Pitchers and Catchers reported this weekend which means we’re a little more than a month away from opening day. That being said it’s never too early to start predicting awards. Let’s get it started.
Last year’s winner should be coming in determined after a disappointing post season. There’s a saying in baseball that “you’re only as good as your last start”. Well Kluber’s last start isn’t something he’s going to want to be remembered for. He had an ERA of over 10 in his two starts against the Yankees, and did not look like the AL Cy Young that dominated hitters all season. In the regular season though Kluber absolutely dealt. He won 18 games and had an ERA of 2.25 which is even more impressive considering he has to face a DH in the American League. My feeling is that Kluber is going to be okay as long as he still has that nasty slider and plus velocity.
Sale is last year’s runner up and a previous recipient of the award. He dominated in hitter friendly Fenway and led his team to the top of the division. Not only did Sale lead the league in strikeouts, but he did so while only walking 43 batters. Sale is in good position to regain the top spot in his second season in Boston. Even though he’s considered a strikeout pitcher, having what may be the best defensive outfield in the AL certainly doesn’t hurt. You never want to predict injuries, but you have to think that throwing as many innings he does at his awkward arm angle has to be something that the worries the Red Sox. Hopefully he stays healthy though and leads what could still be the best rotation in baseball to another American League East title.
Give a guy with this kind of talent a coach like Pedro Martinez for the off season and you have to expect some kind of magic to happen. Luckily for the Yankees, that is exactly what happened. Yankees may be Pedro’s daddy but he was the one giving fatherly advice last season. Severino turned in a breakout season which helped his Yankees get to the postseason and get himself on the map. Severino led the Majors in fastball velocity which speaks of his talent. However, his ability to mix in all his pitches was what set him apart from the rest of the league. The hardest throwing starter in the majors relied on his slider and developing change up to dominate hitters. Severino had his own post season struggles though which could be worrisome come October. The Yankees need him to show up for the playoffs if they’re going to have a chance against teams like the Astros and Red Sox.
The Dark Horse
It’s hard to think as the 2015 Cy Young award winner as a dark horse, but let’s be honest he’s flying under the radar. With all the excitement going on in Houston it’s easy to forget about the bearded lefty. The addition of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander has pretty much put Keuchel in the back of people’s minds. This is something he’s going to change. Not only is he pitching in his free agency year, but he’s also pitching in a perfect situation for a guy who pitches to contact. The Astros have arguably the best defense in the Major Leagues collectively. Can’t think of a stronger team up the middle. Last year Keuchel battled some injuries only making 23 starts, but in those starts he had a sub 3 ERA and managed to get 14 wins. While he may not be the guy people are talking about come April, don’t be surprised if you can’t stop talking about him in September.
I fully expect him to come back with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a competitor he wants to win the award every year. He has speed in the outfield and an infield that should be getting better. Throw in a bullpen with Craig Kimbrel at the end of it and don’t be surprised if he gets more than 20 wins with a sub 2.5 ERA.
Last season’s Cy Young starts off my list. Led the Majors in Strikeouts. Had a 2.50 ERA and dominated hitters for another year. Early on in his career Scherzer struggled with command of his pitches. He always had the electric stuff he just didn’t know where it was going. Well it’s safe to say he’s found it and not losing it anytime soon. This is his third Cy Young and he shows no signs of slowing down. Scherzer wins on his fastball movement and as long as he has that there’s no reason not to think he won’t be getting his 3rd Cy Young in a row.
To some he’s considered the best pitcher on the planet. Kershaw is everything you could want if you’re LA. Kershaw has won the Cy Young 3 times himself and has just missed getting his fourth a couple of times because of the before mentioned Scherzer. Kershaw Finished with the lowest ERA among NL starting pitchers. He also led the NL in wins. Kershaw is going into a contract year where he obviously doesn’t have much to prove. He took the playoff monkey off his back last post season when he came through for his Dodgers. The only thing that will hold Kershaw Back from the Cy Young is the number of innings he’ll pitch and any possible health issues.
Strasburg Keeps getting better every year, and last year was no different. He posted his second straight season of 16 wins and he lowered his ERA from 3.60 to 2.52. Strasburg’s issues have always been remaining healthy. He threw 175 innings which seems to be the new average for Major Leaguers. Coming into the 2018 season I believe he’ll take another step towards being elite. A second season with Matt Weiters behind the plate should mean being even more in sync. I see him having his first career 20-win season, with an ERA around 2.30.
The Dark Horse
When he’s not making special appearances on Game of Thrones, Thor dabbles in throwing a baseball really hard in Queens, New York. Syndergaard was one of the Met pitchers that was hit by the injury bug last season. He only made 7 starts before being shut down for the entire season. The year before that, in only his second Major League season, he had an ERA of 2.60 and struck out 218 batters. Syndergaard had more than half a season to rest up and should be ready to go come spring. The Mets could have a sneaky team this season adding some key veterans and allowing their shortstop to play from the beginning of the season. If Syndergaard can stay healthy there’s no reason to believe he won’t return to form.
It’s hard to bet against his teammate Max Scherzer and against who might be the best pitcher in our generation in Clayton Kershaw, but we can’t forget why Strasburg was a first overall pick. He could possibly have the best stuff in baseball and seems to be learning more each year. At age 29 he has the experience and stuff to get in the conversation for best pitcher in the Major Leagues.