In conjunction with this piece, in which THT contributors predicted this season’s division standings, we’re also taking a stab at the three biggest individual awards in each league—the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. (Sure, there’s the Manager of the Year award, but that’s far less exciting.)
Every voter picked his top candidate for each award, and after the season ends, I’ll go back, score everyone’s results and let you know who THT’s greatest prognosticator of 2012 was. For now, let’s take a peek at who received the preseason votes.
National League MVP Votes Joey Votto 8 Matt Kemp 4 Justin Upton 3 Lance Berkman 2 Matt Holliday 1 Jose Reyes 1 Giancarlo Stanton 1 Troy Tulowitzki 1 Dan Uggla 1
This survey was taken before Joey Votto‘s new mega-deal with the Reds was signed, so anyone thinking players coast after signing a big contract may prefer to change his vote—but, sorry, it’s too late. With Cincinnati chosen as the NL Central winner and Votto simply being one of the best players in the game the last few years, he’s a completely reasonable choice for the hardware.
Matt Kemp might end up like last year, putting up better numbers than the MVP winner but playing on an also-ran. If the Diamondbacks can repeat while Justin Upton continues his ascent to baseball’s stratosphere, a win would be anything but shocking, while Lance Berkman being named on multiple ballots certainly is a surprise. Of those receiving a single vote, Giancarlo Stanton seems most likely to decimate the league and (hopefully) that awful home run feature in Marlins Park.
American League MVP Votes Albert Pujols 7 Miguel Cabrera 4 Evan Longoria 3 Jose Bautista 2 Robinson Cano 2 Adrian Gonzalez 1 Curtis Granderson 1 Ian Kinsler 1 Mark Teixeira 1
Another first baseman who has been one of the game’s premier talents over the last several seasons (okay, make it 11), Albert Pujols is expected to keep up his dominating ways in the AL. If he and C.J. Wilson maintain their formidable talent levels in Anaheim, a division crown and another trophy for Pujols’ overstuffed shelves could be in order.
Miguel Cabrera may no longer be the AL’s best-hitting first baseman, partly because of Pujols and partly because Cabrera’s third-base experiment just might stick. Regardless, the stick he brings to the Tigers lineup—and the fact that Detroit appears to have little competition in the AL Central—make Cabrera a serious contender for MVP.
Evan Longoria has never put it all together to have that one stellar all-around season, but three voters think this will be his year. Jose Bautista‘s bombs have led all of baseball the last two years, but a typical Blue Jays year most likely will have Toronto and Joey Bats on the outside looking in. Robinson Cano is a terrific middle infielder for the Yankees, and while that (somehow) never won Derek Jeter an MVP, it could do the trick for Cano. All of the one-vote guys have their merits, depending, of course, on how their teams do and how clutch the voters consider them.
NL Cy Young Votes Clayton Kershaw 7 Matt Cain 4 Zack Greinke 3 Roy Halladay 3 Madison Bumgarner 2 Tim Lincecum 2 Stephen Strasburg 1
About one third of our voters expect a repeat performance from Clayton Kershaw, which seems reasonable, though regression is a gnarly beast. One of baseball’s newest $20-million-a-year players, Matt Cain, came in second. His new deal demonstrates he has little to prove, though that ever-elusive run support would be helpful in boosting his win-loss record.
Zack Greinke, scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end, has to be quite happy after seeing Cain’s deal, since their overall numbers are similar. A Cy Young award would nudge up his price tag that much more. Grizzled veteran Roy Halladay tied Greinke’s vote total, and he already has a $20-mil-a-year deal. Of course, I’m sure he’d be happy to prove himself worthy of an even pricier extension.
Madison Bumgarner probably goes to Tim Lincecum‘s house with Cain when the three of them aren’t pitching, where MadBum and Cain stare with envy at Lincecum’s two Cy Youngs. If Stephen Strasburg fulfill his potential, he could be the one every other pitcher envies in a couple of years.
AL Cy Young Votes CC Sabathia 7 Jered Weaver 5 Dan Haren 3 Felix Hernandez 2 David Price 2 Justin Verlander 2 Yu Darvish 1
Good pitching plus good run support has often been a great formula for winning the Cy, and CC Sabathia is the top AL candidate to make this equation work out for him. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren could split some votes— along with C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana—as the Angels try to regain their foothold in the AL West.
Felix Hernandez has shown that a poor record isn’t necessary these days to garner pitching hardware, but the Mariners’ severe lack of offense could test that limit. David Price, last year’s winner Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish are likely to have good hitting and/or defense backing up their pitching prowess.
NL Rookie Votes Zack Cozart 6 Bryce Harper 5 Trevor Bauer 3 Drew Pomeranz 2 Yonder Alonso 1 Brett Jackson 1 Brian LaHair 1 Devin Mesoraco 1 Julio Teheran 1
Zack Cozart has the starting shortstop job in Cincinnati, so counting stats could be his friend. Bryce Harper is only a Triple-A player, so I don’t know where those silly votes came from. Ditto Trevor Bauer, who this time last year was in high school. Drew Pomeranz will be working in the thin air of Coors Field, but at least the humidor makes it a bit less of a hitters’ paradise.
Yonder Alonso has the opposite problem, trying to hit well in the Grand Canyon… I mean, Petco Park. Brett Jackson and Bryan LaHair could be part of the next good Cubs team, but 2012 won’t be the year that happens. Devin Mesoraco calls Great American Ballpark home, but he’ll need to steal playing time from Ryan Hanigan to get enough starts for serious consideration. Julio Teheran is another player looking for PT in order to make a run at the award.
AL Rookie Votes Matt Moore 13 Yu Darvish 7 Jesus Montero 3
Well, this is a nicely streamlined ballot. Matt Moore has only 9.1 regular-season innings under his belt, but that short stint, his additional excellent 10 frames in the postseason and his minor-league pedigree make prospect mavens drool.
We discussed on our internal mailing list the possibility that Darvish may have to contend with a bit of voter bias against Japanese players winning the ROY award, though a few NPB players have taken home the trophy. If the stats are close, Moore may get the edge as a “pure” rookie, but if Darvish is clearly better, he should be recognized for it.
Jesus Montero is hanging out on the sidelines, letting the hype wave over Moore and Darvish. He also has to contend with a home park that favors hurlers. Still, he’s carried plenty of hype himself as he’s moved through the minors, and he’s rarely disappointed, so a victory by Montero would not qualify as an upset.
So, did we miss any sleeper candidates for these player awards? Is Yuniesky Betancourt going to shock the world? Will Neifi Perez come out of retirement to lead to Rockies to their first title? Can Arodys Vizcaino make a miracle recovery from his recent Tommy John surgery to win Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year in the same season? Let us know your thoughts below.
References & Resources
Here’s a file containing all our voters’ picks for the standings and the awards: THT-2012_preseason_predictions.xls.