With only a few weeks away until the start of the regular season, it seems fitting to discuss our too early and hype heavy predictions for the 2014 MLB Season. Will we have a rematch of Trout vs Cabrera for MVP? Will Kershaw win yet another Cy Young? What prospect will get the Rookie of the Year award? Here is the Waiver Wire’s predictions with reasoning below.
NS: Taijuan Walker, SEA
I think Seattle will be a streaky team this year and one of the headlines that will be overlooked will be the emergence of this young pitcher. Yes, King Felix will be King Felix. Robinson Cano will make waves and surely create drama as he adjusts to a team that has had a losing culture for the last decade or so. But it will be Walker that keeps this team interesting on days the other stars are not. Even with arm problems, I think he throws enough this year to turn some heads in the eyes of the voters.
GK: Xander Bogaerts, BOS
I don’t mind Sweeney’s selection of Taijuan Walker. Walker has been battling some shoulder soreness early in Spring Training, but should he be healthy for the majority of the season, he’ll help form one of the best 1-2 punches in the American League with Felix Hernandez. However, I feel much more confident that Bogaerts is going to be in the everyday line-up for the Red Sox and that he’s in the right environment for a breakout campaign. He’s a rare combination of power and speed at the shortstop position, and with Stephen Drew stuck in free agency limbo, it’ll be the X-Man’s job from Day One.
VG: Jose Abreu, CHW
I’m a White Sox fan but this doesn’t really feel like much of a homer pick to me. There’s a reason that Chicago went out and spent $68 million on a player without MLB experience, and that reason is that the dude can flat out rake. Abreu is expected to take over everyday duties at first base and turn around a franchise. In a recent Fangraphs chat, Dave Cameron said he believes that Abreu can be a top-10 or 20 hitter. He’s 27 years old, and although it might take some time to adjust to U.S. style pitching, he’s expected to make an immediate impact. The American League is loaded with potential from its rookies though. Nick and Greg could be right with Walker or Bogaerts, but I expect New York’s Masahiro Tanaka and Detroit’s Nick Castellanos to also be in the mix.
PR: Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
The Yankees paid big money for this guy during the offseason. He is the highly touted prospect from Japan and his stuff is nasty. I see Tanaka coming in and immediately making the Yankees rotation much better. I think the only thing that might hurt him is the hitter friendly ballpark that he plays in. But still I think he gives the Yankees a great season that turns into a Rookie of the Year Award for him.
MM: Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
I, too, am making a bit of a homer pick here with Tanaka but I believe that he will live up to the hype. Brought in as a solid 3-4 starter in this rotation, Tanaka will have time to develop and adjust to the majors. The thing that hurts Tanaka here is that the media believes Tanaka is the next Yu Darvish which he most certainly is not. Tanaka only needs to be the 4th best pitcher on this squad for them to succeed (have you seen the way Pineda has been throwing this spring?) but he will emerge as the competing for the Game 2 slot come playoff time and if that is the case Tanaka takes home the ROY award.
AH: Jose Abreu, CWS
It’s always hard to predict how someone from overseas will do in the MLB but everyone’s expectations of Jose Abreu are exciting. It’s not that rare to hear an upper projection of Abreu as a top 15 hitting in the MLB by the time the season is over. I think it’s harder to figure out pitching in a new country, so Tanaka may need some time to learn the ropes but Abreu could start hitting right out of the gates.
NS: Billy Hamilton, CIN
Freak of nature seems to be a requirement for the National League Rookie of the Year (Posey, Harper, Fernandez, etc.) and I think it’s safe to say that Billy Hamilton fits that category. He may not be the all around monster that Bryce Harper was but his ability to run, to make a single into a triple, is like nothing we’ve seen in the last few years. If he hits for average and can get on base, I can’t see a reason that he isn’t considered for this award. A lot of this is determined by his legs. And he will surely be a common sight SportsCenter Top 10 every morning.
GK: Billy Hamilton, CIN
He’s just so god damn fast. 100 stolen bases aren’t just in play for Hamilton; they’re expected. Batting at the top of the Reds line-up with run producers like Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce put a 120-run season in play for the speedster, should he reach base at a .330-clip. Michael Wacha would’ve been my choice if he didn’t use up his rookie eligibility last year, and I could’ve gone the homer rout and picked Noah Syndergaard, who will be up in the Majors by June. However, the threat of an innings limit to Thor makes me think that it’ll be Hamilton’s race to lose.
VG: Oscar Taveras, STL
An injury slowed down Taveras a bit last season, but make no mistake, the kid is the real deal. In AA during 2012, he belted out 23 home runs in 124 games and had a wRC+ of 159. He’s going to be a better player than Billy Hamilton, it’s just a matter of when he gets the chance to play at the Major League level. The same can be said for Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley.
PR: Eddie Butler, COL
This kid is going to be very good. I see him like a Matt Harvey type with his stuff. He throws a fastball in the mid to upper 90s, he has a very good slider, and an absolutely nasty change up. If you can have 3 good pitches and command them well, you will be a very successful pitcher. This kid has dominated every level of baseball he has pitched in so far. Don’t be surprised if he is up by mid season and takes the Rookie of the Year for the NL.
MM: Billy Hamilton, CIN
Oh how I hope Pete is right with this pick, given I have Butler in fantasy, but I don’t see his impact being Rookie of the Year status this year. The guys above me covered the speed and highlight-everyday type of play this kid is going to bring to the Reds. If he actually steals 100+ bags and can score in the 110-150 runs range he should be a lock for the award.
AH: Travis d’Arnaud, NYM
If Billy Hamilton really steals 100 bases, he’s a lock for the award, but I don’t think he will. d’Arnaud is my pick mainly because I’m not too excited about a lot of the NL rookies but we know d’Arnaud is going to get the start right away which gives him opportunity.
NS: Ned Yost, KC
2014 is the year of the Royals. He will bring that team from middle of the pack to a division winner (I’m not convinced in the Tigers this year) and a playoff birth. He has the tools to do it and he will find a way to get it done. I’m seeing a winning record and a nice lead over the rest of the American League Central.
GK: Joe Maddon, TB
It might not be the sexy pick, but I prefer to be right. The Rays certainly have the raw talent to not just compete in the American League East, but win the whole division. Nobody schemes and shifts as much as the Mad Doctor, and he brings out every drop of talent from his whole roster. Sure, the award could go to a manager that takes an unsuspecting team to new levels (and it usually does), but Maddon is pound-for-pound the best manager in baseball, so he’s my pick.
VG: Bob Melvin, OAK
Joe Maddon is one of the top managers in baseball year in and year out. If he won this award every year, it really wouldn’t bother me. But at this point, the Rays are expected to be there and this award is usually given to the manager of a team who is a bit of a surprise. I feel like, even despite their success the past two seasons, the general perception of the voters is that Oakland isn’t THAT good. This is all speculative, so maybe I’m wrong, but I think another competitive season for the A’s could give Melvin the edge.
PR: Joe Maddon, TB
I have to agree with Greg on this one. Maddon is such a great manager. He gets so much out of his players and they always work hard and play hard for him. He has taken the Rays from the joke of the MLB to one of the best teams in all of baseball over the past 8 years. The Rays lose good players and he just coaches up the next batch of them and turns them into a winning team. I agree with Greg on the fact that Maddon is probably the best manager in all of baseball.
MM: Joe Maddon, TB
One of the top-3 managers in baseball for a reason. I expect the AL-East to be competitive again and if the Rays are in the mix with the big boys again this year, Maddon should win his third Manager of the Year award.
AH: Joe Maddon, TB
Maddon is phenomenal at managing a baseball team and the Rays have one of the best teams in baseball. He knows where to position the defense in every situation, plays in a very tough division, and if the Rays meet expectations, he should be a lock.
NS: Bruce Bochy, SF
The 2013 San Francisco Giants had a lot of issues. A lot of things just didn’t pan out the way they should. With a few new arrivals and a healthy rotation, it’s tough to not like Bochy for this award. He has some of the biggest obstacles to overcome and he’s done it before.
GK: Matt Williams, WSH
Matt Williams finds himself in a lucky situation, in the sense that he’s taking over a team that really under-performed last year and is favored to win the National League East this year (and this was before Braves starter Kris Medlen suffered a potentially serious injury in a Spring Training game). The Nationals have arguably the best rotation in baseball and a strong line-up from top-to-bottom. If they don’t win 90+ games this year, that would be considered a huge disappointment. They have the luxury of playing in the same division with the lowly Marlins and Phillies, and nobody is certain what to expect from the Mets. It could come down to the Nationals or Dodgers for best record in the league, and I think the writers will be more impressed with the rookie manager Williams than Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly.
VG: Matt Williams, WSH
I was actually between Bochy and Williams myself. If a team beats out the Dodgers, who come in with all the hype, that manager is the front-runner for the award. But I really like what Washington has here from a roster standpoint, and as FanGraphs recently pointed out, they have the weakest schedule in MLB. If there is a team to threaten to get to 100 wins, I think it’s Washington. That type of season, especially for a first year coach, can create a lot of buzz.
PR: Mike Matheny, STL
I have seen a lot of Matt Williams in this prediction, but to be honest, I really don’t see it. The Nationals to me are overrated, and Matt Williams has no coaching experience so this prediction seems like a shot in the dark for people who just expect the Nats to win. I’m going with a coach and an organization that I know will be up near the top at the end of the year. Matheny and the Cards are a very dangerous team. They lost in the World Series last year and I don’t see any reason that they can’t be back this year.
MM: Bryan Price, CIN
Here is where I go out on a limb and probably sound a bit crazy. Price is walking into a good but not great team in the Reds, the roster screams playoffs but not World Series. I think in his first year Price is going to challenge the Cards for the NL-Central crown and if they are still in the mix come September, Price should be in the discussion for this award. As Pete said, the Cards are a popular pick for the NL spot in the World Series, so if a first time manager can compete with that for the division crown, he should win the award.
AH: Matt Williams, WSH
Kaplan hit the nail on the head. The Nationals under performed last season but still have the talent to make a deep playoff run. Taking over as the new manager and having the team play up to its talent will get Williams the praise of turning the team around. He’s in a fortunate position.
NS: James Shields, KC
He is a Max Scherzer-like pitcher who, on his A-game, dominate any line up in the American League. His fantasy statistics line will be extraordinary once again and he will lead those Royals to a game or two in October. Shields has constantly flirted with dominance in the last few years and he will put up numbers worth remembering and finally get his due.
GK: David Price, TB
The Tampa Bay Rays are going to find themselves in a very strange situation. They’re expected to be one of the best teams in the American League, but have an ace that is quickly growing out of their price range. David Price is well aware of this, and regardless of where the Rays find themselves come June in the standings, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they traded Price while the stove was on fire. If Price stays, there’s no questioning his ability. After an forearm injury sidelined him in the beginning of the year, Price was the rotation stalwart we all remembered. I expect him to be in 2012 form and capture his second Cy Young.
VG: Yu Darvish, TEX
Darvish was absolutely spectacular last season, posting a 2.83 ERA and a k/9 of 11.89. In his two seasons he’s posted FIPs of 3.29 and 3.28, respectively and WARs of 4.9 and 5.0. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and he showed significant improvement in his control in 2013. He’s on a team where he can rack up 20 wins, which is of course something that the voters keep in mind. My only worries are that he pitches in a hitter’s ballpark and his defense didn’t get any better with the additions of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder, which could inflate his numbers a little bit. Still, he’s so good at striking out batters that that might not be much of an issue. I expect all the usual suspects to be in play here in Price, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez as well.
PR: Chris Sale, CHW
David Price is probably the smart pick here for me. But I am going with the other powerful lefty. If his team could only score him some runs last year he would’ve looked a lot better in the eyes of the voters. I first saw Sale pitch last year and I fell in love with this kid immediately. He reminds me of Randy Johnson, tall, hard throwing sidearm left handed pitcher with a hard fastball and nasty off speed stuff. I think he breaks out this year and shows everyone that he is one of the best pitchers in the league.
MM: Yu Darvish, TEX
Darvish has been well worth Texas’s hefty investment and has an incredible first 2 years. If not for Scherzer posting a ridiculous 21-3 record, Darvish was the pick last year and without another dominating performance by one of the other usual suspects in this conversation, Darvish will continue to develop his skills and be the ace that he was brought in to be, I expect him to post around 17 wins, with a sub-3 ERA which puts him atop the early season ballot for me.
AH: Felix Hernandez, SEA
Felix has always been in the conversation for the Cy Young and by a lot of measures, he has been getting better every year. His K/9 has improved every year since 2007 and his BB/9 and FIP have improved in each of the past 2 years. He’ll need some run support to get wins, which for SOME reason is considered in Cy Young discussions, but I like him to take it home this year.
NS: Adam Wainwright, STL
It would be easy to say Clayton Kershaw. And I would be smart to pick him. But I think he has some serious competition in Adam Wainwright. It will come down to these two men dominating the National League and both will be instrumental in their returns to the playoffs. But Wainwright often flirts with dominance and seems to be doing it on a more common basis the last few years. I may have some bad taste in my mouth for picking a Cardinal that assisted in the 2006 downfall of my New York Mets, but I’m going to stick with him.
GK: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Again, I applaud Sweeney for stepping outside the box and talking about someone not named Kershaw as this year’s Cy Young winner. However, it’s not going to happen. Kershaw isn’t just the best pitcher in baseball today, but he may be the most complete and dominate pitcher the game has seen since Pedro’s prime in 1998-2002, and he could be better than that. If it wasn’t for the magic of R.A. Dickey in 2012, we’d be talking about a three-time defending Cy Young award winner. Someone’s going to have to blow the door off its hinges to take down Kershaw.
VG: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Pretty much everything Greg just said. Kershaw is as dominant a pitcher as we’ve seen in quite some time, and he’s only 25. Voter fatigue or a potential injury is all I see standing in his way.
PR: Matt Harv…. …. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
“Sigh”…. Well I can’t put the phenom from CT as this pick unfortunately. So I have to go with Kershaw. There really is no reason to believe that there is another pitcher that is on his level right now.
MM: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Kudos for Sweeney for going against the grain and inadvertently giving the rest of us the point on this one. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball until someone comes and dethrones him, until that happens, he is the pick.
AH: Stephen Strasburg
I’m going to switch things up and go with Stephen Strasburg. The guy hasn’t even turned 26 yet which means he’s still growing into the prime of his career. He’s been a strikeout monster so far and if anyone is going to give Kershaw a run for his money, it’ll be him.
NS: Billy Butler, KC
Again, although common sense may dictate that it will come down to Cabrera and Trout, I will go elsewhere (and as far as common sense, I am a willing fan of the New York Mets) and choose Billy Butler. I think Kansas City has all the right tools to really jump out in the American League Central and will be the 2014 version of the 2013 Pirates. They will be our darlings and we will root for them. Lead by the BBQ Sauce King himself, Billy Butler.
GK: Mike Trout, LAA
Apparently, Sweeney thinks big things are coming for the Royals in 2014. That’d be fun, but watching Mike Trout on a daily basis is even more fun. Look, Trout has probably been the most complete player in baseball each of the last two seasons, and hasn’t won a single MVP award because of the power of Miguel Cabrera. I’m not expecting Cabrera to fall off, but I do believe the pro-Trout sentiment is starting to turn in his favor. Even if Trout takes a small step backwards, the writers may feel like the owe him one (the fact that this scenario is possible is disgusting, but that’s the nature of the beast).
VG: Miguel Cabrera, DET
Once again, Miguel Cabrera will probably chase after the Triple Crown in 2014. While I personally think that the Triple Crown is both impressive and overvalued, the voters use it as something as a gold standard. I disagree with Greg here, too. Mike Trout only received five first place votes last year despite having a better year than Cabrera, so the tide isn’t really turning in his favor. The Tigers have an easy path to the playoffs while the Angels have to get past both Oakland and Texas, and for whatever reason, team success is still heavily considered in the voting process. I can’t see Trout blowing Cabrera away offensively and voters have proven time and time again that what you do at the plate is what scores you the most points.
PR: Adrian Beltre, TEX
I think I just surprised myself with pick, but what the hell?? Beltre had a monster year last year and nobody is talking about it. He is the best player on that Texas team and I’m sick and tired of this Cabrera vs Trout crap I hope they both suck this year and Beltre comes out as the victor. But I actually think Beltre will be a huge factor this year again for Texas and I think that he is a sleeper MVP candidate.
MM: Mike Trout, LAA
I, unlike Kaplan, do believe that Cabrera is going to fall off slightly and Trout will continue to improve on. Although the voters don’t seem to be coming around quite yet to advanced stats and including anything besides offense in this award but I think with the offense getting closer and more in Trout’s favor and he should be AL MVP.
AH: Mike Trout, LAA
It would be fun to predict someone more random here but the fact that Trout has been SO good while so young makes it hard for me to picture anyone but him. I think he continues to improve and Cabrera may drop off a little bit, giving Trout the edge.
NS: Freddie Freeman, ATL
One of the best first basemen in the National League, if Freeman improves on his crazy 2013 campaign (319/.396/.501 with 21 HR, 109 RBI) even just a little bit, I have faith that he will be in the race for MVP. The Braves are a lethal team, they may not have it all together, but any line up with Freeman in it will surely make teams just a little nervous. There is still upswing to a guy like this. Reminder: he is only 24 years old.
GK: Clayton Kershaw, LAD
The Dodgers will finish the regular season with the best record in the National League, which will in turn motivate the writers to find someone on their roster deserving of the MVP award. I have the most confident in Kershaw 1) staying healthy and 2) being truly dominant again. Justin Verlander pulled off the Cy Young/MVP sweep just three years ago, so this isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
VG: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
As long as the Diamondbacks stay competitive for a playoff spot, which they can, Goldschmidt will be pointed to as the big reason why. Last season he belted 36 home runs and drove in 125 runs, which are obviously appealing numbers to the voters. He’s got great power and is 26-years-old so I wouldn’t be surprised to see his power numbers increase even more. I see Bryce Harper as a dark horse, but I think we are still a year or two away.
PR: Andrew McCutchen, PIT
I’m going to give it to him in back to back years. McCutchen won the MVP last year and actually had a worst season than the year before because he tried to do to much early but settled down and had a truly great season. I think we have only scratched the surface of what this guy is made of. He can do it all on the baseball field, and if he helps lead the Pirates to the playoffs again, he will be collecting his 2nd MVP in as many years.
MM: Andrew McCutchen, PIT
While I do think Kershaw is going to put up MVP type numbers, I think the Cy/MVP combo won’t happen again for a while. Kershaw was the obvious Cy Young winner last year and didn’t even secure a 2nd place vote, let alone a 1st. it is hard to think he can improve enough to shrink the gap and take it from McCutchen. The Pirates will be contending for the 2nd WC spot this year and it will be thanks to McCutchen, if he can improve on his numbers from last year he should be the runaway winner again this year.
AH: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
This is more hopeful than anything since I love Paul Goldschmidt but he brings a little bit of everything to the table. He can steal a few bases, hits for power and average, and plays decent defense. The guy is entering the prime of his career and I love the idea of him coming down with the NL MVP.
NS: St. Louis Cardinals over Detroit Tigers
We are going to have a rematch of the best pitching versus best hitting. The Cardinals moved all their pieces to their premium positions and their rotation has that much more experience. Guys like Wacha and Miller and Martinez. Kimbrel 2.0 in Trevor Rosenthal. There is no reason why they don’t come back to the big dance in October. And this time, they are going to go home with the trophy in hand and rings on their fingers. No offense to Detroit of course (who will have a long drawn out battle with the Royals throughout the season.) Cabrera will have another MVP-like year, Kinsler will enjoy the new scenery, and having two CY Young winners on your team will surely help. Just not enough this time. Sidenote playoff prediction: The Oakland A’s will win the division and continue to not get the love they truly deserve.
GK: Los Angeles Dodgers over Detroit Tigers
It would be a dream World Series match-up. Think about these pitching match-ups:
Game 1: Kershaw v. Verlander
Game 2: Greinke v. Scherzer
Game 3: Ryu v. Sanchez
I’m drooling already. A lot can change between now and then, of course. But, these two teams are either the clear favorite or one of the best three teams in their league. It’s a pre-season prediction, of course, but it’s one of the safest bets and one of the more exciting match-ups for even the casual baseball fan.
VG: Detroit Tigers over Washington Nationals
Two of the best pitching rotations in baseball, even if Detroit’s isn’t quite as good as was last year. The Tigers should march to another division crown, and even though Washington has to get by Atlanta, I think they have as high of ceiling as anyone in the National League. I give the edge to Detroit but I see this series going six or seven games.
PR: St. Louis Cardinals over Boston Red Sox
I have no reason to believe that both of these two teams won’t be in the World Series again. They both have good young talent mixed with veteran players in the lineup. They both have great coaching. And they both have great pitching. I think last year was the year for Boston and I think this year will be yet another Championship year for the Cardinals.
MM: Detroit Tigers over St. Louis Cardinals
This would be a great long series featuring 2 of the best programs in the game today. St. Louis proved last year why the deserve to be in the WS and will make another run at it this year. My heart wants to give it to the Cardinals, partially because I want to see my die-hard Cardinals fan of a roommate run around our house taking a handle of Vladdy to the face like he did in 2011 but also because after living around this kid I have grown to like the team. My head says otherwise though, the Tigers are a complete franchise with all the tools to make a run back to the WS. Kinsler is going to be a sneaky great player this year and could be the piece the Tigers needed to get past the Red Sox and overcome the Cardinals in October.
AH: Tampa Bay Rays over Washington Nationals
I’m not sure how the Rays didn’t get mentioned in here at all. They boast incredible defense, great pitching, and every player on the roster seems to be good at getting on base. I think they’re the best team in the majors this season and have the front 3 pitchers to do it. On the other side, the Nationals also sport a lot of talent, specifically in their rotation. What team in the NL can compete with Strasburg, Zimmerman, and Gonzales, not to mention Fister in the rotation. Combine that with a healthy Harper, Zimmerman, Desmond, and Werth and that’s a pretty strong base.