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Sept. 23, 2017 - Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

TJ Knapp

Predicting the MVP and Cy Young Award Races in 2018

Is it ever too early to make awards predictions? TJ Knapp takes a crack at who will be taking home hardware in 2018.

With pitchers and catchers reporting in a few weeks, its never too early to make predictions about the 2018 season. Below you will find an easy pick, my pick, and a sleeper pick for the MVP and Cy Young races. Let’s do this.

AL MVP

Easy pick: Mike Trout, Angels

I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Trout returned to MVP form in 2018. I mean, he finished 4th in MVP voting in 2017 while only playing 114 games. In six full seasons Trout has won the award twice and placed 2nd three times. He’s arguably the greatest player of this generation and I think he has a few MVPs left in him.

My pick: Aaron Judge, Yankees

Judge finished 2nd in 2017 and I honestly feel he got snubbed. Yes, Jose Altuve was absolutely a worthy winner, but the disparity in voting (27 to 2) felt like a grave injustice. Judge led Altuve in every major offensive category outside of AVG, hits, and stolen bases. Judge did strike out A LOT and wasn’t as consistent as Altuve, but he did show an incredible ability to make adjustments. If he continues to make those adjustments in 2018 I believe the MVP is well within reach of this Twin Tower.

Sleeper: Manny Machado, Orioles (for now)

Machado might not seem like a sleeper based off of face value, but he does when you look at his lack of accolades. He’s won a Gold Glove (and platinum), he’s been an all-star, but he’s never been a front-runner for the MVP. Machado will be sliding over to shortstop in 2018, giving his bat a chance to profile even higher than it did at the hot corner. Add that to the fact that he’s in his walk year, and it looks more and more like Machado could post a monster season. The only question is what uniform he’ll be wearing at the end of it.

NL MVP

Easy pick: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Since Harper burst on to the scene in 2012, he has constantly impressed everyone around him. Only injuries have held back the most highly regarded prospect of all time. He won the MVP in 2015 at the age of 22, and with 2018 being his contract year I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to think he could capture the award again before he sets out on his quest for $500 million.

My pick: Nolan Arenado, Rockies

I love Nolan Arenado. Since his debut in 2013 Arenado has won a Gold Glove every year (and it hasn’t really been close) while also improving his OPS each season. He has also been incredibly durable (10 games missed in last three seasons). His offensive performance will always be questioned due to the fact that he calls Colorado home, but I have to believe it’s not going to take a guy hitting .400 with 60 homers before people realize that some of these guys in Denver are actually MVP caliber ball players. If the trend continues, Arenado should keep improving in 2018 and have a chance to truly be elite.

Sleeper: Corey Seager, Dodgers

Although Seager’s performance took a slight dip in 2017 from his breakout rookie campaign, it was far from a sophomore slump. Seager has continued to show an innate knack for hitting the baseball while playing a premium position. His sweet left-handed swing continues to give people (such as myself) hope that a breakout season is right around the corner. He took a big step forward defensively in 2017 (0 DRS to 10 DRS), which helps his case to stay at shortstop. If Seager continues to play great on defense and unlocks his full potential at the plate, an MVP shouldn’t be too far behind.

AL Cy Young

Easy pick: Corey Kluber, Indians

“Klubot” just claimed his 2nd Cy Young award in four years and it was well deserved. Kubler has averaged 10 K/9 and a WHIP under 1.1 over the last four seasons and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Sure he had a hiccup in the playoffs but the circumstances surrounding his health at the time are still unclear. Kluber seems poised to lead a strong Cleveland staff yet again in 2018.

My pick: Luis Severino, Yankees

In his first full season as a major league starter, Severino looked absolutely dominant. Posting a 2.98 ERA and striking out 230 batters, Sevy came in 3rd for the Cy Young in 2017 but he made it incredibly close. With a scary lineup behind him in the Bronx, look for Severino to have plenty of run support in what I think could be a 20-win season for the young Dominican. I know wins are a dying statistic but they seem to carry weight for Cy Young voters (see Rick Porcello, 2016). I truly believe Severino could strike out 270+ batters and win 18-20 games in 2018, with a nice gold trophy to follow.

Sleeper: Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays

Marcus Stroman is another player that I can’t get enough of. I was fortunate enough to get to see him pitch in this past WBC and I really liked what I saw. The dude has the confidence of a king and swagger for days. Oh, and by the way, he can pitch too. Stroman boasted an impressive 149 ERA+ in 2017, especially if you consider the fact that he plays half of his games in an absolute boom box. His strikeout numbers suffer because he has to focus on keeping the ball down to guard against long ball. He claims to be having an incredible offseason and I believe Stroman is ready to take that next step forward into elite status.

NL Cy Young

Easy pick: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Do I really have to justify this one?

My pick: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Max Scherzer has definitely established himself as the top-dog in our nation’s capital, but don’t forget about Strasburg. He placed 3rd in Cy Young voting in 2017 while posting the best ERA and WHIP of his career. This seems like an ideal time for this former #1 overall pick to post ridiculous numbers on a team that should give him plenty of run support.

Sleeper: Madison Bumgarner, Giants

“Mad Bum” is another guy I have a hard time calling a “sleeper” because he’s been so great, but at the same time, I feel like everyone is still sleeping on him. 2017 was one to forget for Bumgarner and the last-place Giants, but prior to last year Mad Bum posted four straight seasons with a sub-3 ERA, 200 innings, WHIPs under 1.1 and he struck out 251 batters in 2016. I’ve said before that the Giants look like a team ready to bounce back in 2018, but they won’t do so unless Bumgarner returns to the ace that he was prior to his dirt-biking accident. He’s a proven bulldog on the bump and I think a bounce back is imminent.

Making these predictions was incredibly tough considering the plethora of talent we have in today’s game. Problems like these make writing about our sport even more enjoyable. I’m sure some of you will disagree with my picks, so go ahead and tell me what you think in the comment section.

Main Photo: Sept. 23, 2017 – Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

Product of Ohio University. Also writes for Pinstripe Alley and Pinstriped Prospects

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