Way-Too-Early Dark Horse MLB Award Predictions

Way-Too-Early Dark Horse MLB Award Predictions

by March 2, 2020 0 comments

Ah, baseball is back. An offseason full of excitement (for one reason or another) is over, bringing the excitement of the coming season to the forefront once again.

And with each season comes perhaps the most exciting part for a baseball fan: predictions.

Whether it be predicting something like a World Series winner or particular breakout star, predictions are always some of the most fun to conjure up. However, with each topic involving baseball, there is always the favorite. Whether it be Mike Trout for American League MVP or the Los Angeles Dodgers making a World Series run, there is always somebody leading the charge in terms of betting odds.

However, my predictions for league awards are solely revolving around dark horse candidates. With that, here they are.

American League

Most Valuable Player – 3B Matt Chapman – Oakland Athletics

Even with the uptick in his home run and run production, Chapman regressed with the bat in his hands in 2019. However, he still posted career-highs in xwOBA (.360), hard-hit rate (48.7 percent), and expected slugging percentage (.505).

Oh, and he somehow improved defensively, as well.

Chapman is coming off his second consecutive season with an fWAR of 6.0 or above and seems to truly be rounding into form as one of baseball’s top players. Moreover, should he find a way to repeat his rates from 2018, there’s a strong chance he could threaten the eight-win plateau, making him a definite MVP candidate.

Cy Young – LHP James Paxton – New York Yankees

This one is a little tougher to justify because Paxton is going to miss April at the bare minimum due to an offseason back procedure. However, the fact remains that he is one of the top starters in the American League when healthy.

While Paxton had his fair share of woes in the first inning, as well as posting his worst xFIP since 2015 (4.03), he still had a very productive season in the Bronx. His 29.4 percent strikeout rate ranked 10th in the AL (min. 100 innings), and his 3.93 SIERA was 12th.

However, his numbers could have been better had he shied away from his four-seam fastball (5.88 xFIP, 60 percent usage). For a pitch that had such little success, a 60 percent usage rate is far too high. His cutter (20 percent usage) saw a 1.39 xFIP and his knuckle-curve (18.5 percent usage) posted a 1.87 xFIP.

It’ll take another jump for Paxton to truly emerge as a Cy Young contender, but with the hiring of Matt Blake at pitching coach, you can possibly see a new and improved James Paxton in 2020.

Rookie of the Year – 3B/1B Bobby Dalbec – Boston Red Sox

Everyone is climbing aboard the Luis Robert hype train out of Chicago’s southside, and for good reason. However, the “other” Sox have an up-and-coming rookie who very well could play a crucial role in 2020.

His name is Bobby Dalbec, who the Red Sox drafted in the fourth round back in 2016.

In 562 plate appearances across Double-A and Triple-A, Dalbec slashed .239/.356/.460 with a .363 wOBA and a wRC+ of 132. He also hit 27 home runs and had a walk rate of 13 percent.

With Mitch Moreland’s ongoing injury concerns over the past few seasons, Dalbec has a strong chance to find himself on the Opening Day roster in 2020. Should he achieve 400-450 plate appearances, he’s going to make some serious noise.

National League

Most Valuable Player – OF Tommy Pham – San Diego Padres

Pham saw a drop in his expected stats in 2019 but still pieced together a strong season for the Tampa Bay Rays. While he’s since been traded to a pitcher-friendly ballpark in San Diego, Pham still is one of the most underappreciated players in the entire league.

The 31-year-old is just a year removed from posting an expected batting average of .292 on top of a .382 xwOBA, with both ranking in the top 10 percent of the league.

Going to an environment where his team’s success is largely contingent on his performance, he could steal even more support in voting if the Padres can be competitive in 2020.

Cy Young – RHP Yu Darvish – Chicago Cubs

Darvish has had something of a fall from grace since 2014, but he was actually very good in 2019.

His 3.55 SIERA ranked fifth in the National League a season ago, and he managed to post the third-best strikeout rate of his career (31.3 percent). On top of that, his cutter and slider mix saw him regain some of the success he saw in Texas, mainly in the second half, where he posted a 2.37 xFIP and a 2.45 SIERA––both NL-bests––in 81.2 innings.

If he can build on that success and return to that form in 2020, Darvish has a strong chance to propel himself into the Cy Young race.

Rookie of the Year – SS/3B Carter Kieboom – Washington Nationals

With the loss of Anthony Rendon, the Washington Nationals are likely turning to Carter Kieboom to fill that void.

Even though his sample size was insanely small in 2019 (43 plate appearances), Kieboom had a hard-hit rate of 43.5 percent and an xwOBACON of .419. On top of that, he posted a wOBA of .388 and a wRC+ of 123 in 494 Triple-A plate appearances, so the talent is certainly there.

He’s going to get every chance possible to succeed, and if the Nationals are going to repeat as World Champions, they need somebody to fill the shoes of Anthony Rendon.

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