Predicting NL Award Winners

Posted: 04/01/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

At the end of the season, one of the biggest questions is: Who will win each award? Today I’ll try to predict the NL award winners.

NL MVP:
Frontrunners: Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Matt Kemp, Buster Posey
Darkhorses:

Bryce Harper: I know what you are thinking- Bryce Harper is a darkhorse candidate? Actually, he is, at least for MVP. People expect him to take a big step forward this year, but not to this extent. I think he can pull it off. Harper’s talent is incredible, and he had what was possibly the best 19 year old season ever. Even Mike Trout, the greatest thing since sliced bread, hit .220 in 135 plate appearances with a .672 OPS. Harper hit .270 with 98 runs scored, 22 HR and 18 steals last year, numbers that should improve greatly. I don’t think a sophomore slump is in Harper’s future. He’s just too talented. Plus, he hit .478 in spring training with a 1.216 OPS. Harper is hitting in an improved lineup, and should hit 3rd in the lineup. Harper is for real, and in his 20 year old season he should take a huge leap forward. He will also get a boost for being the best hitter on the best team in baseball, albeit an unfair one.

2013 projections: .284 average, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 97 R, 23 SB, .874 OPS

Allen Craig: If Allen Craig stays healthy, he has a real shot at the award. Craig is a terrific hitter. He has a .863 career OPS in just three seasons, and he should be entering his prime now at age 28. Craig has a career slugging percentage over .500, which is great. He should also hit near the middle of the lineup on a good offensive team. Still, the problem for Craig is health. He played just 119 games last season, and those 43 games missed are a huge chunk out of the season. As a testament to Craig, he did hit .307 with 22 homers and 92 RBI while playing with nagging injuries all year. I don’t expect Craig to play 160 games, but 150 could be plausible.

2013 projections: .312 average, 28 HR, 101 RBI, 85 R, 4 SB, .908 OPS

Justin Upton: Could everything come together for the talented Justin Upton this season? It could happen. It’s not as if Upton has been awful. His 162 game averages are 24 home runs and 18 steals. But this season he is playing with his brother, B.J., after an off-season trade to a much improved team. Upton is probably going to hit #3 in the lineup, which will boost his counting stats, and he has already shown improvement with six spring training home runs and a .919 OPS. Upton doesn’t have many weaknesses, but he does strike out a lot, which will probably keep his average from the .300 range. If he goes 30-20 and becomes the best hitter on a playoff team, he could win it.

2013 projections: .286 average, 29 HR, 93 RBI, 104 R, 22 SB, .857 OPS

Overall NL MVP predictions:
1. Joey Votto- He is the best pure hitter in baseball, and if not for an injury last season, he would have won the MVP. Votto had a 1.041 OPS last season, tops in baseball, and would have won the batting title had he qualified.

2. Matt Kemp- Just like with Craig, it’s all about the health.

3. Bryce Harper

4. Ryan Braun

5. Justin Upton

6. Allen Craig

7. Buster Posey

NL Cy Young:
Frontrunners: Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain
Darkhorses:

Johnny Cueto: For a guy who finished 4th in the voting last season, Cueto is surprisingly overlooked and under appreciated. Last season, he won 19 games, pitched 217 innings, and finished with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Now, at age 27, he is entering his prime and is the ace of one of the best teams in the major leagues. He could easily win 20 games, and while I don’t think that matters too much, the voters do. I bet that 20th win would have made a difference in the voting last year.

2013 projections: 18-9, 2.82 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 161 K

Adam Wainwright: He makes this list for me for the second straight year. After I said he’d finish 5th in the voting, he ended with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. But the advanced stats tell a different, and brighter, story. His FIP and xFIP were near the numbers he posted in the years he finished 2nd and 3rd in the voting (2010 and 2009, respectively). He strikes out a ton of guys, pitches on a good team, and just signed a 97 million dollar contract. Something tells me he is going to have a good year.

2013 projections: 16-8, 2.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 201 K

Madison Bumgarner: Most people believe Matt Cain to be the best pitcher in the Giants rotation, but Bumgarner could dispel that notion this season. Last year, in his age 22 season, Bumgarner had a 3.37 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP with 191 strikeouts, numbers in line with his 2011 stats. He is still young, but has tremendous ability and has proven himself as an elite pitcher already. I believe he has the potential to be better than Cain, and this could be the year that he steps forward.

2013 projections: 17-10, 3.02 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 209 K

Overall NL Cy Young Predictions:
1. Clayton Kershaw: He is the most talented
2. Stephen Strasburg: No innings limit this  year
3. Adam Wainwright: An ascension back into the elite awaits4. Cole Hamels
5. Madison Bumgarner
6. Matt Cain
7. Johnny Cueto

NL Rookie of the year predictions:

Top three candidates:

Shelby Miller, Cardinals: Despite a rocky season in AAA last season, Miller was called up to the Majors in September and pitched very well. Now he has a starting job, and he has the ability to pitch well. He did well in spring training, but is really on here for two reasons:
1. He is guaranteed a job
2. He was a top prospect entering last season

Projected stats: 13-8, 3.83 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 132 K

Jedd Gyorko, Padres: Gyorko was also given an every day spot, and he’ll start at 2nd or 3rd for the Padres this season. He can certainly hit. In his minor league career, he has posted a slash rate of .319, .385, .529 for a .914 career OPS. He has hit 55 home runs in the last two seasons, but I don’t think he can keep of those power rates. Still, he is a top 75 prospect on most lists, and will be given an every day job. Plus, he has the track record of being a good hitter. Seems like a pretty good bet.

Projected stats: .273 average, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 64 R, 5 SB, .742 OPS

Gerrit Cole, Pirates: Cole isn’t starting the season in the major leagues, but is possibly the best pitching prospect in baseball, and could end up as a Stephen Strasburg clone. He should get called up in May or June at the latest, which  would give him four months to put up stats good enough for a rookie of the year award. Remember, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were called up at the end of April last year.

Projected stats: 10-7, 3.84 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 112 K

Other candidates: Julio Teheran, Adam Eaton, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Overall Projections:
1. Gyorko
2. Cole
3. Miller
4. Eaton
5. Teheran
6. Ryu

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