It is Opening Day. I’ll repeat my sentiments from earlier that starting on a Thursday doesn’t feel quite right, but we’re just three hours away from Tigers/Yankees and Braves/Nationals. If you can wrap your head around it, “Lucky” Livan Hernandez is taking the ball for the Nationals. The Phillies don’t hit the diamond until Friday, but I’ve got to get these predictions in before Livan twirls that first spin ball, or they won’t be truly official. When I did this last year I had mixed results. I completely jinxed Josh Beckett, but Roy Halladay won the Cy Young. I tried to get cute with Hanley Ramirez, but Miguel Cabrera put up MVP-type numbers. So, no one is good at making these predictions, I just want everyone to realize, I’m not especially bad at it. Here we go…
American League Playoff Teams: Boston, Detroit, Oakland and New York.
You’d have to be a moron to not take the Red Sox in the East. It is a very good division. Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa will create some problems, but the Red Sox are clearly the best team and the Yankees should be good enough to win the wild-card. The A’s pick is me yielding to something trendy. They have a good rotation, I think the Rangers will suffer a setback, and that makes things wide open. There is a lot of love for Chicago in the Central, and I think it’ll be a very tight race, but I settled on the Tigers.
National League Playoff Teams: Phillies, Reds, Giants and Rockies.
Nothing too creative here. I’m not buying the Braves, I don’t like Lowe and Huddy anymore. I like the Brewers, but their injuries on the pitching staff scare me a little bit. With the Padres worse than last year and the Diamondbacks being the Diamondbacks I think the Giants and Rockies could both beat up on those teams and use it as a springboard to make the playoffs.
National League Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman.
I picked Chapman to have more influence last year than Strasburg and Heyward. Well, I get a bit of a second chance here. A lot of the late money is coming in on San Francisco 1st baseman Brandon Belt. A lot of the time these big 1st base prospects, guys like Belt or Freddie Freeman need a little time to develop. If Craig Kimbrel had won the closer’s job outright, I probably take him, but instead I’ll go with the known commodity in Chapman.
American League Rookie of the Year: Kyle Drabek.
There are a few names floating around for this one that we’ve heard for years. Jeremy Hellickson, for example. Desmond Jennings. Jesus Montero. I like that Drabek is riding a big wave of momentum this spring. He went from the Jays hoping he’d be in the rotation to being named their #2 starter. It’s a tall order in the AL East, but I think a full season of work will give him the edge in this race.
American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander.
If you think the Red Sox are the best team, you automatically should start there, but I don’t see a Cy Young on that staff. From there, it’s all about the usual suspects, guys like C.C. and Felix. I think doing it two straight years for a bad team is just too difficult, so that kills Felix’s chances. I don’t have the guts to take a flyer on someone like Trevor Cahill, so it came down to C.C. and Verlander. Verlander has that eye-popping fastball, he’s got the easier division, and it just feels like if he’s going to win one of these things, it’s going to be this year. That’s science.
National League Cy Young: Roy Halladay.
Remember what I said yesterday about until further notice? Well, yeah, it applies here too. The National League is stacked with guys who could win this. Lincecum, Cain, Greinke, Carpenter, Latos, Johnson, Jimenez. It’s an incredibly deep race. The thing is, a lot of those guys had huge, career-type years last season and they either couldn’t stay healthy or couldn’t keep it together the whole way. Halladay just had a Halladay year and won the thing unanimously. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a little better in 2011 and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he went back-to-back.
National League MVP: Ryan Braun.
The two trendiest picks I’ve seen are Tulo and Buster Posey. Posey had the massive spring and people are projecting the old Ryan Howard Ro0kie of the Year/MVP double. I don’t quite see it. I think Pujols will be in there, I think Ryan Howard gets some love, but I’m going to take a chance on Braun. The guy just hits and hits. Now, he can’t play defense a lick, and the Brewers might not be a playoff team, so he’ll have to really explode to win this, but I think he’s got a chance with Prince Fielder pushing for a contract in the line up with him.
American League MVP: Miguel Cabrera.
What is my deal with the Tigers? I actually have no idea. I guess if I pick all of these things, maybe one will happen? I’m hearing a lot of A-Rod chatter for MVP this year. I can’t do that, I’d take Cano before I took him. Adrian Gonzalez is a popular call, but I don’t want to go there either. I don’t think Hamilton can repeat, and that leaves Cabrera as the best hitter in the AL. Pretty much hands down, so it’s really the safe play.
World Series Prediction: Yankees over Giants.
I’d like both these teams to take a long, deep inhale of that jinx. Honestly, the Phillies have too many question marks and the Red Sox just feel a bit too trendy. Go to ESPN’s predictions and look at the sea of Red Sox logos. It’s out of control.