Most Valuable Player Award: Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics
Yoenis the Menace! We’re wasting no time jumping on the Oakland outfielder’s bandwagon after his strong rookie campaign. Cespedes just turned 27, and he spent his first summer as a major leaguer hitting a robust .292/.356/.505 with 23 homers and 16 steals in just 540 PA thanks to a hand injury. Once his hittin’ hand was all better, Cespedes put everything together and the plate and surged to a .311/.376/.533 finish in the second half. We think Cespedes has what it takes to post a .900 OPS in a full season, go 30/30 in the process, and make voters take notice. He even likes hitting in his massive home park, so you know his power is going to play anywhere. Obvious candidates Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano were options, as was the unbelievable Mike Trout, but ultimately we decided we needed to shake it up. Other close calls in our distorted and sometimes disgusting minds were Cleveland catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana (he mashed in the second half and draws every walk there is) and Austin Jackson (he was actually seventh in the AL in WAR for position players last season).
Scherzer isn’t the first Detroit pitcher that comes to mind when predicting an American League Cy Young award winner (there’s this other guy, Justin something), but there are plenty of reasons to think he has at least one monster season in him. After getting hit around a bit in the first half of the 2012 season (opponents hit .268/.333/.437 against him and forced a 4.72 ERA), Scherzer dominated to the tune of 110 strikeouts, 27 walks, and a 2.69 ERA in 90 1/3 innings after the All-Star break. This is nothing new for Scherzer; his electric stuff has been inhibited by injuries and slow starts in the past as well. The 28-year-old had baseball’s highest strikeout rate for a starter last season, he limits his walks, and he appears to be just fine entering 2013. We’re going to predict that this is finally the year everything comes together and he, for however brief a moment, eclipses his famous teammate. We were also close to picking another strikeout-centric pitcher in Yu Darvish, while we could have also gone with breakout candidate Matt Moore or one of the usual suspects (Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Bruce Chen).
Rookie of the Year Award: Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have quite the baseball boner when it comes to the 22-year-old Bradley, already naming him the team’s starting left fielder despite his lack of experience. When picking a guy for this award, it’s rather nice to know that the player is going to get a shot in the first place, and Boston seems quite committed to seeing what Bradley can do. Bradley began last season at the High-A level and hit a stunning .358/.480/.526 to earn a promotion to Double-A where he went ahead and hit a solid .271/.373/.437. Between the two levels, Bradley homered nine times and stole 24 bases. At his best, Bradley projects to hit for average, draw tons of walks, play outstanding defense, and mix a bit of power in from time to time. While he’s unlikely to do all of that right away, we’re expecting enough to get him some hardware long after the Red Sox have buried their playoff expectations. Other intriguing candidates like Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, and Dylan Bundy don’t seem likely to get the games in to seriously contend at this point, so we had to pass despite how badly we wanted to pull the trigger on one of them. Or all of them. Tri-winners!