Hello, baseball fans, and welcome to the second annual College Sports Town MLB preview! The birds are chirping, the bats are cracking, and the gloves are popping with electricity on practice fields spanning the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. That being said, there are certain players who swing the bat a bit sweeter and who hurl the ball a bit harder. Those are the MVP, Cy Young, and ROY candidates of the league, and there should be hard-fought competitions for those awards this year. As I did last year, let’s kick off the 2014 season by taking a look at the stars we predict will take home the hardware. Last year, I got both of the NL picks I made right (Clayton Kershaw and Andrew McCutchen), but didn’t do as well in the AL (Justin Verlander and Mike Trout). This year, the men listed below will likely be the ones at the podiums, accepting the awards denoting them as the cream of the crop. Here are my picks for the 2014 AL awards.
AL Cy Young- Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
King Felix has been in power for some time now. He’s been an All-Star for the past five years, winning the AL Cy Young in 2010. Entering his age 28 season, Hernandez looks to continue his phenomenal success. His heater has cooled off slightly since he entered the league (he averages 92 MPH now as opposed to 96 MPH earlier in his career), but his changeup is among the best in the game and keeps his strikeout totals consistently among the top in the game. Hernandez also should benefit from the revamped Mariners roster.
King Felix’s win totals should finally reflect his dominance, as the new Mariners’ lineup features such additions as Logan Morrison, Corey Hart, and, of course, Robinson Cano. A few more W’s would certainly help his Cy Young candacy. In addition, the presence of talented pitchers Hisahi Iwakuma and rookie Taijuan Walker in the rotation should take some pressure off of the ace. If Hernandez maintains his level of success from previous years, he likely will come away with his second Cy Young award.
AL MVP- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Now, I know this isn’t a particularly shocking pick. In fact, I made the same pick last year, when Trout finished second (for the second consecutive year) to possible robot Miguel Cabrera. Still, how I could I pick anyone else (besides Cabrera)? Trout has posted two straight years of 9+ WAR, leading the AL in runs scored both years while piling up stolen bases, home runs, and highlight reel catches. His slash line last year was an impressive.323/.432/.988, and I see no reason to doubt that he’ll do that once more.
Trout is only 22(!), but he plays with the poise of someone much older. The only reason that he hasn’t won this award yet is Miguel Cabrera playing like the second coming of Babe Ruth for the past two years. While Cabrera should have another excellent year, his stats will take a slight hit due to the loss of Prince Fielder in the Tigers lineup, and a slight falter should be enough for Trout to claim his first (but almost definitely not last) MVP award.
AL ROY- Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox farm system is so deep that they were able to trade their slick fielding, .300-batting rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias for rotation help in the middle of their World Series winning campaign last year. The Red Sox front office felt comfortable doing so due to the fact that this man was waiting in the wings. Already a World Series champion, Bogaerts is being hailed Nomar Garciaparra 2.0. If his talent is really as monumental as scouts around the league say, he projects to be a Troy Tulowitzki type player. His skill alone might be enough to win this award, but playing in the Red Sox organization certainly doesn’t hurt. Under the watch of veterans Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia and manager John Farrell, Bogaerts will act like a professional. Subject to the winning culture that has been cultivated in Boston over the past decade, Bogaerts should grow quickly.