Baseball season is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to start projecting the best players in the league.
There are always going to be names that everyone knows, but it seems like every year, there are a few surprises.
What players are going to take the league by storm? For each award listed below, I’m offering two fairly obvious candidates, then a bit of a dark horse candidate.
Trout has had roughly 100 RBI and 100 Runs each year for the last 4 years. He’s consistently getting on base. It’s tough to go against one of the most consistent players in the game, and I see Trout stealing more bases, slightly increasing his average, and hitting more homeruns.
Final stats: .308 avg, .400 OBP, 102 Runs, 105 RBI, 45 HR, 15 SB.
Donaldson came on strong last year, shocking the average fan and joining the MVP race and Donaldson is in the MVP race to stay.
Improved power numbers, a higher OBP, and plenty of protection in that line-up, Donaldson may actually be my favorite to win the race this year.
He may have the best offensive season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.
Final stats: .305 avg, .390 OBP, 115 Runs, 125 RBI, 47 HR, 4 SB.
Here’s the dark horse candidate. Correa came on last year and, absolutely, killed it. His numbers project to be pretty amazing this year as well.
I’m expecting Correa to have a historic season. He’ll be the first shortstop to have 30 homeruns and 30 steals since A-Rod in 1998.
Correa is also going to increase his average and on-base percentage.
Final stats: .285 avg, .360 OBP, 85 runs, 90 RBI, 35 HR, 30 SB.
Goldschmidt became one of the best players in baseball last year. Shockingly enough, it wasn’t Goldschmidt’s best season.
Goldschmidt’s numbers are continuing to get better. Goldy is going to set career highs in HR.
But he won’t be able to keep up his stolen base numbers. Goldy may move to the number 4 spot this year.
Final stats: .305 avg, .430 OBP, 90 Runs, 115 RBI, 35 HR, 17 SB
“I don’t have ‘gears’. I play one way. That’s all I’ve ever known. I WILL”. In 2015 Harper was finally able to stay healthy. He won the MVP just a few years after winning the Rookie of the Year.
I don’t see Harper repeating last season. His run, hit, HR, RBI, average, and OBP were all career highs for him. He’ll still be a great power hitter in a great line up.
But I don’t see him batting .330 or walking 19% of the time. That being said, he’s still going to be great.
Final stats: .310 avg, .415 OBP, 101 Runs, 104 RBI, 39 HR, 5 SB.
Pollock wouldn’t be as much of a surprise as Correa, but not many people are expecting him to be better than Goldschmid, but it’s possible.
Pollock’s average and OBP have gotten better every season since he was a rookie. His walk rate is increasing, and his power, seemingly, came out of nowhere.
You may be surprised, but you’ll see Pollock become a household name this year. He’s going to be the third outfielder ever to reach the stats listed below.
Final stats: .315 avg, .362 OBP, 105 Runs, 90 RBI, 25 HR, 50 SB.
The Cy Young race is always an interesting one. It seems like we have new-comers on an annual basis recently.
First, it was Corey Kluber, then Dallas Keuchel . Who will be the surprise in 2016?
AL Cy Young
Price has been a great pitcher for a long, long time. He’s finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting both of the last two years.
I think he’s going to take an even bigger step forward this year. Price has a career 3.34 ERA against the AL East. It was 2.30 last season, and only 1.70 against the Yankees.
Price will have the advantage of some great defensive players in Boston, and the Green Monster is going to help.
The game is in transition, and Price will benefit from a lot of players striking out.
Final stats: 19-7, 2.90 ERA, 215 K, 1.06 WHIP
Gray has always had a great ERA and has benefited a lot from pitching in Oakland. Gray could be traded at the deadline this year, but I don’t see it happening in the middle of a Cy Young bid.
I see strikeout totals rising, and walks staying about the same. Gray is going to be an exciting pitcher on a team that isn’t going to be as competitive as they’d like.
Last year, Gray got a no-decision or a loss in 8 games where he gave up 3 runs or less. There’s a lot of room to grow.
Final stats: 19-5, 2.79 ERA, 185 K, 1.04 WHIP
Archer is going to have a coming of age season in 2016. Archer’s FIP has gotten better each of the last three years.
His ERA will go down, strikeouts will go up, and WHIP will improve.
Archer led the league in starts last year. He gave up less hits and walks while pitching 18 more innings.
I see him pitching about 220 innings this year. Last year, he had a 3.13 ERA against the AL East; if you take out 1 bad game (9 ER), his ERA would have been a 2.48 in the division.
Archer got a no-decision or a loss in 10 games where he allowed 2 runs or less. No doubt those numbers improve this year.
Final stats: 17-7, 3.21 ERA, 265 K, 1.11 WHIP
NL Cy Young
These are his average stats from the last 5 years: 17-6, 2.11 ERA, 268 K, .930 WHIP.
That’s about all of the information you need on Kershaw. Every stat that I provide will show the same dominance.
Final stats: 21-5, 2.20 ERA, 270 K, .915 WHIP
Wainwright is my favorite for the Cy Young. I can’t predict him outperforming Clayton Kershaw, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.
Wainwright lost most of 2015 to injuries, but pitched pretty well when he was able to see action.
I expect him to return to form with about 225 innings. I expect a .275 WHIP which should translate to a 2.60 ERA.
He may not be getting the name recognition that Kershaw does at this point, but he should be on one of the best teams in the NL.
Fans are going to tune in for the Cardinals vs. Cubs rivalry. There will be plenty of press for Wainwright if he’s pitching well.
Final stats: 20-8, 2.60 ERA, 195 K, 1.05 WHIP
After missing 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, Harvey came back to post solid numbers, but there is still room for improvement.
He was only able to pitch in 29 games in 2015. I expect him to be fully healthy and able to start 32-34.
Harvey is going to show the Mets just how great he can be before he goes to arbitration where he can really force them to pay him.
Final stats: 19-8, 2.65, 205 K, 1.04 WHIP
In his last season before free agency, Strasburg is going to put up numbers to remember. Strasburg’s only concern is health, but in his contract year, I think he’s going to make 33 starts.
He’s going to post career marks in WHIP and ERA (when pitching more than 25 innings). I’m expecting Strasburg to come close to his career high in K’s as well.
This will be the perfect example of a player who will have an incredible year, and then hit free agency.
Final stats: 19-9, 3.01 ERA, 235 K, 1.00 WHIP
Rookie of the Year
Gallo is going to be a popular name this year. He got a taste of the big leagues last year and had 6 HR in just 123 AB. That’s pretty good for a rookie.
Gallo struck out a lot last year, but was on pace to have 65 walks as well. As he adjust to major league hitting, he will produce. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gallo top 30 HR this year.
Unfortunately, it may come with a lower average (.240-.250) and a lot of strikeouts.
Many fans don’t know AJ Reed, and right now, he may not be on the Opening Day roster. I think he will quickly get promoted and earn his spot. He doesn’t strike out much and carries a .324 average with a .415 OBP.
It’s not going to take long for AJ Reed to supplant a guy like Jon Singleton on a roster that is trying to push for the playoffs.
2015 wasn’t a great season for Buxton, but he should learn from his mistakes last year. He’s a great defender with elite speed.
That means he should have a high BABIP which will raise his batting average. He will strike out a lot again this year, but look for him to have a .265 average.
As he settles in, Buxton will start stealing again. He may see 25 SB this season.
Seager is the next big thing. He’s already slated to start for the Dodgers. In 2014, Seager had 50 doubles and 20 HR.
Last year, 31 doubles and 14 HR while still batting .297 and having a .347 OBP. I’m excited to see what this kid can do in the majors.
Look for him to hit about 30 doubltes, 20 HR, and have an average of .275.
After letting Pedro Alvarez walk away, Bell has a pretty clear path to the Pirates’ roster. Currently, John Jaso is starting and is backed up by Michael Morse.
If Bell can perform well during the spring, he could be a surprise roster addition. He’s got great BB/K numbers (roughly 11% for both).
The Phillies traded Rollins last season. I don’t think Freddy Galvis was their long-term solution.
Crawford has a great all-around game. Last year, Crawford had 17 doubles, 6 HR and 8 SB in just 90 games.
He also sported a .281 average and .275 OBP. The kid can flat out play. Once the Phillies decide he’s ready, Galvis will find a spot on the bench.
Manager of the year
The Indians have a lot of young players, but I think Francona could make a surprise run.
If they come close to winning the division this year, Francona is in the conversation for Manager of the Year.
He was a popular pick when he got hired, but has failed the last two seasons. I see the Red Sox bouncing back this year and Farrel is going to get a lot of the credit for it.
Ausmus is a great tactician (think Buck Showlater-esque). But he had a down year last year.
I think Verlander and Victor Martinez will bounce back, and that will do a lot to help the Tigers surprise a lot of people.
Maddon is one of the best managers in baseball, and he’s running one of the best teams in baseball. They have young players, and proven veterans. He’s my favorite to win the award.
Baker has a special way of getting that little extra out of a team that’s on the brink of success.
It’s possible that the Nationals only win the wildcard, but I think they’ll make a good run in the playoffs.
Matheny has the respect of his team and most players in the league. He’s going to keep his team in contention again in 2016.
If the Cardinals can compete with the Cubs, Matheny may win the award.
|P: Sonny Gray||P: Clayton Kershaw|
|C: Salvador Perez||C: Yadier Molina|
|1B: Eric Hosmer||1B: Paul Goldschmidt|
|2B: Starlin Castro||2B: Dee Gordon|
|3B: Manny Machado||3B:Nolan Arenado|
|SS: Andrelton Simmons||SS: Brandon Crawford|
|LF: Alex Gordon||LF: Christian Yelich|
|CF: Mike Trout||CF: AJ Pollock|
|RF: Mookie Betts||RF: Jason Heyward|