The fate of our favorite team is what really matters, but it’s always entertaining to play the prediction game about individuals with the dawn of another baseball season. With so many gifted players, both emerging and established, projecting exactly who will shine the brightest by the major award announcements in November is always a fun yet frustrating proposition.

It’s tempting to reach for the most obvious and seemingly safest picks: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Mike Trout of the Angels, et cetera. I’ll resist that temptation this year. Even though I’d love to see it happen, I’ll also avoid falling into the infatuation trap that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are the next Mantle/Maris or Ruth/Gehrig combo.

Instead I’m sticking to my guns on a couple of last year’s picks. Chris Sale finally wins that Cy Young.

AL Cy Young Chris Sale, Red Sox

Close but no cigar last year, when he finished second after a second-half fade while worthy winner Corey Kluber surged, but I’m not about to give up on the best pitcher in the game yet to win the award. He’s finished in the top 5 of AL Cy Young voting the last five years and, while we know past performance is no guarantee of future performance, one day Sale is going to win it.

This will be the year.


Sale has bought into the Red Sox revised ramp-up schedule for their starters, a tweak to the program almost specifically designed to eke maximum sustained performance from Sale. It doesn’t mean he’ll dial back or hold back on his starts; the workload dropoff is between starts. How clever. How perfect for Sale.

Alternate candidates: Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays; Dallas Keuchel, Astros; Kluber, Indians.

NL Cy Young Noah Syndergaard, Mets

I’m a sucker for the high heat and nobody’s more electric than Syndergaard when he’s on. According to the spring reports, the 25-year-old is very much on top of his game. This pick comes with considerable risk, considering a lat injury limited him to seven starts last year. Given the Mets may try to limit his starts in order to avoid a workload surge, Syndergaard’s innings total might fall short in the eyes of voters, but I’d wager what Syndergaard is able to do while on the mound will surpass what any of his peers can.

Max Scherzer and Kershaw have each scooped up three Cy Youngs, and only injuries and needless contrarianism will prevent anyone from picking them to be in the running again this year. I’ll go with Syndergaard anyway.

Alternate candidates: Scherzer, Nationals; Kershaw, Dodgers; Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks


AL MVP Manny Machado, Orioles

His overaggressive but not cruel slide into Dustin Pedroia’s knee last year hopefully hasn’t soured the Red Sox on Machado, arguably the second-best player in the league behind Trout. (And on some days, Jose Altuve.) He has yet to reach his considerable potential, and there’s no reason not to double down on picking him again to march to his first MVP. Still just 25, Machado has three 30-homer seasons in a row on the back of his baseball card and has yet to reach his prime. He’s switching to his natural shortstop, which I think will heighten his defensive worth. The transition will be a smooth one. That the Orioles don’t stand much of a chance to contend this season may be held against Machado’s superb numbers, but the biggest obstacle would be if he’s traded to a National League team.

I’m stubborn if nothing else. Without even a nod to this being Machado’s walk year, I believe this will be Machado’s best and most complete season yet.

Alternate candidates: Francisco Lindor, Indians; Trout, Angels; Carlos Correa, Astros

NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

With last year’s winner Stanton out of the NL picture, this award is wide-open. My pick last year, Nolan Arenado, is as good of a candidate as any, and who would be so dumb as to pick against 2015 winner Bryce Harper, hitting his stride in his free-agent walk year? For that matter, what should stop Kris Bryant, the winner two years ago at age 24, from taking one more large step forward?


The only person I see capable of stepping in front of that big three is Goldschmidt, the least-known best hitter in the National League. A durable first baseman who hits for power and average, and has speed, Goldschmidt can rake with the best. He is 30 years old, an old man compared to the MVP competition, but has shown no signs of breaking down. There’s something so unflashy about Goldschmidt, he gets overlooked for no good reason outside of playing in Arizona. This should be the season he finally becomes too good to ignore.

Alternate candidates: Arenado, Harper, Bryant.

AL Rookie of the Year Willie Calhoun, Rangers

Calhoun is a power threat, plain and simple. Defense is not his forte, to the point DH is where he’ll likely end up once the Rangers call him up. (They could stick him in the outfield as well.) He slugged 27 homers as a Dodgers prospect in Double-A two years ago, and had 31 with the Dodgers and Rangers in Triple-A last year.

Once pitchers decide to test him rather than face the Joey Gallos in that lineup, Calhoun should be able to make a statement with his bat.

Alternate candidates: IF Willy Adames, Rays; IF Franklin Barreto, A’s; IF Gleybar Torres, Yankees.


NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna, Braves

He’s already been sent to Triple-A, but that’s seen by most as a bald-faced procedural move to limit service time for the consensus best prospect in baseball. He’ll be with Atlanta by the end of April and the outfielder is expected to be an offensive force, with power and speed. He hit .432 with a .519 on-base percentage in 16 Grapefruit League games this spring.

Alternate candidates: OF Lewis Brinson, Marlins, SS J.P. Crawford, Phillies; OF Victor Robles, Nationals

AL Manager of the Year John Gibbons, Blue Jays

The wiseguys tend to look at the AL East as a two-team race, but with the Blue Jays having Sanchez back in the rotation, perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson healthy and some sneaky good talent coming back, I’m calling for Toronto to exceed expectations and play spoiler. Gibbons will get some deserved credit for the strong play.

NL Manager of the Year Craig Counsell, Brewers

With the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers are going for it and should play their way into wild-card consideration. Counsell’s Brewers have gone from 61 to 73 to 86 wins in his three seasons.

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