AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
AL Rookie of the Year: Yu Darvish
The American League is stacked with talented players. On the mound, you find the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Jered Weaver, and Felix Hernandez. But my gut says the favorite for the Cy Young this season has to be Verlander, if for no other reason than he won the award unanimously last season. In fact he played so well he became the first starting pitcher to win the MVP since 1986. Verlander logs tons of quality innings, and keeps his ERA low. And he overpowers hitters. His average pitch velocity has been the highest in the AL for the last few years and he routinely strikes out tons of hitters. He’s struck out 218 hitters or more the last three years, and led the majors last year with 250 Ks. That came with a 24-5 record and 2.40 ERA. In my opinion, he’s the best pitcher in baseball, and while there are plenty of strong pitchers in the league, I think he’s the best and is primed for another strong season this year.
I don’t think Verlander will sweep the MVP award with his Cy Young this season. There are just too many good hitters to be overshadowed by a pitcher for the second year in a row. Obvously Albert Pujols has to be considered, as does former MVP Josh Hamilton. Even Prince Fielder could be a dark horse. But while I don't think he actually wins the award, I think Fielder will have a strong bearing on the MVP race this season. Miguel Cabrera is a former MVP who now he has a tremendous hitter behind him to protect him in a great offensive lineup. No offense to Victor Martinez, but Fielder is truly frightening to pitch against. For that reason, I think Cabrera will have more pitches to hit this season than any season he’s had so far. He’s a tremendous talent who can hit 320+ with 35+ HR and 120+ RBI. I think he’ll get there this season and maybe surpass those numbers. He has been one of the best hitters in baseball for years and shows no sign of letting up in 2012. This will be a great year for the Tigers, and Cabrera will be at the heart of it.
The Rookie of the Year is always one of the hardest things to predict. But this season I think there are two obvious front-runners in Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cepsedes. This will be their first seasons against major leaguers, and I don’t think anyone can truly know how well these guys will fare. But I think pitchers have a better chance of taking over games than hitters, and for that reason Darvish is the guy I think will win the top Rookie honors. He throws some nasty stuff, and has been truly overpowering in Japan the last couple of years. It’ll take hitters longer to figure out his pitches and he can use that to his advantage. And while I think Cespedes could be a great hitter, I don’t think he’ll be an All Star in his first season, as he’s had less time to prepare than Darvish and hitters have to make more adjustments game to game than pitchers do. I like both of these rookies, and I’ll also concede that no one knows how well these guys will play and I wouldn’t be surprised if some other kid came out of nowhere to win the award. But right now, we know how talented Darvish is, and he is considered by scouts to be the best free agent pitcher to ever come out of Japan. I’m not saying he will certainly win Rookie of the Year honors, but I think he’s the best bet right now.