Thursday marked the start of yet another season of baseball With every season, comes new awards winners. Blake Snell and Christian Yelich, put together a surprising, yet strong group of award winners last season. Who will follow in their footsteps in 2019? Let’s discuss. We’ll go by least significant award to the main award.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Miguel Cabrera
Due to a biceps injury, Miguel Cabrera played in just 38 games. In those 38 games, the 36-year-old had an OPS of .843, including an on-base percentage of .395. Though it may be too small of a sample size to judge, Cabrera’s success last season provides optimism towards a bounce-back this season, and it’s hard to doubt such a consistent offensive presence. Plus, none of the other possible candidates for this award based on their story or popularity; this is an easy pick.
Runner-Up: Carlos Correa
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Corey Seager
Last season, Corey Seager, missed all but 26 games after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Because of this, it seems that he’s gone under the radar, but his presence will be felt right away. In his two full seasons in 2016 and 2017, the 24-year-old compiled a WAR of 12.8 and was one of the game’s best shortstops. Correct that he’s is one of the game’s top shortstops. Tommy John surgery hasn’t proven to negatively affect a position player’s production. Therefore, Seager should return the form in 2019, and if he does that, he’s an MVP candidate. In reality, this may be the easiest award prediction to make.
Runner-Up: Jimmy Nelson
AL Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone
Thanks to them having the most well-rounded roster in baseball (check division previews), I’m projecting the Yankees to have the best record in baseball at 99-63. Though he has a lot of talent to utilize, manager Aaron Boone should be given credit if he’s able to top the rival Red Sox, who won 108 games and the World Series last year. I’m also predicting there to be zero huge surprises in the American League; the manager of the team with the best record would by default.
Runner-Up: Kevin Cash
NL Manager of the Year: Andy Green
Projected to have a losing record by most main projections, the Padres are definitely being “slept on”. With the addition of Manny Machado and the call-up of Fernando Tatis Jr., the team’s lineup is legitimate. Plus, the bullpen is a major strength, and though unproven, their rotation isn’t awful. This is a very well-rounded club; they should make a very strong playoff push in 2019. If they follow through with the prediction by yours trurly to win 87 games, that’d be a 21 win improvement, and manager Andy Green would be the obvious choice of NL manager of the year.
Runner-Up: Mike Shildt
AL Rookie of the Year: Eloy Jimenez
Though the majority of experts are tabbing top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as the AL rookie of the year, he’s not even on the major league roster right now and is dealing with an oblique injury. Meanwhile, Eloy Jimenez is on the big league roster for the White Sox after signing a six-year extension with the team, and looks to be the clear favorite for the award. The 22-year-old posted a .961 OPS in the minor leagues last season, including a slugging percentage of .577. He’s the rare breed of a slugger who doesn’t strike out much, which points to immediate success at the major league level. Because he’s playing a full season, his stats- which will be incredible – will look better than Guerrero Jr. and other prospects. The future is certainly bright for Jimenez, and he should be one of the game’s best offensive producers immediately.
Runner-Up: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles
Like with the American League, the rookie class for the National League is stacked; Victor Robles, Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Paddack, and Nick Senzel are all extremely legitimate candidates to win the NL rookie of the year award. From those four, Robles looks like the best bet to win the award. The 21-year-old has held his own with a .820 OPS in his brief MLB career, and ranks as the 4th best prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. With well above average grades with his fielding, speed, and hitting, Robles will provide tremendous value to the Nationals. Plus, his defensive abilities will drive up his WAR, which is bound to rank as the highest among all National League rookies. Tatis Jr.’s power makes him hard to pass on, but Robles’ ability to contribute in a variety of ways earns him this award prediction.
Runner-Up: Fernando Tatis Jr.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
Somehow, Chris Sale has not won a Cy Young award yet. That’s bound to change this season; Sale has the chance to run away with this award. The 29-year-old looked bound to win the award last season; he posted a dominant 1.98 FIP. However, injuries limited him to 158 innings, and Snell won the award. Since all of Sale’s peripherals, including an elite 13.5 K/9, back up his success, he should be just as dominant this season. As long as he stays healthy, which he should since this was his first main injury in a while, he’s the easy choice to win this award. He has a chance to strike out 300 batters, pitching 200 innings, and have an ERA right around 2.00. That’s incredibly unique, and I’m not sure any pitcher in the American League can come close to those numbers.
Runner-Up: Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard
Last year, Jacob deGrom won the NL Cy Young award with a 1.70 ERA. This year, a different Mets player will win the award. Noah Syndergaard always looked to be the true ace of this staff, especially after posting a 2.29 FIP in 2016. However, injuries have limited him to 184.1 innings over the past two seasons, hurting his stock. In 154.1 innings last year, however, the 26-year-old was still tremendous with a 2.80 FIP. With a hard contact allowed of just 21.9%, it’s safe to say his BABIP allowed should have been lower than .320. With better luck, this season, the 3.03 ERA he had last season should be significantly lower this season. Plus, with his nasty pitching arsenal and ace upside he’s always possessed, there’s a chance that this could be the incredible season we’ve been waiting to see from Syndergaard. That’s what I’m gambling on; the case for Syndergaard is too strong to not side with.
Runner-Up: Jacob deGrom
AL MVP: Aaron Judge
Should Aaron Judge have won the AL MVP in 2017? With 52 home runs, a 1.049 OPS, and an 8.2 WAR, there’s a good chance he was “robbed” when Jose Altuve won the award over him. After regressing to a .919 OPS – which is still tremendous – and a 5.1 WAR in just 112 games, Judge may be overshadowed by Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. However, he’ll prove to be right on par with his rookie season, allowing him to receive the award over Betts and Trout. With a 48.1% hard contact rate, Judge’s batted ball profile is elite, which is why is expected wOBA (weighted on-base percentage) has actually been better than his actual wOBA. Furthermore, Judge’s chase rate of 25.7% proves his strikeout issues aren’t from poor plate discipline, meaning it’s reasonable to expect him to make more contact this season. There’s also Judge’s defense; with 14 drs and an 8.4 UZR last season, he was amongst the league’s best defensive outfielders. For someone to beat Trout, a player is going to need to have a 10 WAR season. That’s exactly what I’m expecting from Judge this season, who will make a statement this season with an unworldly season to win the AL MVP.
Runner-Up: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr
Easily winning the NL rookie of the year award last season, Ronald Acuna broke onto the scene with a .917 OPS and a 3.7 WAR in 111 games. What does he have in him for an encore? Oh, just being NL MVP. Acuna’s terrific production last season didn’t come right away. With a .724 OPS and a 30% K rate in the first half, he clearly had his growing pains. However, Acuna responded in the second half, posting a 1.028 OPS while lowering his K rate to 22.1% and increasing his walk rate to 10.9%. Acuna clearly was able to answer the challenge of adjusting to major league pitching. Now that he’s in his second season, a full season with the production he showed in the second half is well within his reach. Assuming his defensive metrics grade out better this season, which they definitely should, Acuna could easily have an OPS over 1.000 and a WAR of at least 8.0. That sound like an MVP to me, especially in a National League that lacks a true front-runner for the award.
Runner-Up: Nolan Arenado