Before I get started today, I want to apologize to my readers for being absent the past two weeks; unfortunately a sudden death in my family interrupted our usual baseball analysis and light-hearted chatter. While this column is a bit belated, I still wanted to write a preview of this baseball season, and give my prognostications for the upcoming year. With Opening Day now in our rearview mirror and little time to waste, here are my predictions for the 2012 season.
AL MVP – Albert Pujols Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
There has only been one player (Frank Robinson) in baseball history to win a Most Valuable Player award in both leagues: this year, Albert Pujols makes it two. Although many question how popular this contract will look a few years down the road, Pujols is the power bat that Anaheim has sorely lacked the past few seasons, and I believe his talents will help the Angels capture the AL West this season.
NL MVP – Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds
While I felt more confident in this selection prior to Votto signing his 10-year contract extension last week, I believe that Votto is poised for a monster season in Cincinnati as he enters his prime. As the best player on a team expected to compete for the playoffs, I envision Votto narrowly edging Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp for the award.
AL Cy Young – Felix Hernandez Seattle Mariners
While I grant that the Mariners underwhelming offense will likely keep Felix’s win total lower than he will deserve, I believe Hernandez bounces back from last season’s somewhat weaker than expected performance (14-14 3.47 ERA and 1.22 WHIP) and posts a career season while capturing the AL Cy Young.
NL Cy Young – Zach Greinke Milwaukee Brewers
Although Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, and Clayton Kershaw are the trendier preseason selections, Zach Greinke is entering free agency this winter and thus, has the motivation to produce a monster season. With the relatively weak lineups in the NL Central, I expect Greinke to feast on his competition this year and lead the Brewers to another division title.
AL Rookie of the Year – Yu Darvish Texas Rangers
Darvish is difficult to consider a rookie as he has five years of professional experience in Japan, but due to major league baseball rules, he is considered a rookie for their purposes. Matt Moore from Tampa Bay and Mike Trout from Anaheim will give Darvish plenty of competition, but Yu’s experience and position as the Rangers staff ace should allow him to capture the award.
NL Rookie of the Year – Mat Gamel Milwaukee Brewers
Gamel has lost some of his prospect luster as he has languished in Triple-A the past three seasons, however, he is a career .301/.374/.512 hitter in Triple-A and now has the opportunity to play every day as he replaces Prince Fielder as Milwaukee’s first baseman. Yonder Alonso from San Diego and Devin Mesoraco from Cincinnati are two other solid choices, but Gamel will bat in the middle of the order of a team expected to compete for the playoffs, which should give him the edge over his competitors.
The Division Winners and Wild Cards
AL East – New York Yankees (98-64)
AL Central – Detroit Tigers (91-71)
AL West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (92-70)
AL Wild Cards – Texas Rangers (90-72) and Tampa Bay Rays (93-69)
NL East – Atlanta Braves (93-69)
NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers (90-72)
NL West – Arizona Diamondbacks (89-73)
NL Wild Cards – Philadelphia Phillies (88-74) and San Francisco Giants (87-75)
9 Bold Predictions
1) The Miami Marlins will finish with a record below .500 this season.
2) Adam Dunn finishes with 30+ Home Runs in 2012 in a comeback season for the rejuvenated Chicago White Sox offense.
3) The Nationals will finish 85-77 this season, and fall just short of clinching the 2nd NL Wild Card.
4) There will be only one player in the National League to hit 40 Home Runs this season, and it will not be Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, or Joey Votto… It will be Votto’s teammate, Reds OF Jay Bruce.
5) The Houston Astros will lose 110+ games this season and Minnesota will lose 105+ games.
6) This is the season that Matt Wieters becomes the undisputed top catcher in the major leagues, as he hits 30 home runs and wins another gold glove.
7) The Red Sox will miss the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season, and will finish with a record more similar to 4th place Toronto than to the 2nd place Tampa Bay.
8) Vinnie Pestano from the Cleveland Indians supplants Chris Perez as the team’s closer by Memorial Day and finishes this season with 25+ saves.
9) Finally, Bryce Harper is called up on June 1st to start the Nationals home stand against divisional foes Atlanta and New York, and hits 15 home runs in the majors this season.
So what do you think of my selections…. Agree or disagree? I encourage you to share your thoughts and prognostications in the comments section below.
This “Tip of the Fedora” is and forever will be for my Mother, who passed away a few days ago… She was the driving influence behind my starting NatsGM and the one that encouraged me to chase my dreams. You left us far too soon and left behind a void that can never be filled, but we will never forget you and I will always love you.