy because Corey Seager is a finalist over Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, who hit 41 homers and drove in 133. Washington’s Daniel Murphy and Chicago’s Kris Bryant are the others. Murphy led the NL in batting virtually the entire season but lost the Gwynn Batting Title to DJ LaMahieu at season’s end. Seager does not belong in MVP talks in my opinion so I won’t even consider him. The winner here is Bryant. Although Arenado’s number’s eclipsed him by the end, Bryant was the most consistent offensive player in the NL in 2016. From game 1 to 162 the 24-year-old third baseman steadied the ship at Wrigley and was a crucial piece in Chicago’s historic season, batting .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBI. Arenado didn’t really pick it up until after the All-Star break, that’s why I don’t choose him. Daniel Murphy redefined batting standards for second basemen this year, but he still doesn’t eclipse Bryant’s stellar consistency. Cal Ripken Jr., Ryan Howard and Dustin Pedroia are the only players to be Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons. Bryant will join that club this year.
American League: Jose Altuve- Astros
Three of the game’s best young players in the game are up for this one. Boston’s RF Mookie Betts, Los Angeles’ CF Mike Trout and Houston’s 2B Jose Altuve. Again, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I’ll get this out of the way. As much as I want Betts to win this award and genuinely think he’s the most deserving, I don’t see that happening because his name simply isn’t marquee enough when compared to Trout and Altuve. Everybody knows that Trout is the MLB’s golden goose, that’s what gives him the biggest advantage going in, because he’s Mike Trout. He’s without a doubt the best young player in baseball and has been the model of consistency since his debut (he hasn’t not been an MVP finalist yet in his career). However, although Trout continued doing business as usual, my vote goes to Altuve. The Astros 5’6 second baseman cemented himself further still this season as baseball’s biggest little man. Altuve led the AL in batting this season once again at .338, 20 points higher than Betts, the runner-up. However, what was most impressive of all is that Altuve stepped up his power game to a new level, socking a career high 24 homers and 96 RBI alongside a .531 Slugging %. If we are going solely off who has the highest stats, Betts is the winner because he had a higher average, more HR and more RBI. But, Altuve is the best pure hitter in baseball, and he deserves MVP honors. Again, Mike Trout is Mike Trout so it would be of no surprise if he won, but Altuve deserves it more.
Rookie of the Year will be announced tonight, Manager of the Year tomorrow, Cy Young on Wednesday and MVP on Friday. Don’t miss any of MLB’s coverage and be sure to let me know if you agree/disagree with these choices.