In the second part of The Warning Track’s 2016 predictions this week, we focus on the first installment of our Awards Watch and who will take home hardware at season’s end.
Most Valuable Player
The average age of all MVPs – American and National Leagues – since 2010 is about 27 years old. It’s a number that makes sense; 27 is right around when a player enters their prime, as most debut in the major leagues in their early 20s.
That number also brings hesitancy in predicting that some popular picks for MVP this year will end up reaching that status. In the American League, 21-year-old Carlos Correa – reigning AL Rookie of the Year – is the overwhelming favorite to bring home the hardware.
Despite his minimal experience (432 career PAs), it’s easy to see Correa as the second-best all-around player in the AL by season’s end, behind only Mike Trout.
His dedication certainly isn’t in doubt.
— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) April 1, 2016
His numbers from 99 games last year translates to about 35 home runs and 115 RBI over the course of a full season. Those are certainly MVP totals, and when you consider his stellar defensive play and maturity, it’s no wonder he’s the favorite.
But again…he’s only 21. If he were to pull it off, he would be the youngest MVP in history. Heck, even Bryce Harper didn’t break out until his age-22 season last year (Not that that’s much older, but he did debut when he was 19). Then again, another perennially popular pick, Mike Trout, was only 23 when he finally won MVP. Perhaps that is motivation for the even younger Correa?
The lineup surrounding individual superstars also play a part in their MVP campaigns, of course. Defending AL MVP Josh Donaldson would not have driven in the most runs in the majors last year if Bautista, Encarnacion, Martin, et al. hadn’t been on base for him bring home.
Houston’s regulars have the potential to help Correa build his MVP case in that regard, but it’s over in the Senior Circuit where the lineup factor makes one superstar stand out: Anthony Rizzo.
Not only does he almost perfectly fit the age criteria – he’ll 27 in August – but Rizzo is set to reside in the heart of potentially one of the most threatening lineups in baseball, one that features young sluggers with more experience and on-base veterans Jason Hayward and Ben Zobrist. The only thing that might hurt Rizzo is the prospect of those batting before him mashing moonshots, thus robbing him of some RBIs. Not that he’s mind.
Of course, Harper has a greater-than-good chance of repeating as MVP. But it most likely would require numbers greater than his 42 home runs, 99 RBI and 118 runs from 2015, and I’m hesitant to predict that happening with Washington’s lineup.
Still, the prospect of an even bigger year from Harper is an enticing notion. Unless you’re a Mets fan.
The Picks: American League
1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
2015 stats: 41 home runs, 123 RBI, .297/.371/.568
Predicted 2016 stats: 43 home runs, 117 RBI, .289/.357/.539
2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
2015 stats: 22 home runs, 68 RBI, .279/.345/.512
Predicted 2016 stats: 33 home runs, .288/.365/.598
3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2015 stats: 41 home runs, 90 RBI, .299/.402/.590
Predicted 2016 stats: 43 home runs, 93 RBI, .309/.406/.583
The Picks: National League
1. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
2015 stats: 31 home runs, 101 RBI, .278/.387/.512
Predicted 2016 stats: 34 home runs, 118 RBI, .298/.401/.545
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2015 stats: 33 home runs, 110 RBI, .321/.435/.570
Predicted 2016 stats: 36 home runs, 109 RBI, .329/.428/.576
3. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
2015 stats: 27 home runs, 67 RBI, .265/.346/.606
Predicted 2016 stats: 54 home runs, 97 RBI, .273/.362/.636
The age factor for Cy Young-caliber pitchers since 2010 is the same story as it is for MVPs.
The average age is just under 29; however, when removing the outlier of R.A. Dickey – who won as a 37-year-old in 2012 – the age drops down to 27.
Kershaw is the obvious choice here to win his fourth Cy Young since 2011. That would tie him for third on the all time list with Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux.
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) March 25, 2016
However, Max Scherzer’s dominant first season in the National League – in which he very nearly threw the 24th and 25th perfect games in MLB history – gives Kershaw some competition, as does the ascension of 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.
To make things even tougher for Kershaw in his pursuit of a record 8 Cy Youngs, there’s a rotation over in New York with three or four starters that are also in the mix.
And we can’t forget about his former teammate in Arizona charged with the mission of leading a renaissance in the desert.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 10, 2016
Meanwhile, in the more offensive-prone AL, if anyone is going to finish the season with a sub-2.00 ERA for the first time since Pedro Martinez in 2000, it could be the rapidly-evolving Sonny Gray, seemingly the only bright spot that Oakland has to look forward to this year.
It could also be Dallas Keuchel, who dominated the league en route to winning the Cy Young last year, or also perennial Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez.
There’s also dark horse candidates in Carlos Carrasco, who at age 29 is due for a breakout, and Jake Odorizzi of Tampa Bay. Actually, anyone on the Rays staff is capable of at least breaking out in a big way in 2016, much like the Mets last year.
One thing that is for certain: as good as the AL’s young sluggers look, the league’s up and coming arms might be even better before long.
The Picks: American League
1. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
2015 stats: 12-13, 3.23 ERA, 252 K
Predicted 2016 stats: 18-7, 2.86 ERA, 248 K
2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
2015 stats: 9-16, 3.49 ERA, 245 K
Predicted 2016 stats: 16-10, 2.99 ERA, 240 K
3. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
2015 stats: 18-9, 3.53 ERA, 191 K
Predicted 2016 stats: 17-9, 3.20 ERA, 201 K
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) March 27, 2016
The Picks: National League
1. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
2015 stats: 14-12, 2.79 ERA, 276 K
Predicted 2016 stats: 19-5, 2.12 ERA, 260 K
2. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
2015 stats: 19-8, 2.60 ERA, 202 K
Predicted 2016 stats: 19-6, 2.46 ERA, 225 K
3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
2015 stats: 16-7, 2.13 ERA, 301 K
Predicted 2016 stats: 19-9, 2.42 ERA, 300 K
Best of the Rest
AL Rookie of the Year
The Pick: Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
The Why: A career .301 hitter in the minors, Buxton is being eagerly awaited by the Twins fanbase as the one who can hopefully push them over the cusp and back into contention. Buxton has shown to be an exceptional multi-tool player, as he put on display with what was easily the best play of Spring Training.
— 120 Sports (@120Sports) March 31, 2016
The Contenders: Joey Gallo (TEX), Jose Berrios (MIN)
NL Rookie of the Year
The Pick: Steven Matz, SP, New York Mets
The Why: Because an ERA over 3.00 is frowned upon in New York.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 2, 2016
The Contenders: Corey Seager (LAD), Trea Turner (WAS)
AL Manager of the Year
The Pick: Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers
The Why: Texas is ready to be relevant again after enduring consecutive World Series losses in the early 2010s. A healthy mix of veteran hitting, veteran pitching and an uberprospect in Joey Gallo should thrust them back into contention, and Banister into the spotlight.
The Contenders: Terry Francona (CLE), John Gibbons (TOR)
NL Manager of the Year
The Pick: Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals
The Why: A veteran manager, returning from retirement and trying to reach his first Fall Classic as a manager after 3,176 games managed (thus far). A team looking to live up to the sky-high expectations of yesteryear.
The narrative is too good to pass up.
The Contenders: Joe Maddon (CHC), Chip Hale (ARZ)
Thanks for reading.
The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a fairly consistent basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as hot button topics like MLB’s expansion mission, which players could be headed to new homes, and the latest clubhouse chemistry conundrum.
If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.