Burning Questions: Who Will Win the Major MLB Awards This Season?

Apart from Mike Trout as AL MVP, rampant disagreement is present in this edition of Burning Questions.

The numberFire baseball crew will be - and has been - posting a weekly feature called Burning Questions. The idea is simple: we pose a general question then provide many answers and explanations on the particular subject.

This gives you, the reader, a chance to hear opinions from many different experts, who, believe it or not, don't always agree on everything. What we do have in common is a knowledge of and love for the game, and we want you to be a part of the conversation. Feel free to pose an answer to this or a future Burning Question on Twitter, or tell us why you agree or disagree with one or more of our answers. These features are designed to start the conversation, not to offer a comprehensive solution, and often there is not a clear correct answer.

This week, the crew tries their hand at predicting the future by making their postseason award picks. Are any of us legitimate fortune tellers? That remains to be seen. The first rule of trying to predict baseball is that you can't predict baseball. Could anyone have predicted Michael Wacha's improbable run of success in the 2013 postseason? How about the walk-off obstruction call in Game 3 of the World Series? What about Yuniesky Betancourt carving out a nine year MLB career and earning more than $15.7 million while posting a career WAR of negative 2.5?

The point is, baseball is unpredictable - we love it for that, and wouldn't have it any other way. However, trying to make predictions is always fun. We enjoy writing about them and we hope you enjoy reading and discussing them. So without further commentary, here are the numberFire staff predictions for the major MLB awards this season.

Jim Sannes' Picks

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
AL Cy Young: Anibal Sanchez
NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner
AL Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Pineda
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Johnny Cueto

For AL MVP, I tried my hardest not to pick Mike Trout. I don't have the Angels in the playoffs because the division is tough with Oakland and Texas, Trout just chopped down some money trees by signing a new contract, and, you know, Miguel Cabrera exists. But I just couldn't find a good enough reason not to pick the best player in baseball for this award.

In the senior circuit, I've got a man-crush on Hanley Ramirez. He finished the season with a 5.0 WAR despite only recording 336 plate appearances due to injury. His .442 wOBA would have been second in the league to Cabrera had Ramirez had enough at-bats to qualify. And his team is stacked, ready to make a run at the NL crown. This is going to be a fun season for the Dodgers.

On the bump, I don't know if I actually think Anibal Sanchez will contend for the award or if I just wanted to choose somebody a bit different. Either way, Sanchez is intriguing. He had a better ERA, FIP and xFIP than teammate Max Scherzer last year, yet he won seven less games. Those two totals should both regress to the mean, appeasing the voters, and making Sanchez a legit Cy Young contender.

As with Sanchez, I'm not sure Madison Bumgarner will take the NL Cy Young. It's more that Clayton Kershaw seems too obvious and may receive the "Kobe Treatment." In this scenario, Bumgarner plays the role of Steve Nash if the Giants can rebound and find their way back to the playoffs. I picked them to get there last week in our season predictions, so we'll roll with Bumgarner here.

Chris Kay's Picks

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Grady Sizemore
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Ryan Howard

Mike Trout has to win an MVP at some point, right? I think voters will have no problem making Trout the guy after he puts up great numbers and the Angels win the West or a wild-card spot. On the other side of things, I think Bryce Harper tones it down just enough to avoid the DL. This should mean big things from the 21 year old who was great last season, hitting 20 home runs in just 118 games.

I believe Justin Verlander rebounds from an “off year” and takes home the Cy Young. He seems determined to prove everyone wrong, whether it be about his offseason surgery or the loss in velocity. He was lights out in the playoffs last year, allowing one earned run and 10 hits in 23 innings. In the NL, Clayton Kershaw repeats as Cy Young winner even though he's starting the season on the DL. There’s nothing sneaky with this pick.

I’m a huge fan of Masahiro Tanaka and think that this will be a great year for him. It’s hard not to pass on the guy with his talent and the fact that he’s been playing pro baseball in Japan for a while. My other Rookie of the Year is a base stealer, but I think he hits enough to impress voters. Hamilton could possibly steal 70-plus bags in a division with great defensive catchers like Russell Martin and Yadier Molina.

Grady Sizemore in Boston is a feel-good story, and I hope it continues throughout the entire season. He was a great talent for Cleveland years ago, and if he can stay healthy, he’s a prime candidate for this award. As for NL CPOY, I’m going with another big time player years ago that has been hampered with injuries in the last few seasons: Ryan Howard. Here’s to hoping for health, fellas!

Bradley Wilson's Picks

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Cy Young: Jose Fernandez
AL Rookie of the Year: Yordano Ventura
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Pineda
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Kemp

I go a little more in depth on why Mike Trout will win the MVP award this year, but just for a sneak peek: he's the best player in baseball, and for his age and experience level, he's the best player ever. No, really. Ever. I don't make a habit of picking against the best player ever. As for the NL, voter fatigue probably precludes Buster Posey, Joey Votto or Andrew McCutchen from winning even though they're probably the three best bets to have great seasons. That leaves viable candidates in Hanley Ramirez (if he stays healthy) and Bryce Harper (if he breaks through). I think the latter is more likely; Harper refined his approach last season, drawing five more walks in over 100 fewer plate appearances, and his improved discipline should let his generational power play up this season. Look for .280/.390/.550 this year from Harper with a division-winning team.

For the Cy picks, I actually have a reasonable defense for picking against Clayton Kershaw - he's already on the DL, and players who get hurt in the spring often tend to have nagging injuries through the season. It's his back, and backs can be dicy. But at least it's not his arm. Jose Fernandez, meanwhile, is an absolute beast. He was already better at missing bats (and, relatedly, preventing hits) than Kershaw last year, and he reportedly has the best pitching mechanics in the league.

In the AL, the Kershaw argument basically applies to Yu Darvish, who starts the year on the DL with a neck injury. With Darvish potentially slowed by injuries, I think the three elite Tigers pitchers will split the vote, and either David Price or Chris Sale will come out on top. I picked Sale because I prefer the true power pitcher to the more command-oriented Price.

Anti-foreign player bias among the voters rules out Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka in the AL for Rookie of the Year, which leaves us with Yordano Ventura or Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts is a wonderful, mature player, but Ventura can throw 100 mph and a wipeout breaking ball, and I can't bet against those tools. Billy Hamilton is the most electrifying player in the league, and he batted .327 with walks and power this spring. Each extra point of BOP and BA increases his value more than an equivalent contribution from anyone else because of his deadly speed, and if he's hitting the ball hard - as his six extra-base hits and .200 ISO from this spring would indicate - he should (ahem) run away with this award.

As for comeback player, Michael Pineda has pitched very well this spring, and if he's even a number three or four caliber starter, he should easily win this award in the AL after losing two years to injury. I don't see an obvious choice in the NL, so I'm just going to go with the most talented player who's been hurt a lot lately. If Matt Kemp can recover some power, he should earn enough playing time in a crowded Dodgers outfield to win an award like this.

Dan Weigel's Picks

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Ryan Braun
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu
NL Rookie of the Year: Oscar Tavares
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Derek Jeter
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Johnson

Team Trout versus Team Cabrera may be the most significant national debate since Team Edward versus Team Jacob, and I'm firmly a member of Team Trout. While hitting a lot of home runs - like Cabrera tends to do - is usually a good thing, Trout overcomes his relative lack of power by being really fast and playing great defense, as opposed to the plodding Cabrera’s statuary defense. Oh, and Trout also posted back-to-back seasons with at least 10 WAR, while Cabrera has posted respective totals of 6.8 and 7.6.

The Ryan Braun pick may raise some eyebrows, but let’s not forget that, until last year’s nightmare, Braun was a really good baseball player. He won the NL MVP in 2011 and finished second in 2012, but even more impressive is that he has received MVP votes every season of his entire career apart from last year. The talent is there.

Oh wait, Braun had a PED suspension? Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t buy the argument that Braun’s elite career has been entirely a result of drugs. Votto, McCutchen, Molina, and Paul Goldschmidt might be safer picks here, but Braun is a dark horse candidate that can't be overlooked.

The Cy Young picks were by far the easiest choices for me, as I’ll go with the guy who struck out 11.89 batters per nine innings and the player who posted a 1.83 ERA in 2013. Both stats were the best in MLB by a wide margin, and other than Kershaw’s current DL status, there's no reason to think that these guys will not repeat their elite seasons.

The offseason’s great unknown, Jose Abreu, could be anything from the game’s next great slugger to the historical equivalent of Hideki Irabu. As you can tell by my choice, I'm optimistic on his chances to succeed despite our low projections for him. We project a line of .246/13/58 this year, which I think is the worst-case scenario for his 2014 campaign. Maybe this is a stretch, but I would not be surprised if Abreu hits .300/35/100 with a .400 OBP.

Let’s not forget about this time last year when we were all losing our minds over Tavares and projecting him to be the NL Rookie of the Year. Despite the lost season, the talent is still here. Tavares remains on track to be the next Vladimir Guerrero, meaning that he will hit for average and power despite swinging at everything.

While Derek Jeter's better days are certainly behind him, a merely decent campaign ought to net him this award in his final season. Just as Mariano Rivera won last year’s award after battling back from an injury-riddled campaign, Jeter looks to stay healthy and enjoy one more productive season before hanging up the spikes for good. While it may be a stretch to predict that Jeter will go out with another World Series ring, it should not surprise anyone if his fairy tale career ends with this award.

Josh Johnson is the poster boy for a boom or bust pitcher, and during the past few seasons, we have seen both. He mixes flashes of brilliance with injuries and ineffectiveness, cementing his status as one of the game’s enigmas. Johnson signed a one year deal to with San Diego this offseason, meaning that he will pitch all of his home games in the greatest pitchers park on the planet. Maybe he will battle injuries and ineffectiveness again this year, but maybe Johnson will return to his peak and dominate the NL West this season.