This is where I come in and embarrass myself by making absurd predictions, but they are predictions that I feel are worthy.
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen was somewhat productive in April with a .302 AVG and .351 OBP, but it was pretty empty, just seven RBI and six extra-base hits – none of them home runs. Then, May led to an absolute eruption for McCutchen. Since the start of May, he has hit .383/.443/.706 with 11 2B, five triples, 16 home runs, 49 RBI, and 9 steals. In that time period, the Pirates have gone 36-25, taking the lead in the NL Central away from the Cincinnati Reds. At the age of 25, McCutchen is a total beast, capable of hitting for power, average, and running like crazy. You don’t have to run when you’re trotting around the bases, though.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
When Mike Trout arrived in Anaheim to stay on April 28, the Angels were struggling. Without Albert Pujols producing and the lack of an identity, they were 6-14, nine games out in the AL West and in last place. However, they are 40-24 since Trout arrived, sitting four games back of Texas in the AL West. Trout would be the first rookie MVP since Fred Lynn in 1995, and he totally deserves it. The All-Star outfielder leads the AL in batting average (.347) and steals (26), while Trout has amassed 15 2B, three triples, 11 home runs, 39 RBI, and 55 runs scored in just 62 games. If it seems like he has two or three hits per night and a couple of runs scored, it isn’t a surprise. He has 28 multi-hit games and 14 games with at least two runs scored. He is a machine and at just 20 (he doesn’t turn 21 until August 7), he is only going to get better.
NL Cy Young: Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
You can call me a homer if you’d like to, as I live about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, but Cueto deserves some praise, and he certainly isn’t going to get it from Tony LaRussa. He leads the NL in ERA (2.35) and has gone 18-10 with a 2.33 ERA over his last 41 starts. He won’t get the publicity of R.A. Dickey due to the lack of a crappy career like Dickey had before deciding to show up in his tenth attempt at mattering as a starting pitcher in the Majors, but he deserves some love, so I’m giving it to him. If he continues to pitch so well, he could win a few more games and matter to all of those people who only look at wins for a Cy Young candidate.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
If Sale makes it through the whole season without an injury and continues pitching like he has to this point, he has to win the award. The injury concern is present, as he had a tender elbow and was moved to the bullpen for one appearance before the Sox moved him back to the rotation. The 23-year-old lefty is 2nd in the AL in wins (10), 2nd in ERA in the AL (2.19), 2nd in WHIP (0.95), and has an impressive 98:25 K:BB in 102.2 innings. The White Sox are in first place and this surprising, young arm has a lot to do with it.
NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper
Anthony Rizzo could win it if he continues hitting the way that he has since his promotion for the Chicago Cubs (.386/.400/.750), but as his sample size grows, his numbers will shrink. Harper is only 19 and he is in the All-Star game, having replaced injured Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. He has a .283/.355/.475 line with 15 2B, four triples, eight home runs, 25 RBI, and eight steals. The National League has a lot of young talent, with Harper, Arizona left-handed pitcher Wade Miley, Cincinnati super-sub Todd Frazier, Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart, and Colorado slugging catcher Wilin Rosario, but Harper’s skills and his ability to help lead his team to the NL East title will help him separate from the pack in the second half.
AL Rookie of the Year: See Mike Trout, above, AL MVP
Duh. Sorry Yu.
NL Manager of the Year: Terry Collins, New York Mets
At 46-39, 4.5 games out of first in the NL East (good for 2nd place), the Mets are the surprise team in the NL this season. After going 77-85 and finishing 4th in the East in 2011, the team lost Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, then they still had to deal with the fact that Jason Bay was on their roster. No way they got better, right? Wrong. With Johan Santana’s resurgically re-glued shoulder actually holding up and R.A. Dickey finding the fountain of youth on his offseason mountain hikes, the Mets matter again. Collins is a miracle worker. Play Scott Hairston every day and they could be in first…just saying.
AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore is 45-38 and in 2nd in the AL East. They’ve begun to slide a little recently, having to replace three starters in their rotation due to being terrible, and they’ve dealt with a fair share of injuries, including to starters Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis in the outfield. If they can tread water while they get injuries under control and starters get things rolling again, there is no reason to the believe that there isn’t something magical that could happen in Baltimore this season. Adam Jones is a superstar and Matt Wieters is a star in the making, if you don’t consider him one already, so they have the pieces to matter.
NL Biggest Surprise: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
What do you get when you get a guy who climbs Mt. Kilamanjaro and mix him with an 80-mph knuckleball? You get a 37-year-old starting pitcher who is 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, 123:28 K:BB in 120 innings, and a Cy Young candidate. After never having won more than 11 games in a single season coming into 2012, Dickey has already eclipsed that mark before the break. He has been a different pitcher since arriving in New York, going 31-23 with a 2.92 ERA over 75 starts, so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising; however, I still can’t believe what he is doing, especially with his control and strikeout totals, with a knuckleball.
AL Biggest Surprise: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
He was supposed to be the odd-man out with the Albert Pujols signing, or so many thought, but Trumbo has been the biggest force this side of Mike Trout for the Angels in 2012. After posting a .254/.291/.477 line last season and an attrocious 120:25 K:BB in 539 AB in 2011, Trumbo is sporting a .307/.361/.607 line and a 63:22 K:BB in 280 AB in 2012. His patience has improved and his power is for real. While many considered him an afterthought this spring, including myself, Trumbo has become an All-Star calibur player on a team with two young superstars.
Instead of yelling “Freak”, fans may be yelling “you freaking suck,” at Lincecum, as his nickname now brings questions as to whether his ability to pitch with such odd mechanics is finally settling in. Lincecum is 3-9 with a 6.08 ERA in 2012, but the strange number is that his 101:49 K:BB in 93.1 innings is still solid, though the walks are at a 4.7 BB/9 (which would be a career high). Lincecum’s career high for earned runs was 81 in 2010 and he has already allowed 63 earned runs in just 17 starts, so he’ll easily establish a career worst there. If he allowed one earned run over seven innings in each of his next 16 starts, his ERA would still be 3.46, his highest since his 4.00 ERA in his rookie year.
AL Biggest Fantasy Bust: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
After hitting 27 home runs last season, Santana was bound to explode, especially after hitting just .239 in 2011 with a BABIP of just .263…not the case. Santana is hitting just .219 with a BABIP of just .266 in 2012, so he is not anywhere near the top ranked fantasy catcher that many expected him to be. He may still have a solid eye at the plate and has improved defensively, but that doesn’t help anyone in pretend baseball.