Yesterday, I predicted the major National League awards and the National League champ. If you missed it, you can find it here. If you recall, I went 1 for 11 in predictions last year and I hope to at least double my success rate in 2014. Here are six more predictions, each thoughtfully considered and filled with reason, rationale and science. And math too, don't forget about math.
Breakout Player - Oswaldo Arcia
This is an unashamed homer pick and I don't care one bit. I think Arcia is going to become an excellent hitter and why not right now? Arcia's strikeout rate was way too high in 2013, but I love his aggression. He got shuffled between Rochester and Minnesota a lot more frequently than it seemed in the moment last season, so some consistent at-bats in the Majors to start the year could help him get off on the right foot. I think he'll increase his OPS+ into the 115-120 range and it won't dip below for a long time.
I have no math or science behind this prediction, I just really want this to happen and I'm the guy writing for this esteemed blog.
Rookie of the Year - Nick Castellanos
There are two "veteran" rookies who are better bets than Castellanos. Jose Abreu played professionally in Cuba and Masahiro Tanaka played professionally in Japan. These two should be farther along in their careers than Castellanos. Abreu and Tanaka could have better seasons and still receive fewer votes because of their professional experience. I think that Castellanos will get a lot of exposure on a good team and he should be one of their better performers as well. He should get ample RBI opportunities with talented hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez on base frequently.
Xander Bogaerts is the other obvious pick, but I think that Castellanos will be a better hitter and he has more Upper Minors experience. I think that makes Castellanos just a tad safer although both are terrific prospects.
Cy Young Award - Felix Hernandez
Long live the King! I am a huge Felix Hernandez fan. Hernandez has made 30 or more starts in every season since 2006, so you know he's durable. He plays in a pitcher-friendly ballpark (although slightly less pitcher-friendly in 2014 due to some changes to the dimensions). Seattle has historically done a poor job of supporting Hernandez offensively. However, the addition of Robinson Cano and the emergence of Kyle Seager gives the Mariners an improved lineup. Hernandez has proved over the last eight seasons that he is the best pitcher in the American League. I think he'll have an award-winning season for an improved and potentially surprising team.
MVP - Mike Trout
Will this be the year? In my opinion, Trout should be coming off of two consecutive MVP awards. Instead, Miguel Cabrera is in that position. Cabrera is fantastic and I don't want to take anything away from him. I simply think Trout is a better overall player and therefore, more valuable. I also think the Angels could be better than the Tigers in 2014 and we all know that team record is a factor in MVP voting. Trout is headed for his prime (a scary thought), while Cabrera will play in his first season after turning 30. I think it will be another heavyweight fight in 2014, but I think Trout comes out on top in his third attempt.
Oh right, other guys. In the American League right now, there's Trout and Cabrera and then a bunch of really great players who aren't quite Trout and Cabrera. Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano and a few others who will breakout in 2014 are in that tier. They'll be in the conversation to finish third.
Apologies to Cabrera, Cano, Longoria and Beltre
League Champ - Tampa Bay Rays
I'm picking a team that is planning to use David DeJesus in the leadoff spot and James Loney at first base as my AL champ. It's true. I love this team. I think the 2-4 spots in their lineup (Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Wil Myers) is the best 2-4 you can find. I love that they have Yunel Escobar and Ryan Hanigan at short and catcher (two personal faves). Desmond Jennings was the other guy I considered for AL breakout player, before ultimately deciding to pick a Twins player because I can.
Mostly, I love their pitching. David Price and Matt Moore are fantastic. Alex Cobb and Chris Archer are great. Jake Odorizzi should be just good enough to hold things down until Jeremy Hellickson is ready. They also have top prospect Enny Romero nearly ready to take a spot if someone goes down. Heath Bell is the fourth best pitcher in their bullpen, which is just where you want Heath Bell. With Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour for the late innings, a lot of good starts are going to be converted to good saves. Their rotation will be tough to top in the playoffs, as the Tigers are the only team who can truly match up.
Apologies to the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics
World Series Champ - Tampa Bay Rays
I had the Dodgers coming out of the NL and I think the Rays will beat the Dodgers to win the 2014 World Series. This series would be insane. Game 1 would be David Price v. Clayton Kershaw, probably the two best left-handed starters in baseball. The pitching is close, but I give Tampa the edge in lineup and defense. Of course, in a seven-game series, anything can happen. Except a third team winning, that would be illegal.
The Rays feel like the team of this current generation, so I think it would be fitting for that team to win a title before their window closes. David Price is a free agent after the 2015 season, so that window could be closing very soon. I'll take the Rays in seven exciting games!
Apologies to the Los Angeles Dodgers
What fun! I have now made 11 MLB predictions and if my record last year is any indication, I will get one of them right. If I go 11 for 11, I will print out every Word doc I have on my computer and eat them in front of a camera. I will post the video, and the ensuing hospital visit, on this blog. Keep your eyes peeled for that one! Tomorrow, I will post even more predictions! I have 11 Twins predictions and some are quite saucy. Stay tuned!