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Projecting 2013 MLB Regular Season Awards

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2013 MLB Award Winners

Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 major league baseball regular season has officially come to a close but the final awards given out to the best player, best pitcher, best rookie, and best manager in each league won’t officially be handed out for over a month.

The races could go many different ways, particularly the Most Valuable Player races. The American League features Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera nearly in a dead heat, with just as many people expected to pick the one as the other – and Josh Hamilton will almost assuredly get some votes as well. The National League isn’t as obvious – anyone from Buster Posey to Yadier Molina to Ryan Braun to Andrew McCutchen to even Jason Heyward could get first-place MVP votes.

The Cy Young races are expected to be just as close – the American League could go to Justin Verlander or David Price or Jered Weaver or even Fernando Rodney while the National League award could go to R.A. Dickey, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel, Gio Gonzalez, or even someone else.

These players established themselves as the best at their position this season and most will probably contend again for the MVP or Cy Young award in 2013. There are also some young players that showed promise this year and project to be in the mix by next year. And managers of the year rarely repeat as winners, and for obvious reasons, rookies cannot repeat as league Rookie of the Year.

Feel free to leave your opinions on who you think will win the MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, or Rookie of the Year for next season.

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American League MVP: Miguel Cabrera

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For the record, I’m casting my 2012 MVP vote for Mike Trout because I think his all-around effectiveness as a hitter, baserunner, and defender outweighs what Miguel Cabrera did as a pure hitter (although the Triple Crown is an extraordinary achievement).

But Cabrera has garnered MVP votes every year since he got called up to the big leagues, even when he was just 20 years old back in 2003. Cabrera is a near-lock for .300/30/100 and since he joined the Detroit Tigers of the American League back in 2008, Cabrera’s average season totals have been a .323 batting average, .579 slugging percentage, 37 home runs, 120 RBIs, and a .980 OPS.

There’s no reason to expect anything less from Cabrera in 2013. I expect Trout to take a significant step back and who knows if Josh Hamilton will even be in the league? That makes Cabrera the odds-on favorite for many years, much like Albert Pujols was in the National League for the later part of the 2000s.

Runner-Ups: Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Prince Fielder, Yoenis Cespedes

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National League MVP: Joey Votto

Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

For the most part, the recent MVP winners in the National League don’t provide the same threat that they have in years past.

Albert Pujols won three awards in a span of five seasons but he’s now playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins won Most Valuable Player awards in back-to-back seasons, respectively, but they’re now 32 and 33 years old and aren’t legitimate threats to bring home the trophy anymore.

The last two players to bring home the MVP are still strong candidates and will likely make a run at the next six or seven awards. Joey Votto took home the trophy in 2010 when he batted .324/.424/.600 with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs for a Cincinnati Reds team that captured a playoff berth. And last year, Ryan Braun batted .332 with 33 home runs and 33 stolen bases and then followed that up with a steroids-free campaign of .319, 41 home runs, and 30 stolen bases with near-equal OPS marks.

It’s likely going to come down to those two for next year (although don’t rule out Bryce Harper), but I’ll lean to Votto because I think he’s a better pure hitter and more likely to be on a playoff team, which is important considering voters don’t really cast their ballot for a player whose team missed. Votto has led the National League in on-base percentage three years running and he should be automatic for 30 home runs and 100 RBIs with a .300-plus batting average.

Runner-Ups: Ryan Braun, Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, Matt Kemp

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American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander

Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

Justin Verlander easily won the Cy Young award in 2011 (and the Most Valuable Player trophy) and he will probably win the Cy Young this year too.

And by the time he wins the Cy Young next year, he’ll have punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Verlander has surpassed Roy Halladay as the game’s most dominant pitcher and I still have him at a slight edge over Stephen Strasburg. Verlander was 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA this season and he led the league in innings pitched, batters faced, pitches thrown, complete games, strikeouts, and adjusted ERA while posting a strikeout rate of exactly nine batters per nine innings and a tiny 2.3 walk rate.

Runner-Ups: CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Matt Moore, Jered Weaver

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National League Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg

Chris Draft - US PRESSWIRE

This award is assuming the Washington Nationals allow Stephen Strasburg to pitch the entire season. I’m kidding – kind of.

Strasburg was 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and nearly 200 strikeouts in just 155.1 innings pitched this year before his famous shutdown on behalf of the Nationals organization. Strasburg has made 45 career starts and he has stats of a Cy Young winner at the top of his game – he has a .677 winning percentage, 2.94 ERA, and ridiculous 4.67 strikeout to walk ratio.

I envision Strasburg easily winning 20 games next year and approaching 260-270 strikeouts. He doesn’t walk a lot of hitters which means hitters can’t stand at the plate, not swing, and hope for a walk. He’s going to be a perennial Cy Young award winner from now until 2020 assuming he can stay healthy.

Runner-Ups: Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain

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American League Rookie of the Year: Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers

Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

Jurickson Profar had just 17 big league at-bats with the Texas Rangers after he was called up and he didn’t do so hot, but then again, Profar is just 19 years old and that’s an awfully small sample size.

What is a fact though is that he was rated as the number one prospect in the game at the 2012 midseason rankings, and he should be a big part of the Rangers for the future. In fact, Profar (and teammate Mike Olt) may make it easier for the Rangers to allow Josh Hamilton to walk in free agency since their offense should still be prolific.

The only problem for Profar is that Adrian Beltre is penciled in at third base, Elvis Andrus is at shortstop, Ian Kinsler plays second base, and Michael Young is the designated hitter. But if Profar is good enough, he will buy his time.

Runner-Ups: Dylan Bundy, Mike Olt, Wil Myers, Travis d’Arnaud

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National League Rookie of the Year: Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

Picture courtesy of Yahoo Sports!

I’ve been hearing about Zack Wheeler for a long time and I think he is going to do great things for the New York Mets next season.

You may remember Wheeler as the top prospect the Mets got when they traded away Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants in July 2011. He tore up the minor leagues in 2012, going 12-8 with a 3.25 ERA and a pair of shutouts while striking out nearly a batter per inning at the Double-A and Triple-A level.

Wheeler could be part of a pretty good Mets rotation in 2013, as the team will have Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey (maybe), Jonathan Niese, and Wheeler.

Runner-Ups: Gerrit Cole, Tyler Skaggs

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American League Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

What Buck Showalter did with this year’s Baltimore Orioles was almost magical. The team shouldn’t have won more than 75 games with their run differential but managed to snag a wild card spot and then knock off the two-time American League defending champion Texas Rangers in the play-in game.

I think the New York Yankees will take a significant step back in 2013 and I think the Boston Red Sox are a 70-win team at best. It’s between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Orioles for the division. I think the Rays will take it but not without a fight from the Orioles.

Runner-Up: Joe Maddon

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National League Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

Much of the Manager of the Year award depends on the development of the players but I think Clint Hurdle will have the Pittsburgh Pirates (finally) in the thick of the NL wild card race.

The 2011 Pirates were five games above .500 as late as July 28 before they dropped 10 straight and 41 of their last 60, a monumental collapse. This year’s Pirates were 70-60 in late August and ended the season at 79-83, another horrific collapse.

I think the Pirates will finally get over the hump next year. They have a pitching staff that could really come together, especially if top prospect Gerrit Cole is what the team thinks he is. I think the Pirates will end the longest losing season streak in all of professional sports and finish with 86 wins.

Runner-Ups: Fredi Gonzalez, Davey Johnson