We recently polled 35 ESPN experts for their award predictions (MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year) for the upcoming season.
The breakdown of all of their picks is below along with answers to some interesting questions that stood out from the predictions. Also, to see each voter’s individual picks, click here.
Correa has everything to maybe be the best player in baseball. There are a lot of reasons to believe the Astros could be a very good team this year, beginning with Correa, who will take the award over Trout. — Andrew Marchand
Scott, only three people chose Francisco Lindor for AL MVP. Why are you going with the young Indians shortstop?
It’s so obvious that even a 6-year-old can see it. Lindor is the best player on what might be the American League’s best team. If the Indians aren’t going to work out a contract extension for their switch-hitting, Gold Glove shortstop — as general manager Mike Chernoff’s young son suggested in an adorable appearance on a radio broadcast last week — they should at least get a few MVP-caliber seasons from him, starting this year. — Scott Lauber
Jim, after a disappointing 2016, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper got the most votes for NL MVP. What make you think he will bounce back this season?
Despite denials, Harper was pretty clearly hampered by lingering injuries and then mechanical problems that weren’t corrected fast enough last season. He worked extremely hard this offseason on dramatic strength and flexibility training and is now completely healthy. This spring, he has looked mechanically sound and like the player we saw two years ago. I think he’ll have an MVP-type season — maybe not to the level of 2015, but close enough. — Jim Bowden
It helps that he plays on a team that is likely to return to the playoffs, but I think Bryant can actually still get better. He cut his strikeout rate last season, and if he does that again, you’re looking at somebody who could hit .300 with 45 home runs. Oh, he also plays good defense and can run the bases. — David Schoenfield
AL Cy Young
Scott, Chris Sale is the overwhelming favorite to win the AL Cy Young. Are you worried at all about how he’ll handle his first season in Boston?
Not after spending spring training around him. There’s something about playing in Boston that’s different from any other market. Imagine the intensity that surrounds the Yankees and Mets, but in a much smaller city and without another team to share the spotlight. Playing for the Red Sox means living in the ultimate baseball fishbowl, and it isn’t for everyone (just ask Carl Crawford). Time will tell, of course, but Sale seems to get it. He has embraced the expectations and appears to be impervious to the outside noise. Being sensitive to criticism from demanding fans and ravenous media on sports radio and in the newspapers doesn’t serve athletes well in Boston. So far, at least, Sale seems to be able to tune it all out. Oh, and he’s also a really, really good pitcher in the prime of his career who has never made the playoffs. Everything is lined up for him to get there this year. — Lauber
Mark, you’re the only one picking Masahiro Tanaka. Why?
Over a six-start stretch near the end of 2016, Tanaka was 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA and two home runs allowed in 40⅓ innings. Whatever adjustments pitching coach Larry Rothschild made (and he won’t say what they were), they worked. I think that success and his work this spring carries over into 2017 in a big way, culminating with a Cy Young. — Mark Simon
NL Cy Young
Jayson, you’re the only one picking Jacob deGrom. What makes you think he can beat out Clayton Kershaw (or others)?
Did you know that the only two starters in baseball with an ERA, ERA-plus and FIP as good as deGrom the past three years are Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta? Now add deGrom’s incredible pitching IQ to the fact that he had the best fastball velocity and life this spring he has had since he reached the big leagues, and I see a gigantic year ahead. — Jayson Stark
Scott, Noah Syndergaard got the second-most votes, but it was a distant second. Why are you picking Thor over Kershaw?
To me, Kershaw is the Trout of the NL Cy Young field. He could win the award in almost any year — and all things being equal, he probably will. But Syndergaard is exactly the pitcher to knock off Kershaw. Syndergaard is young and dynamic, to say nothing of dominant, and he’s poised to break through the 200-inning barrier. It feels like Thor is just reaching his potential, which includes the Cy Young Award. — Lauber
AL Rookie of the Year
Scott, White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada isn’t even starting the season in the majors. What makes you think he wins Rookie of the Year?
Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi is the easy preseason Rookie of the Year pick, but don’t sleep on Moncada. The White Sox are doing the right thing by having him start the season in Triple-A. Moncada was overmatched (12 strikeouts in 19 at-bats) in his first exposure to the big leagues with the Red Sox last September, so clearly, some extra seasoning is required. It won’t be long, though, before he arrives in Chicago to give White Sox fans a look at the primary return for Sale. Moncada has drawn comparisons to Robinson Cano, who batted .297 with 14 homers as a 22-year-old rookie in 2005. It isn’t crazy to think Moncada could make the same impact when he gets called up — as long as he stays away from the Twinkies! — Lauber
Dave, Benintendi was the overwhelming favorite. If he doesn’t win the award, who do you think could?
The Mariners acquired outfielder Mitch Haniger from the Diamondbacks as part of the Taijuan Walker–Jean Segura trade, and he has been a fantasy sleeper all spring. He’s a late bloomer at 26, but a mechanical change in his swing in the minors a couple of seasons ago helped turn his career around. He dominated the minors in 2016, he has had a big spring training, he’s a plus defender in right field, and most important, he has a starting job. — Schoenfield
NL Rookie of the Year
Jim, you picked Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson just like most of our experts. But if he doesn’t win, who do you think will?
If Swanson doesn’t win the NL Rookie of the Year, then all eyes will go to the San Diego Padres, where the power of right fielder Hunter Renfroe and the speed of center fielder Manuel Margot should make them both viable candidates. If a pitcher ends up winning the award, the favorite will be Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow. However, I think if Swanson doesn’t win, it will end up being first baseman Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers who takes home the hardware. He’ll start the year in the minor leagues, and the only way he makes it to The Show is if first baseman Adrian Gonzalez gets hurt or their platoon in left field fails. I just believe Bellinger is so good that he’ll somehow find his way to Chavez Ravine by June and make a serious run at the award. He has a special power bat to go along with Gold Glove defense at first base and more than adequate defense in left field. The Dodgers have a long list of former Rookie of the Year winners, and Bellinger might be next on the list. — Bowden
Eric, you’re the only one picking Margot. Why?
Swanson is clearly ready for the big leagues and should be tremendous. But Margot is a fantastic center fielder with similar on-base skills, and it’s not as if either of these teams is likely to be a contender. I just don’t think it’s a given Swanson is the top rookie. Margot is also a top prospect and should make many highlight-reel plays defensively and also steal at least 35 bases. — Eric Karabell