The 2015 MLB season is set to begin on Monday, April 6 for every American League team, as they begin a seven-month-long quest for the AL Pennant. While teams like the Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are looking to continue the success they had a year ago, individual players are hoping to do the same.
After finishing in second place for two consecutive years, Mike Trout finally won the AL MVP award in 2014. Corey Kluber had never even come close to be winning the Cy Young award before last year, but he was named the AL’s top pitcher. Jose Abreu was an easy pick for Rookie of the Year.
Below are predictions for the 2015 American League MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year award winners.
MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Trout won his first MVP award in 2014, but he’s been the AL’s best player in each of the last three years. With two-time winner Miguel Cabrera having a down year, the Angels outfielder was a unanimous selection, hitting .287 with 36 home runs and 111 RBI.
Trout’s 2014 OBP fell from .432 to .377, and he stole just 16 bases after racking up 82 steals in his first two full seasons. But Trout remains the best, all-around player in baseball and there’s little reason to believe that will change in 2015. He burst onto the scene during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012, and he’s never posted an OPS of less than .938. Over the last three seasons, only 11 other players have even had one season with an OPS over .900.
The 23-year-old has proven to be durable, never suffering a significant injury in four seasons. He’s almost certain to get competition for the award from Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion, who are the only other players to post an OPS over .900 more than once in the last three years. Robinson Cano should also be in the thick of the race, having finished in the top six in MVP voting in each of the last five years.
Abreu might be Trout’s biggest competition. The Chicago White Sox first baseman isn’t as good of a defender or baserunner as Trout, but he was just as good at the plate last year. His .964 OPS was second in all of baseball, and he could be even better in his second season in the big leagues.
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Just like Trout has proven to be the best position player in the AL, Hernandez has consistently been the league’s top starting pitcher. In the last six years, he’s had four top-four finishes in the AL Cy Young voting, as well as an eighth-place finish in 2013. His league-leading 2.14 ERA wasn’t good enough to win him the award last year, but it will be hard for the baseball writers not to give Hernandez their vote if he’s just as good in 2015.
Hernandez’s numbers are always among the best in the AL. Last season, he led the league in ERA, WHIP and hits per nine innings. The voters gave the award to the Cleveland Indians’ Kluber, who led the AL with 18 wins and a 2.35 FIP, which adjusts a pitcher’s ERA for the league average results on balls in play. Hernandez had the AL’s No.2 FIP in 2014, and he’s seen that number improve in each of the last four years. The starter hasn’t registered more than 15 wins since 2009, but an improved Mariners team could put Hernandez among the league leaders in victories.
Kluber should have another good year, while Chicago’s Chris Sale and Detroit’s David Price are among the favorites to win the award. Masahiro Tanaka is an injury risk, and he only started 20 games as a rookie for the New York Yankees. But he showed that he could be in contention for the AL Cy Young award if he remains healthy.
Rookie of the Year: Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have a few top prospects that could make an impact in the upcoming season, but none might be better than Pompey. The rookie has been named the team’s starting centerfielder, and he has a good chance to be the AL’s best first-year player in 2015.
Pompey has played well in Spring Training, hitting .327 with one home run and 4 RBI in 18 games. He’s hit for average and power, totaling a .519 OBP and continuing his success from the end of last year. Pompey only hit .231 during his short stint in MLB, but rebounded from his initial struggles, getting eight hits in his last 25 at-bats. Even if the 22-year-old isn’t hitting the cover off the ball to start the year, he should be able to help the Blue Jays with his speed. In 113 minor league games last season, the outfielder stole 43 bases.
There might be no clear-cut favorite in the AL. Rusney Castillo signed a $72 million contract with the Boston Red Sox last year, making him the highest-paid Cuban defector of all-time. But with Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino in the outfield, he might have to start the season in the minor leagues. Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez and the Angels’ Andrew Heaney are also potential candidates.