With the 2017 MLB season kicking off yesterday, let’s take a minute to lay out the favorites for the major year-end awards. As always, my predictions have been scientifically proven to be 100 percent accurate. You’re welcome TU.
Mookie Betts – It would be so easy to pick Mike Trout here. And not just easy, but smart too. I’ve written many times before about just how unappreciated Trout is, how we’ve all seemed to collectively ignore the second coming of a less injury-prone and more responsible Mickey Mantle and labeled him something as demeaning as “one of MLB’s brightest young stars.” If I was picking which position player would have the best year in 2017, he would be my guy. But the reality is that MVP doesn’t go to the best player — it tends to go to the guy who best combines statistical greatness with team success and a compelling narrative (highlight plays and a great personality don’t hurt either). Betts has everything going for him. He’s young, he’s cool, he’s got a great sports name, he could go 30–30, he’s the franchise player of one of the most popular teams in the game who also happens to be projected at 95 some-odd wins. This thing is Mookie’s to lose.
AL Cy Young
Corey Kluber – Further to the point that these awards don’t always go to who they should, Justin Verlander was absolutely robbed last year by Rick Porcello, pretty much entirely because Porcello won 22 games. I thought this was 2017, we’re supposed to know that pitcher wins don’t mean anything by now! If he can prove that his resurgence was no fluke, Verlander should again be in the mix for the Cy Young, but I think he loses out to his division rival Kluber this time around. Consistently underrated, Kluber is a workhorse (an average of 224 innings over the past three years) with a hammer curve, and to appease those old folks, he’s as good a bet as any to win 20 games behind the Indians’ revamped offense. Hot on Kluber’s tail will be Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka, with Chris Archer and James Paxton acting as a couple of dark horse candidates as well.
AL Rookie of the Year
Andrew Benintendi – This pains me to say as a Yankees fan, but Benintendi looked like the real deal for Boston in his brief callup last year. Kid is on his way to becoming the next great Red Sox left fielder, following the likes of Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Manny Ramirez and the immortal Carl Crawford.
Bryce Harper – Bryce is back baby, and it’s not just because I have him on my fantasy team! In the wake of his miserable 2016 season, we seem to have forgotten that Harper put up the best offensive numbers since peak Barry Bonds the year before, and that he is arguably the most hyped talent in the history of the sport who is still just 24 years old. He’s going to hit 50 home runs, toss his glorious mane back out of his face after every one of them, lead the Nationals to the best non-Cubs record in baseball and continue on his noble quest to “make baseball fun again.” Oh, and he’ll be accused of steroid use by naysayers along the way.
NL Cy Young
Noah Syndergaard – That’s right, neither the best pitcher on the planet nor the reigning champ are taking home the Cy this year! Clayton Kershaw will always be the favorite when he’s healthy since he’s literally a longer-tenured reincarnation of Sandy Koufax, but I can’t shake the feeling that his back injury is going to be a lingering ailment. And Max Scherzer … well … he’s going to be great again, no getting around that. But Syndergaard, aptly nicknamed Thor for his flowing golden locks and musclebound frame, is armed with some of the best raw stuff I have ever seen in a pitcher. He led all of baseball with a 2.23 FIP last year and is poised to take on a full workload in his third big league season. With a fastball that touches triple digits and a trio of devastating offspeed pitches, he’ll also strike out 300 batters and firmly establish himself as the baddest m’fer on the planet.
NL Rookie of the Year
Lucas Giolito – I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for Italian last names. Giolito is the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, which means a hell of a lot even if he struggled mightily in his six-game cup of coffee last year. His frame and pitch repertoire project a lot like Syndergaard’s and he’s already proven his dominance in the minors, with 9.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 ratios and a 2.73 ERA. Giolito won’t just be the runaway RoY winner, he’ll get his name in the Cy Young conversation as well.