Did you hear that? Shhhh … listen … that’s the sound of MLB Spring Training games getting underway. We hit another landmark in the baseball offseason on Friday, when the players took to the diamond to play actual games against actual opponents.
Although you may not have seen all your team’s favorite players, it was a big milestone on the march to towards opening day (April 2). With just a little more than a month to go, why not start looking ahead now?
Here are the odds for each significant player award the majors has to offer, and a couple props on which managers will find themselves at opposite ends of the skipper spectrum.
By the way, if you did hear something earlier, you may want to get your ears checked.
AL MVP Odds
Jose Altuve, Astros: 5/1
Mookie Betts, Red Sox: 5/1
Mike Trout, Angels: 11/2
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 7/1
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: 8/1
No disrespect to Mike Trout, but Jose Altuve should have won the AL MVP last season. The Astro hit .338 (.020 better than his closest competition) with 24 home runs and 96 RBIs. Altuve’s power numbers continue to increase, and any improvement from those numbers will result in the second-baseman winning his first MVP award.
With the Red Sox losing David Ortiz to retirement, Mookie Betts may slide into the cleanup spot. The right-fielder was phenomenal leading off for Boston last season, but he possesses the most power in the team’s lineup. More opportunities with runners on should result in an even bigger season from Betts.
Trout and Cabrera are always strong candidates for the MVP, while Josh Donaldson may need to regain his MVP-form for the Jays to find their way back into the playoffs for a third straight season. Edwin Encarnacion leads the way for the field, but as a designated hitter, he has to post mammoth numbers to earn consideration for MVP.
NL MVP Odds
Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 9/2
Kris Bryant, Cubs: 5/1
Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: 5/1
Yoenis Cespedes, Mets: 7/1
Daniel Murphy, Nationals: 15/2
Nolan Arenado has now hit 83 home runs and driven in 263 runs over the last two seasons, but had to watch someone with inferior numbers be awarded MVP each season. With two young, highly-touted pitchers projected to enter the rotation, Colorado should find themselves competing for a Wild Card spot, giving Arenado more legitimacy in the eyes of voters.
The Cubs may fall off a little from their 2016 win total (103), but I don’t see a cliff-dive in 2017. If they repeat as the best team in baseball, Bryant and Rizzo will both earn strong consideration.
It seems odd to leave 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper off the list, but Daniel Murphy was far more productive for the Nats in 2016. Murphy has just found his stride and was able to carry Washington’s offense the majority of last season. Harper is a major factor in why the field carries the short odds, though.
AL Cy Young Odds
Chris Sale, Red Sox: 4/1
Justin Verlander, Tigers: 9/2
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays: 6/1
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees: 6/1
Corey Kluber, Indians: 13/2
There is one reason Chris Sale has not yet won a Cy Young: his win totals. Although it’s ridiculous, voters get caught up in counting wins – see Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer last year. Sale has never won more than 17 games in a season. That is likely to change this year. Backed by the best offense in baseball, the lefty should break 20 wins.
Justin Verlander proved that he can still be extremely dominant in the second-half of 2016. Many believed his efforts should have been rewarded with a Cy Young, including fiancee Kate Upton. Obviously not all voters felt the same. Verlander may not duplicate that late-season brilliance, but I also don’t see him struggling the way he did in the first-half.
Aaron Sanchez led all qualified pitchers in ERA last season (3.00) and posted a 15-2 record in 30 starts. If the Blue Jays remove the innings-count from the youngster in 2017, Sanchez will be a top-contender for the Cy Young.
NL Cy Young Odds
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: 7/2
Jon Lester, Cubs: 13/2
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs: 13/2
Noah Syndergaard, Mets: 7/1
Madison Bumgarner, Giants: 7/1
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. Over his last six seasons, his worst single-season ERA is 2.53. There are some great pitchers who never recorded a season with an ERA that low. Had Kershaw not missed about ten starts due to injury, the ace would have won his fourth Cy Young. I guess he’ll have to wait until this year to add to the hardware.
Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks had the two lowest ERAs of qualified pitchers in the majors last season, and both were in the top-three in the NL for WHIP, too. The two Cubs will be Kershaw’s toughest competition for the honor.
For those upset that Max Scherzer doesn’t crack the top-five, I ask who you’d remove? Noah Syndergaard possesses incredible talent and continues to grow as a pitcher, while Madison Bumgarner is … well, Madison Bumgarner.
Odds to Lead the MLB in Home Runs
Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 5/1
Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 11/2
Mark Trumbo, Orioles: 6/1
Khris Davis, Athletics: 13/2
Kris Bryant, Cubs: 7/1
Nolan Arenado’s power in Denver’s thin air results in a lot of balls leaving the park. The scary part is that he has yet to turn 25. Nelson Cruz has hit at least 40 home runs in each of the last three seasons. He’s going to do it again, but he may fall just short again.
AL Manager of the Year Odds
Terry Francona, Indians: 3/1
John Farrell, Red Sox: 7/2
Jeff Banister, Rangers: 4/1
Terry Francona was brilliant managing his pitchers last season, especially in the playoffs. The Indians’ skipper was rewarded with Manager of the Year honors, and is the odds-on favorite again in 2017.
With the Boston Red Sox expected to win a lot of games, John Farrell will be a strong candidate.
NL Manager of the Year Odds
Joe Maddon, Cubs: 3/1
Dave Roberts, Dodgers: 10/3
Dusty Baker, Nationals: 7/2
When you have without a doubt the best rotation in baseball, your managerial skills can be overlooked. This is exactly what Joe Maddon found out last year when his Cubs won an MLB-high 103 games, yet watched Dave Roberts take home Manager of the Year. It’s reasonable to assume Chicago’s starting rotation will regress this season, giving Maddon a chance to work his bullpen a little more.
First Manager Fired Odds
Bryan Price, Reds: 7/2
Bob Melvin, Athletics: 9/2
Paul Molitor, Twins: 5/1
John Gibbons, Blue Jays: 7/1
Mike Scioscia, Angels: 8/1
Believe it or not, the Reds were actually a good team before Price took over. In 2012, Cincinnati made the NL playoffs. In 2013, Price was hired and the team has won a pitiful 42.8-percent of its games since. The time is coming for the Reds to move on.
Even after losing Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays still believe they can win now. In order to do so, John Gibbons will need to do a much better job managing the bullpen. If the Jays struggle early, Gibby may be shown the door.
Mike Scioscia appears here mostly because all good things have to come to an end, right? Scioscia is the longest tenured manager in the majors, running the Angels since 1999.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.