- Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox, RF
- For fans of the reigning AL MVP (myself included), you’ll be more than happy to read that Betts is among my early favorites to repeat. His blend of athleticism and sheer offensive talent is almost unmatched in baseball. If the Red Sox reach the playoffs (so basically a sure thing) he’ll be in the conversation for Most Valuable Player in 2019. It’s important to note that he’s the best baseball player in the American League on a contending team…which is pretty important when you note a pretty big name who didn’t make the cut.
- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, RF
- If you haven’t already read my predictions for the season standings this year, you absolutely should. To give you the most brief and relevant recap though, the Bombers are my pick for best record in the bigs in 2019. As a result, somebody on the squad is guaranteed to get a nomination for the hardware. And when you look at what a healthy Judge was able to do back in 2017, it gets you excited to see him locked in for a full campaign this year. Is it really even possible to tamper expectations for a 6’7 line drive hitter with pretty elite athletic ability, especially when you consider he already was an MVP runner-up in his rookie season?
- Alex Bregman, Houston Astros, 3B
- Ask anybody around the game, and they’ll tell you that nobody in the Majors is more invested in baseball than Alex Bregman. The kid breathes baseball, and 2018 proved to continue his upwards-trend of on the field production. Although few are prepared to hand him the title of best-Astro with Jose Altuve still in peak-form, Bregman’s play and persona has launched him into the stratosphere of super-stardom in a game that is devoid of big names. It might be best for baseball if the young infielder continues to rise up the ranks to his first MVP award in the same season that the Houston Astros eclipse the 100 win mark for a consecutive year.
- Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses:
- Mike Trout, LAA, CF – He’s the best player in baseball…his team isn’t…
- Jose Altuve, HOU, 2B – It’s him or Bregman, I’m just betting the latter.
- Jose Ramirez, CLE, 3B – No Lindor means he HAS to be great this year.
In what will undoubtedly be a very close vote, the Baseball Writers of America will choose to award the man whose play is most indicative of today’s game. If you didn’t know…that’s Aaron Judge. He has the raw power that could eclipse the single season home run mark without anyone so much as batting an eye. Throw in the fact that he takes every at-bat to a 3-2 count, and you can’t really debate his effectiveness in a modern era emphasizing the three true outcomes (Home Run, Walk, Strikeout). I’m saying he gets the hardware on a line of .295 Batting Average/55 Home Runs/130 Runs Batted In. For those keeping score at home, that’ll be two out of the three triple crown categories.
- Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, SS
- Talk about a freaking come back, am I right? People seem to have cooled off on Seager’s potential quite a bit since he missed all of the 2018 campaign with an injury, but before that he was projected as a surefire MVP in the next few years. So why not 2019? He’s very protected in a still-stacked LA lineup, and if the Dodgers take the NL West as easily as I fear they might, somebody from this team will get the nod as a nominee. Add the narrative of good-guy Seager bouncing back to All-Star form in the wake of the vilified Manny Machado leaving Hollywood, and this is a guy the world will root for to win.
- Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies, 3B
- There should be absolutely no debate at this point that Nolan Arenado is the stand-alone best player in the National League. If it weren’t for Mike Trout, he’d be running roughshod over the league with the title of best-in-baseball. He might be the most consistently great player the baseball world has seen since Barry Bonds, and he might take the award on sheer baseball writer’s guilt, for them not having already given the man the hardware he’s proven time and again he deserves. Whether they get in to October baseball or narrowly miss the cutoff, their sheer competitiveness alone all year will mean the voters will be more lenient with Arenado than they’ll be with Trout on a non-contending Angels squad.
- Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies, RF
- Weird that it sickens me to my very core to mention the perennial-pretender in the same breath as ‘MVP’, but Bryce Harper is still a very good ballplayer. In Philadelphia, he finds himself in a better situation for him where he gets tucked between a ton of other lethal offensive weapons on a nightly basis. That means more pitches to hit, in a stadium more conducive to the lefty-power approach of the $330 Millon Man. Overrated? Possibly. MVP-Candidate? Probably.
- Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses:
- Juan Soto, WSH, LF – He’s only 20…relax he’ll get one soon.
- Christian Yelich, MIL, RF – Consecutive MVPs are reserved for sluggers.
- Joey Votto, CIN, 1B – Damn it he deserves better than Cincy.
Just as with the standings themselves, baseball’s MVP picture is very different in the AL and NL. In the AL, it’s top heavy with just a few obvious contenders. In the NL, well…just about every team in contention has two guys who might do it. What it comes down to ultimately in this one will be a rare feel good story in Hollywood. Corey Seager gets the hardware on the back of a .315 Batting Average /33 Home Runs/100 Runs Batted in year. He won’t lead the league in a single category, but in anchoring his franchise’s lineup en route to another NL West crown, it’s going to be a happy moment for baseball fans everywhere to see him justifiably win MVP after a year away from the game. I think far too often we forget that narrative plays just as big a role in MVP voting among writers, as actual stats do.
AL Cy Young
- Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins, RHP
- Have you ever watched someone play really early on and just instinctively known they were going to be a superstar someday? That’s the best way to describe to you my lengthy love affair with Jose Berrios, the Twins’ best superstar-caliber prospect since Mauer-Morneau era. Every time he takes the hill for Minnesota he brings with him this presence that captivates your imagination and makes you believe he can throw a perfect game every time out. Berrios is going to win a Cy Young, possibly a few, is this the year for him to get his first?
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays, LHP
- I will be the very first person to raise my hand and say I wrote Blake Snell off as a probable bust heading into last year. In a year when I projected the Rays to be a revolving door of trade bait in yet another rebuilding attempt, I expected them to try and sell high on Snell before the rest of the baseball world caught wind that he wasn’t up to snuff or the billing of top prospect. I was wrong. What he proceeded to do for a 90-win Rays team en route to a Cy Young award was phenomenal, and he deserved every single vote he got. The BBWA has a tendency to avoid re-upping on previous AL Cy Young winners especially in consecutive years, but Snell very well could buck this trend.
- Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros, RHP
- Quite possibly the biggest heartbreak I faced in 2018 was not the playoff L the Bombers took courtesy of Boston, but a more crucial L they took via Houston before the season even began. The Yanks nearly reeled in Gerrit Cole from the Pirates for a handful of prospects, but ultimately balked at the inclusion of Justus Sheffield (who they later unloaded for James Paxton). Cole is potentially a perennial candidate for this award, and the Yanks are currently devoid of those kind of arms. Instead though, Cole will be racking up the award nominations left and right well into the next decade for a Houston Astros squad that’s destined to be a dynasty threat.
- Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses
- Chris Sale, BOS, LHP – I’m predicting a down year…but he’s still Sale…
- Justin Verlander, HOU, RHP – Again, it’s one Astro or the other here.
- Trevor Bauer, CLE, RHP – He might not finish the year in the AL, so…
I can’t tell if I’m happier about the AL MVP nod or the AL Cy Young nod honestly. I’ve got Jose Berrios winning his first (of several) Cy Young awards at the ripe ol’ age of 25. It’s a feel good story for him and the franchise who drafted him, as they ride his 2.20 ERA and 240+ strikeouts to a playoff berth after a pretty down year. This team is in desperate need of a superstar and with Miguel Sano’s inconsistencies early on, Berrios provides them with the kind of homegrown talent fans haven’t been able to get excited about since Johan Santana’s exodus from Minneapolis over a decade ago.
NL Cy Young
- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, RHP
- If you don’t think Max Scherzer is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball, then I’m sorry to tell you…you don’t know baseball. Scherzer’s dominance of opposing batters now extends over 6 years, and both leagues. That’s right, he is already a Cy Young winner in the American League and the National League. And here’s a fun fact for you, nearly 50% of players on big league rosters in 2019 have struck out against Scherzer at some point in their career. Nobody else in baseball is even relatively close to that mark.
- Jacob deGrom, New York Mets, RHP
- Jacob deGrom’s 2018 was somehow the most awe-inspiring, yet tragic season ever pitched in the big leagues. He dominated hitters to the tune of a 1.70 ERA, with the comically bad Mets’ offense only being able to score enough runs to get him 10 pitching wins in 32 starts. Fun fact, that’s the third lowest number of wins for a pitcher with at least 30 starts in baseball history…but he was so damn good on his own that he still earned that Cy Young nod. The Mets’ lineup and bullpen both got way better in time for the 2019 campaign, so if he’s even a fraction of his 2018-self he’ll be an early front runner for the award this year.
- Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies, RHP
- 2018 was a coming out party for the Phillies’ ace in a major way. He dominated opposing offenses and supplied the Phils with a sparkplug that led to them contending for the NL East crown for most of the season. He completes my list of NL Cy Young finalists in 2019, which conveniently looks identical to the voting options that the BBWA had a season ago. Here’s to consistency!
- Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses
- Patrick Corbin, WSH, LHP – There’s a reason the Nats’ll win the East…
- Stephen Strasburg, WSH, RHP – This is the reason…
- Miles Mikolas, STL, RHP – I love the slider. I love the ‘stache…
Voter fatigue has long been something of a lingering issue in the American League, but in the National League it appears that the BBWA are for more favorable of consistency and the returning winners. Not totally sure why that’s the case, but it has historically been that way, and that’s why betting a past winner in NL award races is usually a good idea. Screw that logic though, I’m going balls to the wall here and saying Aaron Nola takes home Cy Young honors in the National League in 2019. The Philadelphia Philles improved their lineup in a major way this offseason, and made it a point to add David Robertson to an otherwise shaky bullpen. That bodes well for Nola in particular, because in starts last year where he was given 4 runs or more, he oppressed opponents to the tune of a 1.16 ERA. Also add in the fact that he was statistically one of baseball’s worst starters when asked to pitch beyond the 7th inning, and you see a team now tailored to help him pitch at an alarming good rate.
AL Rookie of the Year
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 3B
- Somehow I think this might be the most obvious finalist prediction, in a piece that also includes the likes of Nolan Arenado and Max Scherzer doing their usual numbers. The only thing bigger than the hype around this kid is the potential. He’s projected to hit the ground running as soon as he hits the big league roster this season, and the fans of Toronto baseball will have a superstar before them from the very first plate appearance. The only questions surrounding him at this point are his weight, and endurance for a full season…not bad takeaways for a kid who hasn’t seen any major league action yet.
- Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays, C
- I know this Blue Jays core won’t exactly be ready to take the league by storm for at least another few years, but as a Yankees fan I’m preemptively shitting bricks. Jansen is going to see more games than either of his two rookie comrades in Toronto, and his glove work will do most of his talking behind the dish. He enters the league arguably already the best defensive catcher in the AL East, which is incredibly high praise. From the offensive end, more at-bats means a quicker learning experience, so he very well could be the breakthrough talent to get behind before Vlad Jr. even steps on the field (a la Andujar and Torres for the Yanks a year ago).
- Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox, OF/DH
- How good is Eloy Jimenez? Well that question can be answered with relative ease I guess. The Chicago White Sox gave the Dominican-born slugger a 6-year, $75 Million extension…a week before he played his first major league game. That’s mind-boggling to think about. He hasn’t played a game yet, and the Chi-Sox are so concerned with keeping him long term that they already gave him a massive pay raise to garner his loyalty. He’s a big time power threat and his arm is right field ready if the Sox decide to plug him out there.
- Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses
- Bo Bichette, TOR, SS – The future is bright up North.
- Josh James, HOU, RHP – He’s going to be their 3rd playoff starter.
- Jesus Luzardo, OAK, LHP – For the A’s to contend, he has to be good.
One of these men is not like the rest. I’m of course talking about Eloy Jimenez. I understand that not starting the season on Opening Day isn’t enough to disqualify Vladdy from the running, nor has a late start historically been much of a detriment to the ROTY race. For me it’s less about the negatives for Vlad and rather the positives for Eloy. He joins an upwards trending Chicago squad, longing for a big-bat in the heart of the order. If he hits the way he’s capable of hitting, he can legitimately put up a 30-homer campaign and lift the White Sox to a point in which they at least give the Indians & Twins a brief scare mid-summer. From impact to a winning cause alone, Eloy gets the nod over the pair of young Jays, and he might have a smooth 30 dingers and 90 ribbies by season’s end in the process.
NL Rookie of the Year
- Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres, SS
- I love this kid. He’s the type of exciting, high-energy ballplayer that baseball fans have come to love in recent years. The best way to think about him is to combine the Lindor/Baez play style up the middle with the early hype & family legacy of one Ken Griffey Jr. That’s what Tatis is for the Padres early in his career, and he’s poised to put on one of baseball’s most electric shows. With Lindor out hurt, the Tatis/Machado left side of the infield tandem is my easy selection for most exciting to watch with you MLB Extra Innings subscription this year. He’s the early favorite for the award for a reason…
- Victor Robles, Washington Nationals, CF
- No Harper, no problem? That’s the motto for the now speed and contact oriented Washington lineup. Atop that order is set to be the flash in a pan rookie known as Victor Robles. Arguably the toughest out on a team that also features Juan Soto, Robles’s insane contact consistency, and high ground ball rate will mean in nearly every at-bat you’ll be forced to contend with his top-tier speed. I wish the infields of the National League the absolute best of luck with throwing him out on a regular basis. Throw in that I think he’s the most likely rookie to take home a gold glove in 2019 because of his untouchable athleticism, and you have a surefire contender for ROTY here.
- Pete Alonso, New York Mets, 1B
- I love the “Let the kids play” slogan that Major League Baseball has chosen to adopt in 2019. No where is it more exciting for me though, than with the New York Mets, who’ve opted to let their top prospect start the year in the bigs with them. This move might very well earn them a playoff spot in a rouged NL East & Wildcard picture. Without him they lack a first baseman and much needed power. How much power you ask? He already went deep in the opening series…
- Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses
- Nick Senzel, CIN, UTL – If he gets to play in 2019, he’ll win this easily.
- Francisco Mejia, SD, C – Think Gary Sanchez’s debut, less pop more D.
- Alex Verdugo, LAD, RF – The NL West’s fate sits in his hands in Right.
Ever the contrarian I suppose I should probably pick…no wait screw that, I’m going mainstream with this one: Fernando Tatis Jr. In a move that has shocked just about everyone, the Padres have opted to forgo saving service time eligibility with the second generation shortstop by starting him off in the majors on Opening Day. He’s responded handsomely already, and odds are he’s only getting started. He’s a dynamic offensive player with a solid glove and athleticism to boot. Throw in with that the fact that he’s going to have the eyes of the baseball world fixated on his neighbor, Manny Machado, and you have a recipe for success. Machado will attract the world’s gaze to an otherwise mediocre San Diego squad, and the slightly older star will also draw the heat too. That means eyes will be on the Padres prospect early and often, with none of the criticism or expectations resting squarely on his shoulders.