It’s easy to envy Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera.
The superstar agreed to a $292 million contract extension late last month, he’s won the American League MVP two-times running, he’s the only player in the last four decades to win the coveted Triple Crown and thus he’s regularly referred to as the best hitter and player in the Majors.
And the 30-year-old Cabrera could be the second player in baseball history to win the MVP three consecutive times. Counting both leagues, the last and only time any player won the MVP three straight times was Barry Bonds, who won it in the NL four consecutive times from 2001 to 2004.
It might be a bit early to hand the award over to Cabrera, but he’s clearly the favorite in the AL with no signs of slowing down his incredible pace.
Other than Cabrera there are many players poised and favored to take home some hardware by season’s end.
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Early Candidates: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit; Mike Trout, OF, L.A. Angels; Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, N.Y. Yankees; Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle
Cano could be a great story if he manages to lift Seattle to the playoffs in his first year. Ellsbury stays within the division and immediately becomes the Yankees best offensive weapon. Meanwhile, Trout has his own mega contract extension to live up to.
Prediction: If Trout posts another stellar year and the Angels demolish the AL he’ll take it. But the same goes for Ellsbury and Cabrera. Cano technically has the easier route since he may only need an above average year and for the Mariners to end their 13-year playoff drought. Cano takes it in a very close vote.
Early Candidates: Yu Darvish, SP, Texas; David Price, SP, Tampa Bay; Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit; Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston
Scherzer is the current title holder, and he’s holding out for a contract bigger than the $141 million Detroit already offered. The contract could be a distraction, opening the door for 2012 winner Price, and Boston’s ace Buchholz. Darvish is the youngest of this bunch and stands as the favorite with his proven abilities to fan batters.
Prediction: Darvish, but he will need run support to get 20 wins.
Rookie of the Year
Early Candidates: Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston; Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox; Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Yankees
It’s obviously very early but Abreu’s power could be enough for him to be the White Sox first ROY since former manager Ozzie Guillen back in 1985. Bogaerts can build off the 18 games he played last year and has the potential to couple 100-plus hits with incredible defense up the middle for the Red Sox. Tanaka’s contract puts more pressure on the Japanese star, who already has to deal with the fervid New York media.
Prediction: Abreu has the inside track for now, but it’s still a wide open race.
Early Candidates: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh; Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona; Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
It was a simple formula for McCutchen last year. Post another solid year and take the Pirates to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. McCutchen will need to do that again. Votto has led the NL in walks for three straight years, and OBP for four straight, but he’ll have to up his RBI and home run totals to spruce up his chances. Goldschmidt has already ripped off four doubles and nine total hits after leading the NL in home runs and RBI last season. Posey is still the best catcher in the league, but he’ll have to get back to the .336 average that led the NL and powered his MVP campaign in 2012 for a shot this year.
Prediction: Goldschmidt could do enough before the All-Star break to lock it up, but he also needs Arizona to carry the NL West into the postseason.
Early Candidates: Clayton Kershaw, SP, L.A. Dodgers; Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington; Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis; Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco
Maybe the deepest race of any this year, Kershaw’s chance to win his third CY Young in the last four seasons has taken a backseat to getting off the DL. Strasburg needs to get back to his 2012 form for any shot at the award, but the stuff is there. Wainwright has never won the award but was the only pitcher to steal a first place vote from Kershaw last year while leading the NL in complete games and hits allowed. Bumgarner opened the door for a breakout season with career-bests in ERA (2.77) and strikeouts (199) last year.
Prediction: Wainwright, but Bumgarner can make a late push after the All-Star break.
Rookie of the Year
Early Candidates: Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona; Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati; Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh
While he hasn’t been called up yet, seventh overall draft pick Bradley is one of the most promising young starters in the minors, and he could play an integral role in the Diamondbacks already deep rotation. In Double-A last season, he went 12-5 with a 1.97 ERA. Hamilton has five strikeouts already this year, but he’s still the same player that swiped 13 bags and scored nine runs in 13 games last season. The lefty Polanco isn’t expected to move up from Triple-A until midseason, but when he does Polanco can build on his 6-for-23 Grapefruit League play.
Prediction: Hamilton can make a huge impact on the bases, and run away with the award.