By Steven Urena
National League MVP
Pick: Juan Soto
Juan Soto is the favorite to win the NL MVP and I’m on board. Soto is the best hitter in baseball. Other players such as Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Trea Turner and Mookie Betts bring more tools to the table but at home plate, Soto is all by himself. Soto turned down a $350 million offer earlier this year. I predict he gets Mike Trout money. Over $400 million. He’s only 26, he mashes, he’s young, full of swagger, he markets well, he sells tickets and he has October success. Soto is a special hitter. He checks the old school numbers like batting average and home runs while also checking the new school numbers like on-base percentage and OPS. I’m predicting a batting average of .320, 36 home runs and 120 RBIs.
In the hunt…Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper is usually in the MVP discussion. How can he not be? Harper hits the magic marks of .300, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs every season. Harper will continue to be one of the top hitters in the game this season but I think this will be Soto’s best year ever.
American League MVP
Pick: Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani is a once in a lifetime talent. Ohtani’s offensive numbers are going to be up there with the league’s best. Even if Ohtani’s numbers are not as good as Vlad Guerrero Jr, Mike Trout or Jose Ramirez, his arm will put him over the top. Ohtani is the most valuable player, most outstanding player and everything in between. As long as “Babetani” can keep winning games on the mound and keep hitting over 40 home runs, this will be his time. The ride won’t last forever but it will be fun while it lasts. The modern day Babe Ruth will win back-to-back MVP awards.
In the hunt…Vlad Guerrero Jr.
Vladdy Jr. hits rockets. He’s going to lead the MLB in home runs this season. Unfortunately, Ohtani is going to walk away with another MVP award. It’s hard to vote against Ohtani. I’ll give Vladdy Jr. the edge on offense but Ohtani is also a good pitcher. Vladdy Jr. would have to hit 60 home runs for the voters not to give the MVP to Ohtani. The kids great and deserves the award but right now he’s overshadowed.
National League Cy Young
Pick: Walker Buehler
Walker Buehler was my pick last season and he had it in the bag until the last few weeks of the season. This season, Buetane is my pick again. He’s getting older and wiser and won’t try to throw 100 mph every pitch. This is Buehler’s 6th season and 5th full season. Buehler is a fireballer with brains. This season he’s using his secondary pitches more and not relying on blowing it by hitters. This is a safe pick. Buehler continues to be in the mix for best pitcher in baseball. He’s going to be consistent all season, he’s on a great team, and he’ll have really good numbers.
In the hunt…Max Scherzer
His little nagging arm troubles have been an issue lately but he was lights out his first start at home. Scherzer is the favorite on many betting sites, despite the fact that he’s in his late 30’s. Just because of his age and because of the early arm troubles, he’s not my choice. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a Cy Young finalist. If it’s not Buehler or Scherzer, it’s going to be a dark horse. A young kid like Sandy Alcantara is going to burst on the scene or a veteran like Zack Wheeler will have everything click for him.
American League Cy Young
Pick: Gerrit Cole
I was 100% sold on Cole winning this award last season. This season, I don’t see a clear cut favorite. Despite his horrendous start, Gerrit Cole is still Gerrit Cole. He’s gonna be fine. There’s a few interesting names such as Shane Bieber, Robbie Ray and Dylan Cease. None scream “best pitcher in the American League.” At this point, even though he’s struggling a little, I still like Cole. He’s still got great stuff, he’s on a good team and he’s been around the block. Cole will have a good season but he just may not have the best season for an American League pitcher.
In the hunt…Justin Verlander
Tommy John does wonders. Some pitchers say that you don’t come back stronger from Tommy John but rather smarter. Verlander is a dinosaur in baseball (39 years old) but what he lacks in youth he makes up for in experience. If Verlander’s velocity can stay in the mid 90’s he’s going to have a good season. He will be the consistent starter that keeps piling up wins and keeps his ERA slightly above the 3’s. If the young guys don’t pan out, Verlander might be the clear choice with good numbers and consistency.
National League Rookie of the Year
Pick: Hunter Greene
I’ve been following Hunter Greene since he was in high school. Greene is the real deal. When he was born the gods turned his right arm into a thunderbolt. I got to watch Greene pitch against the Dodgers. You don’t see many guys like him. He set the MLB record for most 100 mph pitches in one game with 39. That’s remarkable. He reminds me of a more polished version of Kerry Wood. He’s already had Tommy John but if he can stay healthy he will be bad news for MLB hitters. Greene is a lot of fun to watch. I wish him luck, except against the Dodgers.
In the hunt…Seiya Suzuki
There’s a lot of buzz around Seiya Suzuki. Coaches and teammates have praised his plate discipline, baseball IQ and confidence. He’s no spring chicken. Suzuki is 27 years old with 9 years of pro baseball under his belt. He may be a rookie but he’s not a rookie. Nonetheless, he’s in the hunt for ROY. I expect him to have a good season but Hunter Greene is the main attraction for rookies right now.
American League Rookie of the Year
Pick: Bobby Witt Jr.
Bobby Witt Jr slid into the Royals starting lineup due to an injury. The 21 year old was the number 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft. He looks every bit the part. Tall, lean, strong and athletic. Witt’s not going back down. He made his case this spring with a batting average over .400 and with 3 home runs. On top of that, he’s had a full season in the minors with pretty good numbers. Even if the youngster struggles, I think he will rebound. The Royals don’t have a whole lot of options so Witt will and will get plenty of chances to play everyday with the big club. He’ll have a slight edge over Spencer Torkelson because he’s got a little more experience.
In the hunt…Spencer Torkelson
Spencer Torkelson was the number 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. It was a no brainer. Torkelson hit 25 home runs his freshman year of college and 23 home runs his sophomore year of college at Arizona State. In the Covid shortened 2020 season, he hit 6 home runs. The kid has shown tremendous power. He has a short and strong swing. The Tigers are hoping that power will translate into pro ball. So far, so good. In one minor league season, Torkelson hit 30 home runs. He’s going to play for the Tigers everyday and that will give him the chance to put up numbers. As long as his numbers stay strong, he will be in the mix for ROY.
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