Rookie of the year
Also says Reds have shot in Central...
Predicting a Braves-Indians Series
posted: Friday, March 28, 2008 | Print Entry
filed under: MLB
Predictions have no currency; they are non-fiction, radio-TV shock-jock stuff.
One can spend six weeks roaming spring training and believe that the Braves and Red Sox may well be the best teams in their leagues, but we all know what happens if John Smoltz, Mike Hampton and Chipper Jones get hurt. The Red Sox may be the favorites to win the World Series for the third time in five years (the house postgame show Tuesday opened with "Red Sox Nation's dreams of a 162-0 season are still alive"), but if anything happens to Josh Beckett or Jason Varitek, they, as Dylan once said, ain't goin' nowhere.
Think back to the opening week of 2007. The Diamondbacks and Rockies were coming off the worst records in the National League. By the end of the year, they tied for the most wins in the league, and the very talented Rockies, who had never won more than 83 games, earned their way to the World Series. On Opening Day, the Rays were trying to send Carlos Pena to Durham, but one injury later, he was put on the roster, hit 48 homers and was ninth in the MVP voting.
Yeah, we all knew that Fausto Carmona would go from 1-10 to fourth in the Cy Young balloting; that Dustin Pedroia would hit .182 in April and, with the heart of a world champion, end up as the AL Rookie of the Year; that the top three closers in terms of saves would be Joe Borowski, Jose Valverde and Francisco Cordero; or that three players who started the season in the minors -- Ryan Braun, Hunter Pence, Kyle Kendrick -- would all end up in the top five in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
Or that the pitcher who would start and win the World Series clincher would be Jon Lester, less than 10 months off chemotherapy.
So it's easy to sit here now and say the Braves, Cubs, Red Sox, Tigers and Angels will win their divisions, but the Indians will win the World Series because of their great pitching. Look, in the NL East, the Braves, Mets and Phillies can all be in the playoffs. So can the Cubs, Brewers and Reds in the NL Central, as well as the D-backs, Rockies, Dodgers and Padres in the NL West. Or the Red Sox, Yankees or Blue Jays in the AL East; or the Tigers or Indians in the AL Central; or the Angels or Mariners in the AL West. And we all appreciate what the Rays, Royals, Rangers, Athletics, Marlins, Nationals and Twins are trying to build.
Don't remind me of my failures. I have not forgotten them. With that, OK, I'm guessing that the wild-card Indians will beat the Braves in the World Series. Now, here are some other prognostications, with considerable help from friends in front offices, dugouts and the scouts' seats.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP
1. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox. Just watch him run. The winter at Athletes' Performance Center in Tempe, Ariz., changed him physically and mentally, and it doesn't hurt to have David Ortiz in his tandem.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. In that lineup, he could knock in 150 runs.
3. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. Sulk, Jose, sulk. A-Rod's going to Cooperstown, and you're going into a wax museum.
Also receiving votes: David Ortiz, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Pena, Magglio Ordonez.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP
1. David Wright, Mets. His well-deserved time. Talent + Accountability = Franchise Person.
2. Russell Martin, Dodgers. Larry Bowa says he could play shortstop. Bill Bavasi says he's the best third baseman in the National League. What he is is the best catcher in the game, the Dodgers' leader, and an intense offensive machine who can hit .330 with a .900 OPS.
3. Derrek Lee, Cubs. Best lineup he's had to hit in.
Also receiving votes: Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Teixeira, Jeff Francoeur.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers. He may be in the running every year, but in 2008 13.7 runs of support per start may win 25 games.
2. Josh Beckett, Red Sox. One man for one game.
3. Felix Hernandez, Mariners. The rising.
Also receiving votes: C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Phil Hughes, Dustin McGowan.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG
1. Brad Penny, Dodgers. If he makes 35 starts, he can take the Dodgers a long, long way'
2. Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. Freed from contract concerns, he can be a franchise starter.
3. Johan Santana, Mets. Dealing with expectations easier with Pedro Martinez at his side.
Also receiving votes: Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy.
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees
2. Daric Barton, Athletics
3. Adam Jones, Orioles
Also receiving votes:Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox; Nick Blackburn, Twins; Carlos Gonzalez, Athletics.
Best in September: Evan Longoria, Rays; Clay Buchholz, Red Sox; Nick Adenhart, Angels
NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Johnny Cueto, Reds
2. J.R. Towles, Astros
3. Joey Votto, Reds
Also receiving votes: Franklin Morales, Rockies; Manny Parra, Brewers; Nate Schierholtz, Giants.
Best in September: Jordan Schafer, Braves; Chase Headley, Padres; Jay Bruce, Reds.
ONE DOZEN BREAKOUT SEASONS
1. John Maine, Mets. 20 wins?
2. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays. Best all-around second baseman in the AL?
3. Delmon Young, Twins. The plate discipline will come because he wants to be great.
4. Andre Ethier, Dodgers (a lot of mention for James Loney, but he broke out last season)
5. Phil Hughes, Yankees. It's all there.
6. Howie Kendrick, Angels. Batting champion?
7. Billy Butler, Royals. Several baseball folks thought he was the best hitter in Arizona
8. Alex Gordon, Royals
9. Corey Hart, Brewers. As if an .892 OPS, 24 homers, 23 steals and 66 extra-base hits didn't constitute a breakout.
10. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks. Watch the upward curve.
11. Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks. He doesn't have to hit home runs; just run out a .400 on-base percentage and the rest will follow.
12. Manny Delcarmen, Red Sox. He could be one of the best relievers in the game.
ONE DOZEN COMEBACKS TO WATCH
1. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks. Scouts who saw his last two starts say his delivery and slider are back, and he's 2 mph from being fully back.
2. Bobby Abreu, Yankees. Lighter, healthier and an offensive machine.
3. Hank Blalock, Rangers.
4. Rich Harden, Athletics. Yeah, yeah, how many starts? ... His stuff in the spring and in his first start puts him in an elite class.
5. Joe Mauer, Twins. Ron Gardenhire is going to protect those legs.
6. Kerry Wood, Cubs. 96-99 mph with a hammer?
7. Nick Johnson, Nationals. After two rough years, he is in the best shape of his career, and he can really hit.
8. Zack Greinke, Royals. The stuff this spring matched what once was his promise.
9. Mike Hampton, Braves. It's all about keeping healthy, because last weekend he had the stuff of a 20-game winner.
10. B.J. Ryan, Blue Jays. Was slowed at the end of the spring, but he'll be back, closing, soon.
11. Jesse Crain, Twins. It may be July before he's all the way back, but in the second half the Twins' bullpen could be the best in the American League.
12. Cliff Lee, Indians. May be closer to the 18-game winner than the No. 2 Buffalo starter, which is what he was last September.
ONE DOZEN PLAYERS WE CAN'T WAIT TO SEE AGAIN IN THE REGULAR SEASON
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers. My-my-my. It won't take long.
2. Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers. Jim Leyland thinks he may be in play this year.
3. Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins. Looks like he could be a wing at UNC.
4. Travis Snyder, OF, Blue Jays. One of the best young hitters around.
5. Matt Antonetti, 2B, Padres. Great athlete who'll add energy.
6. Andy LaRoche, 3B, Dodgers. Once healthy, he will settle in at third for a long time, or at least in a battle with Blake DeWitt.
7. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers. What Jon Daniels is storing is going to take Texas a long way for a long time.
8. Henry Rodriguez and Fautino de los Santos, Athletics. Big-time power arms as the A's come back more quickly than anyone anticipated.
9. Jeff Clement, C-DH, Mariners. He and Wladimir Balentien may turn out to be contributors in the 2008 race.
10. Chris Volstad, RHP, Marlins.
11. Jake McGee, LHP, Wade Davis, RHP and Jeff Niemann, RHP, Rays. David Pinto at Baseball Musings picks the Rays to finish the season with the best rotation in the AL East.
12. Max Scherzer, RHP, Diamondbacks.
(Jordan Shafer, Evan Longoria, Jay Bruce, Chase Headley are already mentioned)