I love making predictions. Predictions are great because they look cool in the moment but by the time the predicted event rolls around, everyone has forgotten all about your silly prediction. Last year, I predicted 6 year-end awards, two breakout players, the AL Champ, the NL Champ and the World Series Champ. I got one right - Wil Myers for AL Rookie of the Year. That 9.1% rate of success basically screams for more predictions! Today, I will predict the National League and tomorrow I will move to the American League.
Breakout Player - Gerrit Cole
Cole had a really nice, under-the-radar rookie season. It's odd that he didn't get more fanfare, as he didn't receive a single Rookie of the Year vote. Of course, there were so many excellent rookie pitchers in 2013 that Cole was overshadowed by simply being good instead of great. Cole made 19 starts, went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA, 100 strikeouts and just 28 walks. Cole had a 21.3% strikeout rate, 6.0% walk rate and a 49.1% ground ball rate. Only Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez met those three figures among qualified MLB starters in 2013. Fine company.
Back to Cole, he was sitting 95 MPH with his fastball, often touching triple-digits. His stuff is filthy and now he's got some MLB experience under his belt. Cole will join the ranks of the elite NL starters in 2014. He'll go from not getting ROY votes in 2013 to getting Cy Young votes in 2014.
Rookie of the Year - Billy Hamilton
He's going to steal so many bases. He stole 395 bases in 502 career Minor League games. He stole 13 bases in 13 games with the Reds at the end of 2013. He's stolen 9 bases in 16 2014 Spring Training games. As long as Hamilton can reach base at a reasonable rate, he's going to steal bases in massive quantities. In fact, he could approach 100 stolen bases. If Hamilton gets to that giant, round number, another player will have to have a transcendent season to take this award from him. With Oscar Taveras starting his season in the Minors and no other obvious candidate, Hamilton could run away with this award. PUN ABSOLUTELY INTENDED.
Apologies to Taveras, Archie Bradley and Kolten Wong
Cy Young Award - Stephen Strasburg
I will predict this every year until it happens. Human memory is just so strange. I'm not sure I will ever get the image of Strasburg's debut out of my mind. He was so dominant and so memorable. I think I want him to get back to that level more than he does. Ok, that's simply not true. Strasburg should have the reigns completely removed in 2014. He should eclipse his career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. His strikeout rate fell in 2013, but his ground ball rate jumped. That's a worthy trade-off when you consider that both figures are now great. Strasburg won just 8 games in 2013, but I wouldn't be shocked if he tripled that number in 2014.
For the record, Clayton Kershaw will be the best pitcher in the NL but he won't win. He's won two of the last three and voter fatigue is legit. I think Strasburg will win, but Kershaw will be more deserving.
Apologies to Jose Fernandez, Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Jordan Zimmermann
MVP - Andrew McCutchen
This was the hardest prediction. Originally, I chose Yadier Molina, but I'm troubled by his three-year strikeout rate increase and three-year walk rate decrease. Buster Posey has won the award every other year, so he's due. I picked Bryce Harper last year and want to pick him again, but he might be a better bet in 2015. Joey Votto doesn't hit enough dingers, but he's an awesome offensive player. McCutchen is the best player in the National League, but the Pirates look to be worse and I'm worried that voters will take that out on McCutchen. All that said, The MVP should be the best player in the league and that's McCutchen, so I'll take him.
Apologies to Paul Goldschmidt, Posey, Harper and Votto
League Champ - Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have outstanding pitching. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the Majors. Zack Greinke is one of the best pitchers in the NL. Hyun-jin Ryu looked good to me. Dan Haren could be the best 4th starter in the League and Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley should be able to fill the fifth starter role just fine. The bullpen is excellent too. Kenley Jansen is filthy, Brian Wilson looks to be back to form, and Paco Rodriguez is a gem waiting to be unearthed. The Dodgers aren't going to give up a lot of runs.
They should score plenty of runs as well. Yasiel Puig is a sensation. He's the most captivating player in baseball, and he can back it up with his play. The rest of the lineup is a collection of veterans who have performed inconsistently over the years. However, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp are all under 32 and if just three of those guys can perform as stars, the Dodgers' lineup will be potent.
Plus, they're 2-0 already. What a massive head-start!
The Dodgers are a lock for the playoffs in the expanded dual Wild Card format. Once they get to the playoffs, their ridiculous pitching will carry them to the World Series. They'll lose, but they'll get there. Who will they lose to? Check back tomorrow!
Apologies to the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds
There you have it. At my previous rate of successful predicting, I should get zero of these predictions right (I round down. Pessimistic!). My amazing prediction skills will be back on display tomorrow as I will forecast the American League. Spoiler alert, I do have one "homer" prediction in the queue. Try to ignore the intrigue for at least a few minutes tonight. Do something for yourself. Tomorrow, you'll get to find out what I mean.