Photo Credit: Boston Herald

It’s always fun at the beginning of each season, looking around at all the new and developed talent picking whose names may pop up at the end of the year when talking about the major awards. Could Jose Altuve possibly repeat as AL MVP in 2018? Could it go to a power hitter in the Bronx? Maybe even the best player in baseball, Mike Trout? How about the NL Cy Young race? Will Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw see a new face competing with them? So many awards, so many deserving players. Let’s see who I think will take home each award at the end of the 2018 season.

Photo Credit: Sporting News

AL MVP: Carlos Correa

While the Houston Astros have about three guys who can win this award, I’m choosing Carlos Correa. Correa is arguably the top shortstop in all of baseball, along with Francisco Lindor. Correa’s ability to hit for elite power and average, along with decent defense is why he ranks near the top and should be one of the leading candidates to take home this award at the end of the year. Correa last year only played 109 games, while hitting 24 home runs and managing a batting average of .315 despite him missing two months with a torn thumb ligament. Last year was when the power really started to show off. We always knew Carlos Correa had massive power, but his career high was 24. We all know he’s capable of doubling that, but before he got injured in July this past year, Correa was already at 20 home runs. There’s 40 home runs in that bat somewhere, no doubt. Correa just needs to stay on the field so he can put up the consistent at-bats to result within his stats to show how much he’s capable of. With the Astros surely to finish in first place again, and reach the playoffs, Carlos Correa will be right in the middle of the MVP discussion, and one of the biggest reasons why the Astros will be around for several years. I think 2018 will be the year when Carlos Correa finally makes his mark on his promising career, he just has to stay healthy.

Photo Credit: NY Times

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado

I mean C’mon, where is the love for Nolan Arenado when it comes to the NL MVP voting? Sure, people are going to look at the fact that he plays in Coors Field, but that shouldn’t matter. The dude literally crushes everywhere. In 2017, Arenado batted .309 with 37 home runs, and 130 RBIs. He’s the best defensive third baseman in the game, and he’s also durable. I mean he’s only averaged 159 games played over the last three seasons. At home, Arenado batted .336 with 19 home runs and 76 RBIs. On the road, Arenado batted .283 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. I think it’s time for people to stop using that against him. Nolan Arenado at the end of the year is always leading the league in RBIs, always near the top in home runs, and always has a batting average near .300 at the end of EVERY year, and he’s does it CONSISTENTLY. 2018 better be the year Nolan Arenado gets awarded for his elite play. It’s about time.

Photo Credit: Boston Herald

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale

The ace of the Boston Red Sox had a glorious 2017 season. Chris Sale went 17-8 while posting a 2.90 earned run average in 214 innings pitched while accomplishing 308 strikeouts. It’s safe to say Chris Sale wasn’t anywhere close to being intimidated by the Boston atmosphere. All of last season, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber were neck and neck in terms of winning the AL Cy Young award, until Chris Sale collapsed in September posting a 3.75 ERA, which is still good, but Corey Kluber wasn’t slowing down. Kluber stayed consistent and ended up posting a 2.25 ERA. With the Red Sox new plan to manage Chris Sale’s workload, his September numbers should improve. Chris Sale averaged 13 strikeouts a game, I still think that’s unreal. His bulldog mentality and leadership presence on the mound makes him one of the best pitchers in baseball. Chris Sale, in my opinion, is the fourth best starting pitcher in the game behind Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Corey Kluber. Them three have their Cy Young awards, I think it’s Chris Sale’s turn to receive his.

Photo Credit: Sporting News

NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard

Every year we hear Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. 2018 may be the year we see someone else on top looking down at all the rest of the Cy Young contenders in the National League. The reason I pick Noah Syndergaard is based off his pure stuff. An upper 90’s fastball and a wipeout slider, that may very well be the single-handedly best pitch in all of baseball. Health is always a question with the Mets, but if Noah Syndergaard can take the ball every fifth day, his chances of winning the Cy Young is more than great. He missed most of last year with a partially torn lat muscle. From what I’ve seen on his active twitter account, Thor will be ready to go. The Mets should be right in the middle of the NL Wild Card race, and maybe even the division, you just never know. Point is, if they have a healthy Noah Syndergaard to go along with Jacob deGrom, the Mets chances are pretty darn good in 2018. Step aside Kershaw and Scherzer, Thor is coming.

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

AL Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani

Want a player who has the potential to be elite at both pitching and offense? Well you have it in Shohei Ohtani. We know about his 101 mph fastball and we know about his mammoth home runs, but will that translate to Major League Baseball here in the U.S.? Sure, when the whole world knows you can do both, there’s going to be some added hype. I understand some people saying he won’t live up to the hype because it’s hard to be great at two things at once while trying to push to get better at both, not just one. Not me though, I think Ohtani is going to be a very important piece on this Angels team. The Angels are going to need him to be that dominant pitcher in order for the rest of that rotation to compliment the revamped offense that now includes Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and Zack Cosart. Big things are happening for the Angels right now, let’s see if Ohtani was the piece they were missing.

Photo Credit: Baseball America

NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuña

The top prospect in the Braves loaded system and the number one prospect in all of Baseball according to Baseball America. Acuña possesses a good power/ speed combination along with good defense. Usually when young players make it to the big leagues, you see them striking out a lot and showing almost no plate discipline. This is where Ronald Acuña is going to stand out, I think he’s going to be the exact opposite, that is until pitchers adjust to him. Acuña has power, he doesn’t strikeout a ton, he has great vision at the plate. What else can you ask from a 20 year old? With Matt Kemp being traded off the roster, this sets up an outfield spot for Ronald Acuña. He will be a big part of the Braves in the near future. An offense that already includes Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, and Ozzie Albies, Acuña is about to make this offense legit and it’s only going to get better. Look for Acuña to be near the top in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

Photo Credit: NBC Sports

AL Manager of the Year: Alex Cora

The Yankees can make all the noise they want, and people can continue to write off the Red Sox when it comes to finishing in first place next year. The Red Sox will have a good team, World Series good? Hmm I don’t know. To win the AL East? Well yes. Everyone talks about this team not hitting enough home runs, but I think new hitting coaches Tim Hyers and Andy Barkett will have a big impact, they seem to be big believers in launch angle. I think this will help guys like Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi specifically. I mean C’mon Xander, the batting average is going to look nice, but there’s 25 homers in that bat somewhere. A full year from Rafael Devers will help too, along with a healthy Hanley Ramirez, both being guys who can mash 30 home runs pretty easily. The team continues it’s talks with J.D. Martinez, but I think with the players here already, with a new hitting approach, plus bounce back years from a couple others, the offense will be okay. With the pitching, if everyone is healthy and pitching like they are supposed to, this can be one of the top rotations in all of baseball. Chris Sale will be Chris Sale, and David Price will be David price, if he’s healthy. Also, if Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello can pitch to their mid 3 earned run averages, then that will be pretty good too. Point is, yes Alex Cora will have his hands full. Yes, it’s Boston. Yes, there’s the media. Yes, there’s a lot to prove, but most importantly though, Cora is inheriting a team that will be hungry. The last two postseasons have been awful, and they all know it. 2018 will be something to prove in terms of playoffs, but you have to get there first. Let’s see what a different lead voice in the clubhouse will do. The Red Sox and Alex Cora will have to prove they can beat the Yankees, and that they will have the better team at the end of the year, let’s see if they can get it done.

Photo Credit: NY Daily News

NL Manager of the Year: Mickey Callaway

IF, and I mean this is a big IF, if the Mets stay healthy, they can be dangerous. You take a look at the lineup, and yes I understand this isn’t 2015 anymore, but when you have an offense that includes Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Adrian Gonzalez, and Michael Conforto, there’s some legit power between those 5 guys. Each have the potential to hit 30 home runs, and of course the strikeouts are going to come along with the low on-base percentage, but their offense will be one you can’t take lightly. I haven’t even mentioned the pitching yet. The pitching will be the strength of this team, specifically the starters. We’re talking about Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, two Cy Young contenders followed by a healthy Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. There’s also Matt Harvey, or Mr. Inconsistent. Imagine if Matt Harvey can return to his ace form, the Mets would be almost unstoppable from a pitching stand point. With this, the Mets have a darn good team, and with Mickey Callaway, I don’t think there’s a better fit than this team. He has an eye for pitching, and the Mets have plenty of it. Sometimes it takes a different kind of leadership to turn a team around, and I think Callaway will be completely different than Terry Collins. Combined with a healthy rotation, a revamped offense, and a new head honcho in the clubhouse, the Mets are about to surprise some people. Mickey Callaway, do your thing.

We’re less than 10 days away from seeing some actual baseball being played, I’m interested to see which players are going to take that next step leading to a career year. The calendar is about to strike March, the offseason is almost over, and Baseball is approaching fast. Buckle up, the 2018 baseball season should be a good one.

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