Spring training is a time for predicting the future, so with that in mind here are my MLB award predictions for the coming season.
AL MVP: Robinson Cano — Cano has emerged as the best player on a team of All-Stars and will be expected to carry that aging, banged-up ballclub back to the postseason. Entering his contract year, the 30-year-old second baseman is poised for another big season that will seal a massive payday, perhaps in the neighborhood of $200 million. After three consecutive top-six finishes, this is the year Cano captures the trophy. Honorable Mention: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols.
AL Rookie of the Year: Trevor Bauer — Though unimpressive in his four starts last season, there’s no denying Bauer’s ability. He’s only 22 and still learning the ropes, but it’s only a matter of time before he develops into a full-fledged ace. The former first-round draft pick should earn a spot in Terry Francona‘s starting rotation this spring and will get every opportunity to showcase his talent. Honorable Mention: Mike Olt.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Victor Martinez — After sitting out the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL, V-Mart will remind everyone why he’s a four-time All-Star. Batting behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder translates to plentiful RBI opportunities for the .303 career hitter, meaning Martinez could blow past his career high of 114 RBI. Honorable Mention: Lance Berkman, Mariano Rivera.
NL MVP: Matt Kemp — With the ink still drying on his eight-year, $160 million contract, the deserving 2011 NL MVP roared out of the gates last year and seemed well on his way to another monster season before hamstring injuries derailed his momentum. Nevertheless, he proved two things: 1) his 2011 breakthrough was legitimate and 2) he’s the Senior Circuit’s best all-around player. The scary thing is, Kemp could be even better in 2013. Whereas the Dodgers center fielder had almost zero offensive support in 2011, he now bats in the middle of a loaded lineup surrounded by Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Honorable Mention: Joey Votto, Ryan Braun.
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg — The kid gloves are off, and he’s going to put up eye-popping stats without an innings limit holding him back. Twenty wins, 250 strikeouts, and a sub-three ERA are all within reach. The young flamethrower could win the pitcher’s Triple Crown. Honorable Mention: Clayton Kershaw.
NL Rookie of the Year: Travis d’Arnaud — The New York Mets don’t have a lot going for them these days, but one of the few bright spots in their organization is the power-hitting backstop they acquired from Toronto in exchange for R.A. Dickey. One of baseball’s most promising prospects, d’Arnaud posted a .975 OPS in triple-A last year. Translation: The 24-year-old masher is ready for the show. Honorable Mention: Tyler Skaggs, Gerrit Cole.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Tim Lincecum — Lincecum put his first-half struggles behind him to close out the season with a 3.83 ERA and 8.66 K/9 rate over his final 15 starts. As if that wasn’t convincing enough, the two-time Cy Young winner was lights out in the postseason helping San Francisco to its second World Series title in three years. He added some weight to his wiry frame this winter, and the change already seems to be paying off. Lincecum slumped because he lost two miles off his fastball last year, but early reports out of spring training indicate that he’s recovered some of the zip on his heater. Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett.