We’re almost a month into the 2013 MLB season, but it’s never too early to make award predictions. With that said, here are my top three candidates to win NL MVP.
Buster Posey C-SF
Posey is the reigning NL MVP. And since he’s healthy, he earns an automatic entry to this party. Posey is the heart of the Giants’ lineup, and should be primed for another great offensive year. With three guys that can get on base hitting in front of him (Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Pablo Sandoval), Posey will have plenty of RBI opportunities as long as they stay healthy. And if Hunter Pence can provide quality support hitting behind Posey, Buster should see more driveable pitches.
Projected season line: .320/ 23 hr/ 105rbi/ 80runs/ 2 SB
Justin Upton OF-ATL
The San Francisco 49ers came within yards of winning Super Bowl XLVII against the Ravens and are undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get back to work on improving the team enough to get back to the Super Bowl and win the franchise’s sixth title. Despite the team’s success the past two seasons, there are still a few positions that need to be addressed this off-season through the draft and/or free agency/trades.
Position: Defensive Line
The 49ers have a ferocious front seven, anchored by the three big down lineman Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ray McDonald. But behind them, the depth is simply not there. The lack of a quality backup forces the trio to play most of the games with minimal rest on long drives. This lack of rest is especially concerning when it comes to Smith and Sopoaga, both of whom are in their 30’s and don’t quite have the motor and stamina that they once had. The 49ers pass rush suffers when these guys get tired out and the lack of viable options to provide a breather costs the 49ers at times. They’ll need to address that depth and target a defensive lineman or two in the draft and/or through free agency.
Despite the zone-read/read-option once being considered a “gimmick” system or a “novelty,” it has not only found itself wrecking havoc in the NFL playoffs, but has led a team to the Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers have successfully utilized the zone read-option to near perfection. San Francisco’s success may have been a contributing factor in Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen’s decision to announce that incumbent Carson Palmer will be competing for the starting job with Terrelle Pryor. Despite his limited NFL playing time, Pryor brings an ability to extend and make the tougher plays that Palmer cannot, similar to Kaepernick and Alex Smith in San Francisco. But is Pryor the next Kaepernick? Let’s take a closer look and compare/contrast the two to determine if Pryor will be the next big dual-threat quarterback.
The San Francisco 49ers will look to atone for last season’s shortcomings in the NFC Championship game when they take on the Atlanta Falcons today in Atlanta. The bitter taste of coming a missed field goal/two fumbles/one third down conversion away from reaching the Super Bowl remains in the 49ers’ mouths while the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith/Tony Gonzalez look for postseason win number two. This will be a back and forth matchup, and here is one key that each offense will need in order to win.
Frank Gore vs. Atlanta’s Run D
The key to the 49ers offense is NOT Colin Kaepernick, it is Gore. Yes, Kaepernick has become the biggest weapon of their offense, but Gore’s success in the run game goes a long way in dictating Kaepernick’s success. If Gore is able to maintain a steady level of production, it makes the run-option play that the 49ers run deadly. But if Gore isn’t running well, the threat of him taking the ball on the option is less effective and the defense can sit and wait to react to where Kaepernick goes. If the San Francisco’s quarterback is going to roast the Falcons defense, he’ll need Gore to have a very good game to set things up.
For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers Association of America did not elect a new member into the MLB Hall of Fame. This was the first year in which the biggest names from the ‘Steroid Era’ (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa) were eligible for enshrinement. And while I don’t agree with the final decision, that is not the purpose of this piece. I could easily delve into the infinitely cyclical argument of whether these players that have been linked to steroids deserve a spot in Cooperstown, but I won’t. I will however, question some writers’ rationale behind keeping them out.