MLB is back after an exciting offseason. Now, it’s time to project this season’s award winners.
One of the most exciting times of the year is here. Baseball is back, and speculation over the postseason picture and award races will pick up as we get deeper into the season. From now until November, the game is available at our fingertips at all times. It’s the time of year when we writers take on the task of predicting the game of baseball, which is a daunting task, to say the least. Here, I’ll do my best to pick out who will win each of MLB’s major awards this season.
Will Mike Trout remain supreme in the AL, or will a newcomer take his crown? Will the Cubs dominate the NL MVP race once again, or will familiar faces such as Harper or Kershaw win their second MVP? Who will emerge as the top rookies in the league? The possibilities are endless.
The season is young, and hope is all around. Today, every team and every player is in the running. You may not agree with the following predictions, and I am absolutely okay with that. You’ll see some selections that are obvious, and others that may not be. There is no formula for picking award winners, only a little intuition and luck. Without further ado, here are your 2017 MLB awards predictions.
I’m not exactly going crazy with this pick. According to Sports Betting Dime, he has the best odds to win NL Rookie of the Year at 3/1. His trip to the majors has been well documented, from number 1 pick to headliner of the oft-mentioned Shelby Miller trade. Now, we will see how a full season at the major league level goes for him. Last season, he came up and flat-out hit, posting a .302/.361/.442 line in 145 plate appearances. Hopes are high this season, and rightfully so. He plays defense well, holds his own at the plate and is a threat on the bases. His 23.4 percent K-rate from last season is a little troubling, but when that’s the only problem you can find, you’ve got a pretty solid outlook.
I’m still going with the odds here. Renfroe will certainly have a lot of chances this season, as there are only three outfielders on the Padres’ Opening Day roster. Much like Swanson, Renfroe had a successful stint in the bigs last year, albeit a much smaller one. He hit .371/.389/.800 in 36 big league plate appearances. Yes, you read that right, Renfroe slugged .800. Obviously that number screams small sample size, but Renfroe’s power is legit. Over a full season in Triple-A El Paso, he slugged .557 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI.
There are more concerns with Renfroe than Swanson. He is a negative on defense in right field, and his plate discipline is troubling. He strikes out a lot, which is typical for big sluggers, but he also never walks. If he can’t learn to take a walk, his time as a big leaguer may not be long. Either way, there will be homers. And lots of them.
Benintendi is the favorite here, as he should be. He absolutely raked in 185 minor league games after being taken seventh overall in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft. He got his first exposure to MLB pitching last season, and he took advantage of the playing time. Benintendi hit .295/.359/.476 in 118 plate appearances before a knee injury cut his season short.
He enters this season as the everyday left fielder for the Red Sox, as long as his struggles against left-handers don’t continue. Benintendi isn’t spectacular in the power or stolen base categories, but he can provide value in both. He is projected to be slightly below average on defense, but he has hit for average and gotten on base at high rates at every level so far. Expect big things from Benintendi this season.
Here we get a little into the crazy zone. Cotton has never been a top-100 prospect, but he came up with the A’s last year and performed well enough to earn the fourth spot in their rotation this season. Cotton posted a 2.15 ERA in five September starts with Oakland, striking out 23 and walking four. He mixes four solid pitches and has the advantage of pitching in a very pitcher-friendly park. Don’t be surprised if Cotton puts together an impressive year in Oakland this season.
Nolan Arenado cemented himself among the top players in baseball with last year’s campaign. In his four major league seasons, he has won four Gold Gloves at the hot corner, earned two All-Star selections, and finished top-10 in MVP voting twice. This is the year he finally ends up on top. Arenado is an all-around stud. He’s the rare player capable of hitting .300 with 40 home runs. He led MLB with 133 RBI last season, his second straight year with 130+. When you factor in the elite defense at third, Arenado is bound to have an excellent season that will certainly warrant MVP consideration.
Paul Goldschmidt is the rare first baseman who does it all. He has excellent plate discipline, with a career .398 OBP. He hits a lot of home runs, as he hit 24 last season after 33 in 2015. Goldschmidt has also won two Gold Gloves at first base, in 2013 and 2015. What really sets him apart is his work on the base paths. Goldschmidt has never had elite speed, but he consistently steals a lot of bases. He stole 32 bases last season on 37 attempts, an 86 percent success rate. A first baseman with speed, power and a great eye? Yes, please. Look for Goldschmidt to earn his third MVP runner-up in the last five years.
It would be too easy to pick Trout, right? Who really gets credit for picking Trout to win? Instead, we’ll go with the Astros’ second base sensation. The 5’6″ dynamo hit a sensational .338/.396/.531 last season, even with a little slump down the stretch. Altuve had career highs in home runs and RBI, with 24 and 96, respectively. He also stole 30 bases with a 75 percent success rate. He hits for average better than just about anyone else in the league and has good plate discipline, speed and power. Altuve excels at every facet of the game. After finishing a career-best third in MVP voting last year, look for him to finish on top this year.
Runner Up: Mike Trout
Mike Trout is a unicorn. He is far and away the best player in the game today, but that doesn’t always translate to MVP voting. Just ask 2013 Mike Trout. Or 2015 Mike Trout. Sometimes, overall team performance hurts a player, and that will happen to Trout this year. Without a doubt, he will have another spectacular season in 2017. He will hit over .300, have an OBP over .400 and hit 30+ home runs, while stealing a lot of bases along the way. In other words, it will simply be another season of Trout being Trout.
Kershaw hasn’t won a Cy Young in the last two years. That streak will end very soon. He is, without a doubt, the best pitcher in baseball. Kershaw finished fifth in Cy Young voting last season after making only 21 starts. He struck out 172 and walked 11. Only 11 batters walked in 149 innings. This guy is the one of the best of all-time; expect nothing but the usual dominance this year. Kershaw hasn’t posted a WHIP above 1.00 since 2012. As long as he doesn’t have any injury issues this year, Kershaw is the guy here.
You may know Bumgarner as the Giants’ playoff workhorse, but this guy is pretty good in the regular season, too. He has made more than 30 starts in each of the last six seasons, topping 200 innings every one of those years. Bumgarner’s ERA has been under 3.00 for each of the past four seasons. Even with his dominance year after year, he has never finished higher than fourth in Cy Young voting.
This is the year he finally gets his recognition, even if his division rival Kershaw bests him once again. Bumgarner strikes out a lot of batters, doesn’t walk a whole lot of batters and doesn’t give up many home runs. That’s a winning formula. Well, even if he finishes in second this year, he can always show Kershaw the rings.
Chris Sale changed area codes this winter in a move that sent top prospect Yoan Moncada to the White Sox. He has never won a Cy Young, but has finished in the top six each of the past five seasons. Sale has been absolutely dominant for the last half-decade. He pitched six complete games last season. He has a career 3.00 ERA in 1,100 innings to go with an ERA+ of 135. Sale will excel in his first season in Boston and finally get that elusive Cy Young. Being on a winning team will certainly help his chances, and Sale will be rewarded for his success at last.
Even entering his age-34 season, Justin Verlander shows no signs of slowing down. He finished second to Rick Porcello in Cy Young voting last season. Verlander had a stellar 2016, posting a 3.04 ERA with 254 strikeouts in 227.2 innings. Many thought a decline phase was beginning when he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, but he has bounced back nicely. Expect another dominant season from Verlander this year, but he’ll be left in second place for the second straight year. It could be a lot worse for the Tigers ace.