Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Award Winners and World Series Victors

I’m doing this a bit earlier than normal this year, and that could wind up being a silly decision depending on injuries and how Spring Training plays out. Regardless, we aren’t sitting on a slew of unsigned talent in early March, and I’m confident with the look of many big-league squads going into 2020 at this point. Let’s hand out some hardware.

The Washington Nationals will head into the season looking to defend their World Series trophy. That hasn’t been successfully accomplished in 20 years, since the New York Yankees ripped off three in a row. I don’t see that trend changing in 2020, and that should be an exciting reality for baseball fans. The sport has never seen so many young superstars, and the landscape of the league’s best is once again shifting.

Here's what I had going into 2019. I got a couple of the awards right, and nailed the World Series, but ultimately came up just short of getting the winner.

MVP: American League – Mike Trout (Dark Horse Gleyber Torres) National League – Bryce Harper (Dark Horse Kris Bryant)

Until further notice, Mike Trout is the selection in the American League. He’s not only the greatest player in the game right now, but very well could be the best we’ve ever seen do it. There isn’t a hole in his game, and he seems to find ways to take another step forward each year. The Angels star now has a more loaded lineup around him and will look to get back to playing 150+ games. Generating 10+ fWAR for the first time since 2013 seems like a good bet.

After signing the massive deal with the Phillies, Bryce Harper had somewhat of a disappointing season. You’ll certainly take an .882 OPS any day of the week however, and now acclimated entering his age-27 campaign, a jump back up to a 1.000+ OPS is something I’m comfortable with. Marry the last two years patience and production to generate something that should be near the total package.

On the dark horse side, it’s more about what I like in each situation as opposed to legitimate threats to the actual award. Gleyber looks like an absolute superstar, and the Yankees are already going to be leaning on him heavily. Bryant has been plagued by injuries and underwhelming narratives, but he’s still coming off a .903 OPS. I don’t know what the Cubs will do, but he’ll stir that drink for sure.

Cy Young: American League – Gerrit Cole (Dark Horse Jose Berrios) National League – Walker Buehler (Dark horse Jack Flaherty)

Switching teams worked out well for Cole the last time he did it, and there’s no reason to expect his dominance to fade in New York. He’s pitched in a hitter’s ballpark before, and the Yankees rotation will count on him heavily. I tabbed Buehler as the pick last year in the National League, and I might have been just a year early. He finished with the 4th best fWAR and could certainly catch the two Nationals arms in the 2020 season. This is still Jacob deGrom’s title to lose, but I like the Dodgers ace.

Maybe recycling Jose Berrios as a dark horse here isn’t fair, but he’s truly so close. A strong finish to his 2019 would’ve have him in a much better position, and he still finished 7th among AL starters in terms of fWAR. Minnesota is going to make noise again, and he should be expected to lead the rotation. If you’ve watched the Cardinals at all then there’s nothing under-the-radar about Flaherty. He’s a stud and emerging as one of baseball’s best arms. He mixed into the tier right below elite territory last year, but another step forward would have him second to no one.

Rookie of the Year: American League – Luis Robert (Dark Horse Jo Adell) National League – Gavin Lux (Dark Horse Mitch Keller)

One of the chief requirements in garnering Rookie of the Year consideration is playing time, and Luis Robert will have that on his side. He’s an uber-prospect and will be with the White Sox from the jump. I’d expect some growing pains, but there’s too much talent not to side with the favorite in the AL. Lux made his debut last season for the Dodgers and will be unleashed fully in 2020. He’s a middle infield stud and should have little issue producing with a star-studded lineup around him.

Back to that playing time issue, which is the only reason I don’t like Adell over Robert. I think the Angels start their outfield prospect in the minors and holding him out for a month or two could make the counting stats lag behind. He looks the part of a worth specimen to play in a Mike Trout led outfield, and you can bet he’ll hold his own. Keller’s big-league career began ugly with the Pirates last year, but he’s far too talented to continue going down that road. He still has rookie eligibility and should use the lessons from 2019 to establish himself as a very good arm for Derek Shelton’s squad.

American League- Yankees, Twins, Astros Wild Card – Angels, Rays
National League- Braves, Cubs, Dodgers Wild Card – Reds, Nationals
ALCS – Twins over Yankees
NLDS – Dodgers over Braves
World Series – Dodgers over Twins

This probably comes off looking like a homer pick, but the Twins showed they’re for real last year. Sure, they didn’t hit in a three-game sample size against New York, but this is a team that will win less regular season games and ultimately be better positioned in the Postseason. Both New York and Houston are going to be very good, but losing Severino is a big blow, while the Astros are eventually going to be squashed by the scrutiny. One of the most interesting teams in the AL this year should be the Angels.

On the National League side, it’s hard to look away from the talent Atlanta has throughout the lineup. Acuna is established, but I think Albies is the guy that takes another step forward. That division will be tightly contested, but I like Washington more than I’ll ever trust the Mets. Chicago is a complete wild card, and Cincinnati is one of those “won the offseason” clubs. It all comes down to how good the Dodgers are, and the only definition needed there is “very.”

Los Angeles has come up short two of the past three years. That ends in 2020 regardless of who is across the diamond. Mookie Betts wasn’t even a necessary addition, but with him in the mix, they’ll be an unstoppable force come October.