5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 AL Manager of the Year

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5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 AL Manager of the Year

AL Coaches
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It is always fun to start projecting towards the upcoming year, and it is never to early to do it. All 30 managerial chairs are now filled going into the winter meetings down in Orlando. Which two managers will win the top award this time next year?

There are four and a half first-year managers heading into the upcoming campaign with one rookie coach in the American League and three in the National League. Ryne Sandberg did close out the year as an interim manager, but has yet to turn in a lineup card for a full 162-game season.

The only other new hire this offseason is Lloyd McClendon with the Seattle Mariners, who has had previous experience as a manger in the past.

Historically, there has only been one manager to win the award with his team finishing in forth place or worse in the division, and that is Joe Girardi in 2006. Bobby Cox is the only manager to win the award in back-to-back years, so repeating is unlikely. There will be nine American League managers looking to win the award for the first time.

Recapping the 2013 American League Manager of the Year, the top three finalists were Terry Francona, John Farrell, and Bob Melvin. Excluding those three managers, here are five dark horses for this year's award. Based on history, we can rule out Terry Francona to win the award next year as well. Bold prediction: The winner will not be from out west.

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5. Joe Maddon

AL Coaches
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Maddon can easily win this award every year. His Tampa Bay Rays are generally solid on defense and sound in the fundamentals every year. Maddon is able to get a lot of production out of both veterans and rookies while having a limited payroll. He is a terrific in-game manager.

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4. Buck Showalter

AL Coaches
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have done well over the last few seasons under Buck Showalter. A playoff appearance two seasons ago and a core of young All-Stars has put the Orioles back on the map in a competitive division. Showalter has the team buying in and will look to continue that trend next season.

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3. Robin Ventura

AL Coaches
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Robin Ventura is entering his third season as a manager. In his first season, he was close to a division title. With a roster that struggled greatly last year, the Chicago White Sox will be in rebuilding mode this year. If the offense can improve, Ventura can get his players up to speed and see some positive signs for the future.

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2. Ned Yost

AL Coaches
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals found themselves in the wild card hunt well into September. That has not been the case for the last decade. The Royals have some talent and could be a trendy playoff pick in 2014. If they can make a run into October, look for Ned Yost to get some consideration.

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1. Brad Ausmus

AL Coaches
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Dombrowski locked down arguably the most coveted rookie manager. Brad Ausmus will be a first-year manager for a team that has had the last three American League Most Valuable Players. The Detroit Tigers will look to make another run in the postseason and if they are able to continue the success, Ausmus will receive tons of votes as a dark horse orchestrating a strong ball club.

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