The 2018 Major League Baseball season is here!
After a truly captivating World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers last fall, there’s no telling how this year will shake out.
New Arena senior writers Harris Ahmadzai and Jason Fray will offer their awards predictions for the upcoming year.
AL Rookie Of The Year
HA: Willie Calhoun (Texas Rangers)
The Rookies of the Year from last year — Los Angeles’ Cody Bellinger and New York’s Aaron Judge – played in the two biggest markets in the country. Although they have the benefit of garnering more eyes on their play, there’s also the added pressure of performing in a big city. Calhoun (coincidentally a former Dodger prospect) faces little pressure on a Rangers team that doesn’t have a whole lot of expectations. He should get ample time to play in the outfield, and has the bat (58 home runs last two season in the Minors) to post worthy numbers.
Runner-up: Shohei Ohtani
JF: Eloy Jimenez (Chicago White Sox)
The White Sox are a non-factor in the current climate of the sport — though it boasts one of the best farm systems in baseball. Jimenez is one of those jewels. Though he’ll begin the season in the minor leagues, it won’t be long until Jimenez is mashing balls all over the South Side. His approach to the plate is far beyond his years. Duly, Jimenez has legitimate power to all fields. As for a comparison, many see 6’4″ outfielder as a young Giancarlo Stanton.
Runners-up: Francisco Mejia, Gleyber Torres
NL Rookie Of The Year
HA: Ronald Acuña (Atlanta Braves)
It’s only a matter of time until MLB.com’s No. 2 overall prospect gets his call up to the Majors. At just 19 years old, Acuña was decimating Minor league pitching all of last season. Playing at three different levels in 2017, Acuña posted a ridiculous slash line of .326/.374/.522. He’s an instant candidate for 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, and has the potential to produce even more.
Runner-up: Scott Kingery
JF: Lewis Brinson (Miami Marlins)
Miami’s misfortune is Brinson’s gain. After coming over in the Christian Yelich deal, Brinson will be given the opportunity to play every day (albeit on what should be an atrocious team). With the Marlins expected to be the worst team in Major League Baseball, there’s no pressure on Brinson to perform with any sense of expectation. Last year in AAA, the 23-year-old hit .331 with 13 home runs and an OPS of .962.
Runners-up: Ronald Acuña, J.P. Crawford
AL Manager Of The Year
HA: A.J. Hinch
I don’t feel overly confident with this pick. When weighing the other options, there doesn’t seem to be a worthy alternative. Aaron Boone has been a trendy pick, but it’s hard to envision the Yanks outperforming their lofty expectations. The same goes for Boston’s first year manager Alex Cora. Terry Francona has almost been penalized for the amount of talent Cleveland possess. He won 104 games last season, and still didn’t win the award. The 2017 recipient, Paul Molitor, and his Twins won’t be taking anybody by surprise this season.
Runner-up: Alex Cora
JF: Aaron Boone (New York Yankees)
I believe the Yankees will ultimately win the American League pennant. New York has all of the ingredients to succeed at the highest level. It will be a transition for the franchise — as Boone has never managed before. With that said, Joe Girardi’s grinding and sometimes archaic style of managing began to wear on the team. Boone is effervescent, positive, and hungry to prove himself.
Runner-up: Mike Scioscia
NL Manager Of The Year
HA: Brian Snitker (Atlanta Braves)
I don’t have a ton of confidence with this pick either. However, I am positive this award is going to a manager in the NL East. There’s a strong chance the same teams from the NL make the playoffs this upcoming year. It’s difficult to justify teams such as the Giants and Cardinals (historic franchises that have won championships recently) winning the Manager of the Year when they don’t make the playoffs. The Nationals are already strong favorites in the division, but the rest of the teams are young and hungry. The reason I settled on Snitker is because the Braves have the feel of a team that’s “one year away” from contending. Teams fitting this description over the past few years (Yankees last season, Indians the year before) have exceeded expectations before their perceived timeline. I want to be on Atlanta’s bandwagon when it takes off.
Runner-up: Gabe Kapler
JF: Mickey Callaway (New York Mets)
If the Mets make the playoffs, Callaway figures to garner plenty of praise. The line-up as a whole is older and somewhat static. There’s not a whole lot in the way of flexibility. Duly, the team may have to keep its talented yet volatile pitching staff together with duct tape. In his first year as a Major League manager, Callaway will have earned the accolade.
Runner-up: Craig Counsell
AL Cy Young
HA: Luis Severino
The third-place finisher from last year has nowhere to go but up after recently celebrating his 24th birthday. Severino has the stuff to become a powerhouse in the American League for the next decade. He’s got nasty stuff, and recorded an impressive 5.3 WAR in his first full season in the big leagues. He’ll only get continue to develop as he gains more experience under his belt. Severino likely puts together a masterful campaign in 2018, and will become the first Yankee to win the award since Roger Clemens did it in 2001.
Runner-up: Chris Sale
JF: Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)
Kluber is in the midst of a fantastic streak. He’s won 18 games in three of the last four seasons. The 31-year-old has also come away with two-straight Cy Young Awards. Last season, Kluber set career-highs in wins (18), ERA (2.25), WHIP (0.869), walks-per-nine innings (1.6), and hits-per-nine innings (6.2). There’s no reason to think Kluber will slow down as he hits the prime of his career.
Runner-up: Chris Sale
NL Cy Young
HA: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Kershaw is the safe pick. Health permitting, his stats across the board will always be among the league’s best. Although Max Scherzer took home last year’s award, there’s always a chance for Washington’s three-headed monster to cannibalize each other’s votes. Zack Grienke looks to have lost some velocity in the spring. Noah Syndergaard appears to be finally healthy, but it’s tough to trust him to make it through the year. Kershaw recorded his highest ERA in five years last season…and it was a 2.31. His numbers will be gaudy, and the Dodgers will be good, firmly cementing his spot in the discussion.
Runner-up: Max Scherzer
JF: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Had it not been for a back injury, Kershaw would’ve won his fourth Cy Young Award. The lefty out of Dallas went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA in a truncated season. Think about that for a moment. If spring training is any indication, Kershaw should be dominant once again this year. The Dodgers’ ace threw 21 1/3 innings in spring training, and finished with a 0.00 ERA.
Runner-up: Max Scherzer
HA: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
Trout has no equal on the field. He plays a solid center field, is an impossible out, and makes enough highlight plays each week to keep him on voter’s minds. He’s a lock for 30 homers and 30 doubles, and — if given the chance — 30 stolen bases. His lowest OPS in a full year — .939 – would have been fifth-best in the AL last season. He missed nearly 50 games last year and still finished fourth in MVP voting (the lowest he’s ever finished during his six-year career). Before 2017, he never finished lower than second in voting. The Angles have finally surrounded him with good talent, and a playoff berth will virtually guarantee a third MVP trophy.
Runner-up: Carlos Correa
JF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
Since entering the big leagues in 2011, Trout has figured prominently in the MVP race. The two-time winner of the award has finished in the top-four for MVP voting in six of his seven MLB seasons. This includes four top-two finishes. This year, Trout will have the luxury of performing with a far deeper line-up. The additions of Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and potentially Shohei Ohtani should give Trout more opportunities to drive in runs.
Runner-up: Francisco Lindor
HA: Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds)
In 2017, Giancarlo Stanton had one of the most impressive power hitting seasons in recent MLB memory…and he beat Votto out for MVP by just two votes. Despite Stanton’s ridiculous home run totals, it was Votto that was the toughest out in baseball last season. The Canadian recorded a league-leading .454 on-base percentage. With 2017 All-Star Zack Cozart now in Los Angeles, Votto will be relied upon even more to produce offense for this team. The term “valuable” is synonymous with Votto, as he led the Reds in batting average, home runs, RBI, hits and WAR last year. With Stanton out of the National League, this becomes Votto’s award to lose.
Runner-up: Corey Seager
JF: Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)
With Giancarlo Stanton now in the American League, the competition for the National League MVP crown is wide-open. There are tremendous candidates for the expected playoff contenders. However, it will be Harper’s year to claim his second MVP trophy. There’s considerable hoopla surrounding his impending free agent status. In what could be his last season in the nation’s capital, Harper will put on a show.
Runner-up: Kris Bryant
Image Sources: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports, Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports, Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports