My least favorite type of baseball articles to read are preseason predictions for awards. Nobody in their right mind is going to pick against Mike Trout for AL MVP and there's a very narrow population of players that are considered in the NL. It's not exactly informative to hear someone say, "Clayton Kershaw has a great chance of taking back the Cy Young if he can just stay healthy." You don't say?
While most of the time we aren't surprised by the players who take home the hardware when it's all said and done, once in a while we get shock to the system. Rick Porcello and Dallas Keuchel as the last two AL Cy Young winners immediately come to mind.
In this piece, I will lay out some unconventional predictions for 2017 award winners and give reasons why they just might accomplish the improbable. Remember, I'm not saying these predictions are actually going to come true. But if they do, I called it first!Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Improbable MLB Award Winners for 2017
AL Rookie of the Year: Jacob May (OF, CHW)
Andrew Benintendi is the popular choice here, but let's look at a different type of Sox player. Meet Jacob May, a.k.a. the new Adam Eaton. He isn't quite the same player as Eaton, but he is the new center fielder for the pale hose. May actually looks to be speedier than Eaton, stealing 37 bases in 2014 and then 38 bases in 2015 at lower levels. Eaton had similar minor league numbers but hasn't even reached 20 SB in the majors. May should have the green light early and often on a White Sox team playing for the future, making him a sneaky source of steals potentially. He earned the job by slashing .369/.524/.893 this spring, also benefiting from an injury to Charlie Tilson. May looks to be in the nine hole right now, but if he works his way toward the top of the order then his ceiling could approach 35 SB and a .290 average.
NL Rookie of the Year: Tyler Beede (SP, SF)
Twice a first-round pick, Beede will start the season at Triple-A and bide his time until Matt Cain inevitably falls apart. The Giants don't have a ton of veteran depth waiting in the minors compared to many clubs, so they may be forced to turn to their top pitching prospect sooner rather than later. He posted a solid 2.81 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 in Double-A last season, winning the Eastern League ERA title. Beede also had a fine spring, finishing with five strikeouts in four innings against the A's just before their season opener. There's no better place for a pitcher to break into the bigs than San Francisco's AT&T Park, which ranked dead last in HR Park Factor last season. Beede is already a known commodity in dynasty leagues, but he could be a factor this season way before September.
AL Cy Young: Francisco Liriano (SP, TOR)
Once upon a time, Liriano was going to be the next Johan Santana. In his rookie year, Liriano finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and earned an All-Star nod for the Twins, posting a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 10.7 K/9. Unfortunately, his arm gave out, causing him to miss the following season and altering the course of his career. He posted an ERA over 5.00 in three of the next five seasons, ending his time in Minnesota. He seemed to find himself again in Pittsburgh, even becoming their Opening Day starter each of the last two seasons. Just when it looked like he was starting to slip again in 2016, he was dealt to Toronto and became a revelation. His 2.92 ERA in the second half was lower than any season since that 2006 rookie campaign. Now, he's lighting it up in Spring Training, limiting hitters to a .161 average and striking out 29 in 18 innings. Those stats might not mean much, but it would appear that the marriage of Liriano and catcher Russell Martin has been a career-saving one for Liriano. He may even gain any votes by season's end, but stranger things have happened. Think of it this way: if I had asked you 10 years ago who would have a Cy Young award first, Francisco Liriano or R.A. Dickey, who would you have chosen?
NL Cy Young: Carlos Martinez (SP, STL)
In my bold predictions for this season, I called Jake Arrieta this year's Cy Young winner. That's somewhat bold considering he's going up against Kershaw, MadBum, and Scherzer. Plus, a lot of fantasy scribes are predicting his ratios to trend downward rather than up after a somewhat disappointing 2016. Still, Arrieta is considered an ace and won the award two years ago, so it's not really improbable. Instead, let's go with the new ace of the Cubs' arch-rival, Carlos Martinez of the St. Louis Cardinals. They locked him down for $51 million over five years for a reason. Martinez has shown steady improvement each season and is just 25 years old. He can easily keep his ERA below last year's 3.04 and jump up a couple of wins from last year's 16, making him a viable candidate.
AL MVP: Carlos Correa (SS, HOU)
Remember the days when a 22 year-old winning MVP seemed preposterous? That's how old Bryce Harper was at the onset of his monster 2015 season and Correa is in the same position now. Some were disappointed he didn't hit 40 HR or steal 30 bases last year because projections based on small sample sizes tend to inflate expectations. 20 HR, 96 RBI, and 13 SB isn't too shabby for a second-year player though. The Astros' lineup is even more loaded this year with Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Yuli Gurriel on board. Even if he doesn't reach the 30/30 plateau, Correa could easily drive in 115 runs while hitting close to .300. He doesn't need to be drafted like an MVP yet, but don't be surprised if he turns out to be just that.
NL MVP: Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL)
If you chose to completely ignore the Braves during the second half of the season (I wouldn't blame you), you could have missed the fact that Freddie Freeman was the best hitter in all of baseball after July. Over the last two months, Freeman hit .340 with 16 HR and 49 RBI over 54 games. It may be overly generous to give all the credit to Matt Kemp, but if you look at the numbers Wil Myers put up hitting ahead of him in the first half and the numbers Freeman put up in the second half, there's an undeniable connection. Now that Dansby Swanson and Brandon Phillips have solidified the middle infield and provided actual Major League caliber talent in the lineup, Freeman could improve on those numbers and even keep the Braves in the Wild Card race. Plus, the new stadium mojo doesn't hurt.
Rolaids Relief Man Award: Cam Bedrosian (RP, LAA)
They still do this, don't they? Maybe Steve Bedrosian isn't in the running any more, but someone he knows just might be in line for the award. Baby Bedrock was lights out in 2016, posting a 1.12 ERA while striking out 11.2 batters per nine IP. His career save total in the majors sits at one, but he will likely surpass that total in the first week alone. Huston Street is shockingly nursing an injury and may not see another save opportunity in L.A. if Bedrosian holds things down as expected. The Angels aren't bound to be world beaters this year, but we know that high save totals don't always come from winning teams. For a player that's being selected 24th among RP, after Jim Johnson and Tony Watson, he could be the best value at his position. That's certainly worth a nice, shiny trophy.
These players probably won't take home any trophies, but they are certainly breakout candidates that may be underestimated by other fantasy owners.
In case you're curious, here are my rather boring real predictions that I'd make if money were on the line:
AL Rookie of the Year: Yoan Moncada (2B, CHW)
NL Rookie of the Year: Josh Bell (1B, PIT)
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish (SP, TEX)
NL Cy Young: Jake Arrieta (SP, CHC)
AL MVP: Mike Trout (OF, LAA)
NL MVP: Bryce Harper (OF, WAS)
Relief Man of the Year: Zach Britton (RP, BAL)
No way I'm voting against Trout and I see Harper and Arrieta both rebounding in a big way to recapture their past glory (it was just two seasons ago). Didn't see those coming, did you?