With Spring Training officially underway, that means the MLB season is right around the corner making now the perfect time to begin our award rankings. Remember, these do not necessarily represent the “best” pitchers or players in the game, but the ones who have the best shot at taking home the hardware at the end of the year.
Let’s kick things off with the American League, which is filled with a few surprising names:
5) Max Scherzer – Detroit Tigers
Scherzer is often overlooked by baseball fans, whether it is pitching in the shadow of Verlander or his unbelievable inconsistency. However, if he was to ever put things together for an entire season the results could be amazing. All you have to do is look at his line in the second half of last season to see why he should be considered a viable candidate:
90.1 IP, 2.69 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 110 K, 27 BB
The question is if he can harness his stuff and carry the luck throughout. In 2012 the peripherals were actually similar all season, the difference was his .349 BABIP and 71.2% strand rate in the first half (compared to .315 and 83.2% in the second half). We know he has elite strikeout stuff (231 K in ’12) and wins shouldn’t be a problem with this offense behind him. If he can finally put it together for a full season, he has as much potential as anyone to take home the award.
4) Yu Darvish – Texas Rangers
Darvish may seem like a long shot, but if he can harness his control (4.19 BB/9 in ’12), the rest of the numbers could easily be there:
- He shouldn’t struggle for wins, even with the Rangers offense taking a hit
- He had 221 K in his rookie campaign, with a 10.26 K/9 in the first half and 10.56 K/9 in the second half
- His strand rate was below average, at 70.5%, giving us hope that he should improve on last season’s 3.90 ERA
While we can’t make a direct comparison, his BB/9 in Japan was 1.9 (and never more than 2.2 in any season), so it is safe to think that he is going to improve (even his split last season, of 4.65 BB/9 in the first half vs. 3.65 in the second is encouraging). With his strikeout stuff, if he harnesses his control the sky is the limit.
3) Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners
We all know the potential reasons that Hernandez will not win the Cy Young Award (and the new injury talk surrounding his extension certainly doesn’t help matters), but with the voters seemingly going to a more sabermetric approach wins no longer are a deterrent.
The real problem with Hernandez is if the number of innings he’s thrown is beginning to take a toll on his effectiveness. He’ll turn 27-years in April, so he has youth on his side, but he has thrown over 230 innings for four straight years (and over 190 for seven straight). He doesn’t have the elite strikeout stuff that other pitchers on this list do and he saw his velocity dip to 92.1 mph in ’12. He also saw his line drive take a major spike, up to 22.5% (career of 17.9%).
It’s hard to imagine his name not being in the discussion, but there are a lot of red flags that give us cause for concern.
2) David Price – Tampa Bay Rays
Can Price repeat as the AL Cy Young Award winner? Pitching in the AL East is not as scary as it once was, so he no longer has that hanging over him. With his ability to generate strikeouts (205 K), coupled with improved control (BB/9 of 2.53 and 2.52 the past two seasons) and new found groundball ability (53.1% in ’12) there is no reason to think he won’t be right back in the mix this season.
The real question is can he overcome one of the Top 3 pitchers in the game for a second consecutive season…
1) Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers
Will the innings catch up with him? That’s the one major question, as Verlander has continually proven that he is the class of the American League.
- Over the past four seasons his low for strikeouts is 219
- Over the past two seasons he has posted ERAs of 2.40 and 2.64 and WHIPs of 0.92 and 1.06 (his worst mark in the past four years is 1.18)
Throw in working deep into games (6 complete games in ’12) and one of the better offenses behind him and we all know he’s got a chance to win 20 games in any season (24 W in ’11). There’s no better bet in the AL at this point.
Honorable Mention: Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels, James Shields – Kansas City Royals, Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox
Make sure to check out our Top 5 25-Years Old Or Under lists:
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