With the MLB season officially underway, players and teams have already begun to make their case for a postseason appearance and a chance to be atop the league rankings. Below are my predictions for the regular-season award winners and the world series champions for the 2019 campaign:
NL MVP: Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies
Entering his age-28 season, Arenado has put up tremendous numbers over the past four years. During his 2018 campaign, he placed 3rd in the MVP voting and batted .297 with an NL-leading 38 home runs and 110 RBIs. This offseason, the Rockies rewarded their young superstar with a massive deal, giving him an 8-year, $260 million contract extension that will keep him with Colorado through the 2026 season unless he chooses to opt-out. In 2017, Arenado placed 4th in MVP ballots, and in 2016, he placed 5th. The Rockies are coming off a 91-win season, a year in which they lost in the NLDS. They can compete with the Dodgers in the NL West, and should remain relevant throughout the year as long as Arenado continues to produce. The 4-time all-star and 6-time gold-glove winner has all of the makings of an MVP. With eye-popping numbers every year, he is bound to capture the prestigious award sooner than later.
AL MVP: Alex Bregman – Houston Astros
One of the most promising young stars in the major leagues today, Alex Bregman has quickly built himself into a surefire MVP candidate. Last season, in only his second full year at the MLB level, Bregman placed 5th in the MVP voting after hitting .286 with 30 HRs and 103 RBIs. The Astros recently signed their youthful third baseman to a 6-year, $100 million extension. This deal will keep Bregman with the team through his arbitration-eligible years and locks him up through 2024. Entering his age-25 campaign with barely enough time in the major leagues to get his feet wet, Bregman’s incredible potential opens up the opportunity for an even better third season with the Astros and the definite possibility of an MVP-caliber year.
NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets
One of the most electric pitchers in the national league, Noah Syndergaard has struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons. Injured for much of the 2017 campaign with a partial lat tear, the Mets right-hander went 13-4 with a 3.03 ERA over 25 starts in 2018, being in and out of the rotation throughout the season with minor ailments. In 2016, Syndergaard made the NL all-star team and placed 8th in the Cy Young voting in only his first full season in the majors. Entering his age-26 season, a full-healthy year of the Mets flamethrower should prove to a breakout one, as Syndergaard looks to reach his potential and develop into the superstar he has shown plenty of flashes of since he entered the league in 2015.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander – Houston Astros
A model of consistency for more than a decade in the majors, Verlander is coming off a year in which he pitched to a 2.52 ERA, going 16-9 with an AL-leading 290 strikeouts. However, a mind-boggling season from Rays starter Blake Snell in 2018 prevented the 7-time all-star from capturing his second career Cy Young Award. Recently reaching a 2-year, $66 million extension with the Astros, Verlander will continue to be a mainstay for a Houston team that continues to have World Series aspirations after last winning in 2017. Entering his age-36 season, the 2011 AL MVP has shown no signs of slowing down. His consistency and durability, along with team success, should make Verlander a clear-cut Cy Young candidate who has all of the tools to bring the award home.
NL Rookie of the Year: Peter Alonso – New York Mets
Between double-A and triple-A last season, Alonso put up a league-leading 36 HRs to go along with 119 RBIs and a .285 AVG. Coming into spring training, the young power hitter had lofty expectations to live up to. He did just that, batting .368 with 4 HRs and 11 RBIs in the grapefruit league, enough to earn him the starting job at first base on opening day. Through 5 games, Alonso has already displayed the ability that made him so highly-touted coming into this season, hitting .389 with 1 HR while driving in 6 RBIs. The 24-year-old has plenty of room for growth and should progress as the season goes along. His incredible hitting ability should carry him throughout the 2019 campaign and will allow him to be a standout rookie in the national league.
AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays
One of baseball’s most promising prospects, Guerrero Jr. has displayed all of the traits of a future superstar in the minor leagues, with an excellent glove and a terrific bat. Last season, the 20-year-old hit .381 with 29 doubles, 20 home runs, and 78 RBIs over 95 games across three levels, finishing the year in Triple-A. Currently sidelined with an oblique strain, Guerrero Jr. is expected to make his major league debut sometime in the next few weeks. A five-tool player, his game translates easily to the next level and should allow him to make an immediate impact with the Blue Jays.
NL Manager of the Year: Gabe Kapler – Philadelphia Phillies
Entering his second season as the manager of the Phillies, Kapler and his revamped ballclub will have high expectations. Philadelphia is coming off a surprisingly successful 2018 season in which the team went 80-82 with a young roster. This offseason, Phillies management reeled in superstar Bryce Harper and locked him up to a 13-year, $330 million deal, while also trading for all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura, and signing 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen. With a scary new lineup, a viable starting rotation, and a deep bullpen, Philadelphia has all of the tools necessary to be successful in an extremely competitive NL East. With Kapler at the helm of an overly talented roster, he will be a definite frontrunner for the award.
AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash – Tampa Bay Rays
Leading an impressive Rays team to a 90-72 record in 2018, Cash enters the new year with plenty of hope as the manager of the third-best team in the AL East. Facing clubs like the Yankees and Red Sox on a weekly basis, Tampa Bay has persevered over the past few years, led by Cash since 2015. With the offseason additions of Charlie Morton and Mike Zunino and the extension given to 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, it would not be surprising if the Rays had another successful campaign in 2019. Cash has done a terrific job winning ballgames with an average roster and making the team playoff contenders year in and year out. Tampa Bay management rewarded the former major league catcher with a contract extension at the end of the 2018 season that runs through 2024. With a similar squad and a new incentive to succeed, Cash’s Rays could have another season of achievements ahead of them, with their leader bringing home the hardware as a result.
World Series Champions: Houston Astros
Overshadowed by the Boston Red Sox’s historic season in 2018, the Houston Astros come into this season looking for revenge after nearly being swept by the defending World Champions last year in the ALCS. Winning 103 games last year in a surprisingly competitive AL West, this team has a terrific young core with Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer. 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve is fully healthy, adding another potent bat back into the lineup. Adding outfielder Michael Brantley in free agency fills the void in left field, rounding out an outfield with Josh Reddick and the aforementioned Springer. In terms of the starting rotation, Houston signed southpaw Wade Miley to slot in as their third starter in the offseason, while former relievers Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock will move into the starting rotation to replace the spots of Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. Regarding the bullpen, Houston will have a full season of Roberto Osuna at the back end, along with other terrific arms in Hector Rondon and Will Harris. This is an extremely experienced ballclub, and manager A.J. Hinch should have no problem taking this team far in 2019.