Sources: Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports; Matt York/AP; Rob Carr/Getty Images; Nathan Denette
With the new season starting today, there seems like no better time to predict who I think will win the big awards of the 2019 MLB season.
Most Valuable Player:
Winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Runner-up #1: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Runner-up #2: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
I mean, is there really another option? This is obviously the safest pick in the world, but I'm in the business of being right (Don't look at my predictions from last year), not the business of making flashy, out-of-left-field picks. It's pretty simple, Mike Trout is the best player in the game today, and when he retires, he'll be known as the best player to ever play the game. He's been a major leaguer for seven seasons and has two MVPs to go along with four 2nd place finishes, and one 4th place finish; he missed over 40 games that year due to injury and was actually on pace to have the best season of his career before sustaining the injury. The reality of the situation is that it's Mike Trout and then everybody else.
Since becoming a full-time MLB player in 2012, here is where Trout ranks in the league in some of the major offensive categories:
Home runs: 5th
Stolen Bases: 3rd
Batting Average: 3rd
On-Base Percentage: 2nd
Slugging Percentage: 1st
On-Base + Slugging: 1st
Pretty good, if you ask me.
Now that obviously doesn't mean he's guaranteed to win it. As we saw last year, a player like Mookie Betts, who I think will most likely finish top three again, had by far the best year of his life and beat out Trout for the trophy. So it is possible. I just think that as long as Trout can stay healthy, it's his trophy to lose.
Bregman is by no means a sleeper pick, but I think he's really going to make a name for himself if he hasn't already. Bregman led the MLB last season with 51 doubles, while also hitting 31 home runs and 103 RBI with a .286/.394/.532 slash line. If he can get that batting average up closer to .300, he'll have a real shot at taking this trophy home.
Mookie Betts is the defending MVP and he can definitely win it again. Aside from Trout, Betts may be the best all-around player in baseball. He proved that last year with what wasn't necessarily a breakout season, but it was far and away the best year of his career. The main reason I don't see him repeating is just that I don't think he'll come anywhere close to a batting average of .346 again. He's a good enough hitter to do so, but so many things have to go right for a player to hit .346 and I just can't see him doing it in back-to-back seasons.
Winner: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians
Runner-up #1: Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros
Runner-up #2: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Trevor Bauer may not be a household name, but he should be. Last season, Bauer went 12-6 with 221 strikeouts and an ERA 2.21 of in 175 1/3 innings. He finished sixth in Cy Young voting while making his first All-Star team. He's going to have to prove that 2018 wasn't a fluke year, but if you know anything about Bauer, it's that he's one of the hardest workers at perfecting his craft. He lives and breathes pitching, and is willing to do whatever it takes to be the best he can possibly be.
Gerrit Cole is also coming off of the best year of his career and is a free agent at the end of this season, so he's looking to play himself into a contract worth hundreds of millions. Cole was traded to the Astros prior to last season and went on to finish fifth in Cy Young voting with a 15-5 record, an ERA of 2.88 and 276 strikeouts in 200 1/3 innings. Cole is a top of the rotation guy on a team that is trying to win a Championship and will put up plenty of runs to help Cole. Don't be surprised if he breaks the 300 strikeout plateau this year.
Justin Verlander is just winning at life. His wife is a super-model, he's going to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame someday and he's still one of the best pitchers in the world, as he enters his age 36 season. Last year, Verlander came up just shy of winning the second Cy Young of his career, as he finished 2nd in voting. He was 16-9, threw 214 innings with 290 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.52. He has shown no signs of slowing down and just signed a contract extension with the Astros. Verlander and Cole are 1A/1B in the Astros rotation, and just like Cole, he's looking at another gigantic season on the mound.
Rookie of the Year:
Winner: Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox
Runner-up #1: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
Runner-up #2: Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners
Eloy Jimenez may be a better player than Vlad Guerrero Jr. There, I said it. People have been so enamoured with Vlad Jr - and for good reason - that they have seemingly overlooked Eloy, who may very well be just as good of a player as Vlad, if not better.
However, the main reason I'm choosing Eloy over Vlad for this award is that I know Eloy is starting the season in the majors. Vlad is currently dealing with an injury, but even if he wasn't, he would be starting the year in the minors due to service time manipulation. The earliest that we'll see Vlad in a Blue Jays uniform is probably early May. He will definitely have a chance to catch up and pass Eloy over the course of the season, but I feel that Eloy is too good to lose this award when he has a one month head start.
I just hope that this isn't like last season when the award was given to Shohei Ohtani before the season even began because of the name and hype.
Yusei Kikuchi is going to be a 27-year old rookie this year. This is his first year in the MLB after coming over from Japan, where he played professionally since 2011. In those eight seasons in Japan, Kikuchi went 74-48 with an ERA of 2.81 and 925 strikeouts in 1035 1/3 innings pitched. He's going to be very good, but unfortunately for him, he probably couldn't have chosen a worse year to compete for the Rookie of the Year.
Most Valuable Player:
Winner: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Runner-up #1: Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
Runner-up #2: Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Nolan Arenado is one of the best all-around baseball players in baseball. Over the past four seasons, he has averaged 40 home runs, 126 RBI and a line of .297/.358/.573. His chances of winning MVP are always a bit hindered by the fact that he plays half of his game in the thin air of Coors Field. His split stats aren't ideal when considering a player for an award like this - .347/.424/.681 at home and only .248/.325/.447 on the road last season - so he will definitely have to improve those road numbers to have a better shot. Arenado is more than just a big bat though as he has played six MLB seasons and has won six Gold Gloves awards at third base.
Last season was the first year that he cracked the top 3 in MVP voting, but he has been inching up the ranks year by year and is due to have another monster season.
I think the San Diego Padres are going to surprise some people. Do I think that they're going to win the World Series? No. But I do think that they will be in the playoff race as the season is winding down. That is by and large due to the acquisition of Manny Machado. He is an incredible talent who is going to lead this ball club to the promised land sometime in the next few years. Machado has averaged 36 home runs and 96 RBI over the past four seasons, and I think he gets more of each this year. Machado is also moving back to third base full-time and will be trying his hardest to stop Arenado's Gold Glove streak at six.
Goldschmidt has been as consistent as can be over the last five or so years and now that he's on a new team and signed a lucrative contract extension, he's out to prove something. The top of the Cardinals lineup is sneaky good and Goldschmidt is most likely going to be batting second or third, which will give him plenty of runs, RBI and a chance to pad his slash line. He also may get back into stealing bases, which he didn't do much last season when he had his lowest stolen base total since 2011. If Goldschmidt can produce 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI, 15-20 stolen bases, and hit 300+ plus, he will have as good a chance as any to win the MVP.
Winner: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Runner-up #1: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Runner-up #2: Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
I don't think I have to talk that much about these three gentlemen.
Scherzer is one of the best pitchers of all-time, as you can tell by the fact that he already has three Cy Young's - one in the American League and two in the National League. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2009, Scherzer has the second most innings pitched, the most wins, the most strikeouts and among pitchers with at least 1000+ innings pitched since '09, he has the 11th best ERA. He's just a special talent and is looking to strike out 300 hitters for the second year in a row.
2018 was a great year for Jacob deGrom. He had one of the best seasons by a starter of all time and walked away with the first Cy Young of his career. The chances of him replicating his numbers from last year are pretty low, but even if he has some regression, he should have a decent shot at going back-to-back; especially if this improved Mets team actually give him some run support, leading to more than 10 wins.
Aaron Nola was phenomenal in 2018, the only problem is that he was competing against deGrom and Scherzer. Nola finished third in Cy Young voting, but with how good the other two were, it didn't even seem like Nola existed. The good news for Nola is that the Phillies are a much-improved team this season, which should only help him as he hunts down his first Cy Young. The bad news is that he has to improve on what was already the best year of his career, and even if he does, it may not be enough.
Rookie of the Year:
Winner: Victor Robles, Washington Nationals
Runner-up #1: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Runner-up #2: Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds
The National League Rookie of the Year is most likely going to be awarded to one of the top six best prospects in all of baseball.
Victor Robles is the fourth best prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, and with the departure of Bryce Harper in free agency, he's going to get his shot as an everyday player. Robles has had a few cups of coffee in the majors over the past two seasons, but not he'll be manning centre field in Washington and is poised to have a huge year. Robles isn't going to hit a lot of home runs, but he will hit somewhere near .300 and he'll probably steal 40+ bases this year. It looks like Robles will be hitting at the bottom of the order to start the season, which is actually a good thing. If he can get on base, then that means he'll have players like Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto trying to cash him in. This may be a little far-fetched, but I think Robles might score the most runs in the MLB this year.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is the second-best prospect in baseball, behind only Vlad Guerrero Jr. It was believed that Tatis Jr. would be starting the league in the minors and be called up in a few weeks when the service time is no longer a concern, but he was surprisingly included on the opening day roster. He's going to be playing alongside Manny Machado in the field and may be batting ahead of him in the lineup. Tatis Jr. is a true five-tool player, and he's going to be putting up some big numbers this year. If anybody has a chance at beating Robles for this award, it's Fernando Tatis Jr.
Nick Senzel is in the same boat as Yusei Kikuchi, in the sense that he picked a bad year to be a rookie. It's not as bad to be a rookie in the NL as it was last year when Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto were duking it out for this award, but it's still going to be tough as hell. Unfortunately for Senzel, he's already starting behind. The team sent him down to Triple-A, and then their second baseman, Scooter Gennett, was injured, leading many people to believe that Senzel would be getting called up to be the everyday second baseman. However, the Reds said that their plan is still to convert Senzel from second base to centre field, so he'd be staying in the minors. (Psst, that's code speak for "we're keeping him down to gain an extra year of control) Then, after being sent down, Senzel sustained an injury and is going to be in a walking boot for a week or two. So it would seem that we won't be seeing Senzel in the majors until at least May. Senzel will probably need to develop a bit more power at the plate to be truly considered a five-tool player, but he's pretty close. The Reds have themselves a good one.