So that we can all sit back and laugh about how ridiculously off-base I was when the season started, I've decided to put my wild predictions for the 2011 season in print. For argument's sake, I'm going to try to avoid some of the more obvious picks...
AL MVP - Mark Teixeira
I made the same prediction last year, though I didn't have a blog to share with the world. But the fact of the matter is that year after year he's an absolute monster in the 2nd half of the season and has been for years. I'm hedging my bets and saying that he manages a "decent" first few months and rolls on to the best season of his career. The popular pick this year in the AL is Adrian Gonzalez, but I think that shoulder injury is going to play a bigger role than a lot of other people think.
NL MVP - Carlos Gonzalez
All the talk this offseason has been about Troy Tulowitzki and while he had a tremendous final 6 weeks of the regular season, he wasn't even the best player on his own team. That title goes to Gonzalez. Cargo is the rare 30-30 potential guy with power to all fields who hits for average and plays Gold Glove caliber defense. He was arguably the best 5 tool player in the game right now and I think if he comes close to a repeat performance and his Rockies stay in the playoff hunt, he'll be looking at an MVP trophy come seasons end.
AL Cy Young - Jon Lester
There are a handful of guys who could win this award, but none of the others play for the Red Sox. The fact remains that voters love the W column and Lester is going to get a bunch of them playing behind the Boston offense. If he keeps his K's up in the 200s and can sneak his ERA into the low 3's, 21 wins should be well within his grasp.
NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay
This one is the easy pick after seeing his nearest competition go down in the spring in Adam Wainwright. But the fact of the matter is I've been calling Roy Halladay the best pitcher in baseball since like 2005. He's a horse and he almost always exceed expectations. I'd go as far as to suggest that his stat line even improves from last season.
AL Rookie of the Year - Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Ichiro-Light is how I would classify him. He has that same slap and run style of play that many Japanese ball players have and he rode it to a batting title last season. His nearest competition for the ROY might be Jeremy Hellickson and Kyle Drabek (Only two rookies in an AL starting rotation), but both of them will go through some growing pains. Nishioka has the benefit of having played high level professional ball for a few years and should burst right onto the scene.
NL Rookie of the Year - Brandon Belt
Admittedly, I don't know a ton about this guy. But he won the Giants starting first base job out of camp and he's a huge prospect for them. His nearest competition seems to be Freddie Freeman of ATL and Aroldis Chapman from the Reds. Chapman will be a setup man and I don't care how hard he throws, you can't give the award to a setup guy. Freeman seems to be of the same mold as Belt so I'm really just taking the Giants first baseman on a hunch.
AL Comeback Player - Manny Ramirez
The MLB Network 30 Clubs in 30 Days special with the Rays gave me a real good feeling about Manny. He seems to be rejuvenated and looking to prove himself the same way he had to when he went to LA. It's a shot in the dark, but I think he has one more year of 25 HRs and 95 RBI left in him.
NL Comeback Player - Jimmy Rollins
It's starting to seem doubtful that he starts the season as the Phillies leadoff hitter. While that might sound like a demotion to some people, his role in the #3 spot is going to be far more valuable. He won't go 30-30-30 again, but he'll push the BA numbers back a little closer to elite SS level. The fact that he's in a contract year should motivate him to lay off a few more 1st pitch breaking balls and hone his skills for one more contract at age 32.
AL Disappointment - Jose Bautista
The homeruns may not have been a total fluke, but pitchers will be wise to him this year. Every prediction I've seen still puts him in the 35-100-100 class and I don't think he's going to reach any of those milestones this year.
NL Disappointment - Prince Fielder
I've often seen him as an all or nothing kind of guy, even though he hasn't really played that way. Well this year I think he will. You just can't carry a frame like a beach-ball and be a good first baseman for very long. Look for a Mo Vaughn-esque decline any day now.
Hitters to watch:
Gordon Beckham - huge bounce back from sophomore slump.
Shin-Soo Choo - My love affair with him is well documented. 20-20-.290 AVG is a lock.
Jay Bruce - Finally becoming the player he was supposed to be.
Billy Butler - This is the year the power finally matches the plate discipline.
Jed Lowrie - Marco Scutaro is one stubbed toe away from being a utility infielder again.
Pitchers to watch:
Erik Bedard - don't call it a comeback!
Brandon Beachy - has the 2nd highest ceiling of the Braves starting 5.
Brian Matusz - a year older and a much better lineup behind him.
Gio Gonzalez - said to have the best stuff in the A's rotation
Daniel Hudson - His stretch run in 2010 was no fluke
1. Boston Red Sox
2. NY Yankees
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Tampa Bay Rays
1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Seattle Mariners
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets
1. Colorodo Rockies
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
1. St Louis Cardinals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Houston Astros
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Chicago Cubs
Wild Card Round:
Red Sox over Twins
Yankees over Rangers
Phillies over Cardinals
Braves over Rockies
Red Sox over Yankees in7
Phillies over Braves in 5
Red Sox over Phillies in 6