Predicting Top Candidates for the 2014 AL Silver Slugger Awards
Top Candidates for AL Silver Slugger Awards
It has been a busy offseason for the American League. The Seattle Mariners won the Robinson Cano sweepstakes while his former team, the New York Yankees, went all in and signed Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. After the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers, perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera shifts back over to first base. Meanwhile, Joe Mauer moves to first base for the Minnesota Twins in order to preserve his worn down body.
Will these position and team changes affect them at the plate?
In 2010, Jose Bautista burst onto the scene with a monstrous 54 HR campaign. The 2012 season saw the emergence of young phenom Mike Trout along with veteran journeyman Josh Willingham. As for last season, Chris Davis erupted with a career-year of his own to prevent Cabrera from winning his second consecutive AL Triple Crown.
Who will be this season's breakout star?
Injuries have crippled players in the past from having successful seasons.
Will Ellsbury hold up in pinstripes?
Can Evan Longoria avoid another injury disaster like 2012?
How will Cabrera respond to offseason surgery?
With a stacked American League, there are plenty of candidates for each position to win a Silver Slugger Award next season. Choosing the top candidate for each position may seem easy, but it's a tougher than it looks. With so many variables to consider, including breakout possibilities, injury histories and past performances, it can be hard to decide who leads at each position.
But when it is all said and done come early November, here are the players who should take home the Silver Slugger Award in 2014.
C: Brian McCann
Brian McCann is making the dreaded move from the National League to the American League this season. But McCann already is a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner and moves into a New York Yankees lineup with fellow free agents signings Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. Not to mention left-handed hitters love that short porch in left field at Yankee Stadium. Not so dreaded now is it?
1B: Miguel Cabrera
If only Miguel Cabrera could have stayed healthy. Cabrera was well on his way to another Triple Crown before nagging injuries slowed him down in the latter months of last season. Still, he put up even better numbers in 2013, raising his batting average from .330 to .348 as well as finishing with a career and league high 1.087 OPS. His power numbers were almost identical to 2012 as he hit 44 HR and 137 RBI last season. The Silver Slugger Award should be no problem for Miggy even as he moves back to first base.
2B: Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano scored big time this offseason, cashing in on the third-largest contract in baseball history. With a shiny new 10-year, $240 million deal in his back pocket, don't expect Cano to take a vacation next season. He is a lock to hit .300, 20 HR, 40 doubles and he will hover near the 100 RBI mark. Jason Kipnis may eventually dethrone him when Cano's contract winds down, but right now Cano is head and shoulders above his competition at second base.
3B: Adrian Beltre
American League third basemen are still celebrating Miguel Cabrera's move back to first base. This should open up the award to Adrian Beltre once again. Beltre won the award the previous two seasons before Cabrera moved to third base and should regain his spot at the top this season. Beltre is also celebrating the additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo to the Texas Rangers lineup. Look for Beltre to have another stellar season in the batter's box.
SS: Jose Reyes
After a blockbuster trade in November 2012, Jose Reyes began his career with the Toronto Blue Jays. His first season with the Blue Jays, however, was one to forget as he suffered a severe ankle injury in April and didn't return to action until late June. Despite avoiding surgery, Reyes played in only 93 games last season, but he should have a huge bounce back year for the Blue Jays now that he's fully recovered. His days of 60-70 stolen bases are over, but look for him to be a force at the top of the lineup. Expect numbers around .300 BA, 100 runs, 10 HR and 30 SB.
OF: Mike Trout
As the poster child for sabermetrics, Mike Trout has been in a heated battle with Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP supremacy since Trout stepped onto the scene in 2012. Cabrera has won the battle but not the war (pun intended). Trout has led the league in WAR and runs scored the past two seasons. He followed up an astonishing 30 HR rookie year with 27 HR and nearly hit the 100 RBI mark. Trout also raised his OPS to .988 thanks to a much improved eye at the plate, drawing a league-high 110 walks. Trout has been nothing short of amazing in the first two seasons of his career. A sophomore slump wasn't in his vocabulary and neither is a junior slump. Trout will once again do battle with Cabrera for AL MVP and will easily win another Silver Slugger Award.
OF: Adam Jones
It can be so tough not to slip in a "Pac-Man" when you say the name Adam Jones. Luckily for Baltimore, this Adam Jones is a even-keeled stud. Jones continues to improve year in and year out, having his best season yet in 2013. He finished with a career-high 33 HR and 108 RBI while hitting a solid .285. The knock on Jones is that he doesn't take any walks, but if that's the only issue people can find then so be it. As he enters the prime of his career, you know you'll get solid power and average numbers from Jones. Expect another season of 30 HR, 100 RBI and a batting average around .280.
OF: Yoenis Cespedes
This choice may surprise some people, but Yoenis Cespedes is on the brink of a major breakout. Unlike Trout, Cespedes suffered through a sophomore slump as his batting average plummeted from .292 to .240. He also struggled to hit righties, hitting only .223 and dropped his OBP to a mere .294. Nevertheless, the tools are there for Cespedes to finally emerge as an elite hitter. He finished last season strong and torched Tigers pitching in the postseason with a line of .381/.409/.667. Will this be the season he finally puts it together? If he carries his performances from September and October into 2014, Cespedes has the potential to hit 30 HR and 100 RBI while hitting for a high average, making him an excellent Silver Slugger Award candidate.
DH: David Ortiz
Entering his 18th season, David Ortiz continues to hold off Father Time. Will it finally catch up to him in 2014? Don't count on it. Big Papi continues to put up big numbers as he finished last season with his first 30 HR and 100 RBI season since 2010. He was also ridiculously clutch last October during the Red Sox World Series run. The buzz around Big Papi these days involves his contract as he is calling for a multiyear extension. Whether or not he is playing on a one-year deal or a 10-year deal, Ortiz will produce just like he always does in 2014.
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