MLB Insider: Early-season predictions? What could possibly go wrong?

Posted Saturday, Apr. 05, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Manager Ron Washington is fond of telling reporters who cover the Texas Rangers that there is no predicting in the game of baseball. Or something close to that.

Clearly, however, Washington doesn’t surf various websites or read assorted magazines and newspapers filled with forecasts for which teams are going to make the playoffs this season and which players are going to be recognized for their fine seasons.

To do either is basically throwing a bunch of best guesses on a wall and seeing what sticks and what sinks. The failure rate is, not surprisingly, alarmingly high, but fearless and shameless reporters do it year after year nonetheless.

It is kind of fun, after all.

So, sit back and enjoy, or cringe or laugh, but please allow for some restraint. This limb is only strong enough to hold the predictions for award winners from each league.

American League MVP: Mike Trout, Angels

The runner-up to Miguel Cabrera for this award the past two seasons could finally clear whatever hurdles have been blocking him this year, though he again might have to overcome his team tripping over its own feet and the debate of what “valuable” means.

Many voters like their MVP to play for a contender and do great things in a pennant race. The Los Angeles Angels haven’t been in a position to contend despite how great Trout has been in his first two full seasons in the league.

Clearly, he’s the best player in baseball. As the Angels’ No. 2 hitter, Trout is in a position to make an even greater impact, assuming Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, batting third and fourth, rebound from their lost 2013 seasons.

AL Cy Young:

Justin Verlander, Tigers

Spring stats don’t matter, or so every player who has ever struggled in spring training says. Spring numbers matter to those who had good camps, but then are nothing to cling to once they falter during the regular season.

But Verlander was too good in the Grapefruit League, showing that he had recovered from his off-season “core muscle repair” and is ready to rebound from a down year in 2013.

He also continues to be romantically linked to Kate Upton, which should count for something.

AL Rookie of the Year:

Yordano Ventura, Royals

Anyone at Surprise Stadium on March 17 saw how impressive the hard-throwing Ventura can be. Anyone in the Rangers’ clubhouse the next morning saw how impressed the Rangers were.

Ventura can throw his fastball 102 mph with movement. His slider can baffle hitters. Durability is a concern for the slightly built Dominican, but in the end he will have made too much of an impact in what could be a crowded field.

National League MVP:

Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers

Health is always an issue for Ramirez, who lost a significant chunk of last season because of thumb and shoulder injuries. But what a half-season he had, batting .345 and slugging at .638 in only 86 games.

Though he’s gotten off terribly so far this season, replicating his 2013 numbers for the team that is supposed to win the NL West will help his candidacy. Ramirez can also become a free agent after this season, which could serve as motivation to boost production in his walk year.

NL Cy Young:

Jose Fernandez, Marlins

Unlike in MVP voting, a team’s status as a contender is readily dismissed, and Miami isn’t going to resemble anything close to a contender.

Fernandez was coddled as a rookie last year, when he was shut down at 172 2/3 innings but posted a 2.19 ERA, 187 strikeouts and led the league in hits per nine innings. Even though wins are the most despised stat in baseball, he won 12 times for a team that won only 62 times.

It was good enough to finish third in voting behind Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Fernandez figures to be better, and that should be enough for the Cy Young.

NL Rookie of the Year:

Kolten Wong, Cardinals

The league’s best team remade its infield by trading away 2011 World Series hero David Freese, sliding TCU great Matt Carpenter to third and making Wong its starting second baseman.

Wong is considered one of the game’s two best prospects at second base, with Texas Rangers top prospect Rougned Odor. Wong, despite not being particularly flashy, will serve to upgrade the St. Louis infield and be a nice contributor as the Cardinals roll to the NL Central crown.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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