Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training already, position players are beginning to file in as well. This means it's time for baseball season to really get going. Predictions at this point are pretty much a crap shoot, but with all of the different things that can go wrong in a season, there is no better time than now to start looking towards October. Here are my pre-season award predictions as well as who I think will be in the playoffs and ultimately win the World Series.
American League Cy Young:: Felix Hernandez: He should be able to repeat this season for a variety of different reasons. First is that the AL pitching crop is not very good...Only really two other guys seem to have a shot, Sabathia and Lester. The NL has taken the all of the top pitchers out of the AL. Greinke is gone, Lee is gone, Halladay is gone. Felix will also get more wins this season, there is no way the M's offense is as bad as it was last year. He has to get more run support which will lead to a higher win total.
National League Cy Young: Tim Lincecum: There are 4 Phillies who all could win the award, but I think Lincecum will return to his dominant form and get his 3rd Cy Young in the last 4 seasons. He struggled at times last year which put fear into everyone's mind his arm was dead. Then in September he was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, then in the playoffs was 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and a .92 WHIP. He found his arm again and I think 2011 will be the year of the Freak.
American League Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson: This year I don't see any Buster Posey's or Jason Heyward types, but I do like what Hellickson brings to the table. He pitched 36 innings last season and was very good with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP overall and in his first 4 appearances, had 4 quality starts and a 2.05 ERA. He could earn a spot in the Rays opening day rotation, if he does I think he will be able to pitch about 150 innings with a mid to high 3 ERA and about 11 wins. He won't be amazing, but he will be very good.
National League Rookie of the Year: Dominic Brown: I think he is going to be the next Carl Crawford...meaning he will steal a ton of bases, and every year people will say his power will show up, but it never really does. He hit 20 home runs last year between AA and AAA ball, but it's his speed and on base prowess that impresses me. He has a career .373 OBP, and has 89 steals in 5 minor league seasons. Neither of those jumps off the page, but those solid numbers and a clear shot to be the Phillies every day left fielder is going to give him an excellent opportunity to shine this year.
American League MVP: Carl Crawford: I mentioned him above, and I will talk about him again, he is as sure a bet as anyone in the league, and I think moving to Boston will help him to a career year. Last season he posted career bests in HR's, RBI's and OPS (On base plus slugging) all while hitting .307 with 47 steals. Lefties in Boston tend to have a lot of success and I think that along with being at the top of a dynamic offense will help him have a monster season. Speedsters don't usually win the MVP, but I think this season he will put it all together and be the top player in the AL.
National League MVP: Albert Pujols: I don't think I need to explain how good this guy is, but I think this year will be one of his best yet. He is playing for a new contract, which I think will give him even more incentive than he has already. The guy is a monster and doesn't need more reasons to be great, but give him more and I think he will take them. Joey Votto will probably regress just slightly from last season giving Pujols less competition. I think the runner up will be Ryan Braun, a guy who has been very good every year, but just hasn't had one of those WOW years yet. But he will be forced to settle for second behind a machine who has everything to play for.
American League Playoff Picture:
West winner: Texas Rangers-They are the best team in the division and I think they run away with it this year.
Central winner: Detroit Tigers-Adding Victor Martinez will help, but their rotation is young and improving and this is the year they put it all together.
East winner: Boston Red Sox- They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to their lineup, they have a deep rotation that will keep them competitive in every game they play.
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees- How can you bet against a team that has as much star power as the Yankees? They may be outpitched sometimes, but they will hit with the best of the league.
National League Playoff Picture:
West winner: San Francisco Giants- led by Lincecum and Cain followed by BumGraner and Sanchez, they will have one of the best rotations in the NL, whether they can hit enough to win 90+ games? That may be another story.
Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals-Pujols will be better than ever, Votto will regress, that plus Adam Wainwright every 5 days will be enough to push the Cards over the Reds.
East Winner: Philadelphia Phillies- Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt...plus a good offense. This might not even be a race.
NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds- While I think they will regress...Votto is still a monster and the Reds are a young team getting better, and I think they sneak into the playoffs.
American League Champion: Boston Red Sox-I think this Red Sox team is one of the best they've put together in a long time. They don't have the best pitching, but they have guys who can go out and throw gems on any given night. Lester is a legit Ace and I think he will carry this team to the World Series. Also the huge additions of Crawford and Gonzalez help just a tad...
National League Champion: St. Louis Cardinals-Wainwright and Carpenter match up well against any other 1-2 in baseball...yes even the Phillies. I think in the playoffs this team will be tough to beat, their number 3 starter will probably be Jaime Garcia, a guy who I think is a legit number 3 and can win a playoff game. Also their line-up is VERY good, they have the young Colby Rasmus who has huge potential and the ageing Lance Berkman, who I think will be key for the Cards.
World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals-For all of the above reasons I think they are able to win their second championship in the last 6 years. Pujols will be looked at as the King of the city and he will get whatever contract he wants. They have some question marks on their team, but in a long season full of surprises, I think the team with the best player in the league will end up bringing home the hardware.