May 5, 2021

Way-Too-Early Predictions for Every Major MLB Award

The MLB season is in full swing. 

While it’s always difficult to project the winners of postseason awards before the start of a season. It’s particularly difficult in baseball when each team plays 162 games and virtually anything can happen during that period. But now that we’re a little more than a month through the season, it’s a little easier to make predictions.

Of course, we’ve all seen players have strong Aprils and then fall flat while others have been dreadful during the first month and then gone on to have exceptional seasons. Admittedly, this will be a lot easier at the All-Star break. But just for fun, let’s make some early predictions on who will win the major awards in MLB in 2021.

AL Reliever of the Year: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees

Aroldis Chapman took home this award in 2019, and after a somewhat disjointed 2020 campaign, he’s picked up where he left off two seasons ago.

His velocity is no longer way ahead of the pack, but Chapman is still dealing. He’s allowed just two hits and three walks over his first 10 innings of work while striking out 24. That means eight of 35 batters have put the ball in play against him. Nobody is expecting him to maintain that kind of dominance the whole season. However, Chapman has a huge head start on every other reliever in baseball.

NL Reliever of the Year: Josh Hader, Brewers

Competition for this award looks stiff early on. The likes of Mark Melancon, Craig Kimbrel, and Alex Reyes have all gotten off to great starts. But Josh Hader has won this award twice before and is in the prime of his career at 27.

On the contrary, Melancon and Kimbrel are aging and Reyes is still establishing himself in the majors. That means Hader is more likely to be consistent and maintain his high level. He also has the best strikeout rate of any reliever in the National League and is playing for a team that figures to give him plenty of save opportunities.

AL Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland

This award tends to go to the manager of the team that was the biggest overachiever. Thus far, the Red Sox, Royals, and Mariners fit the bill. But Cleveland also looks like a contender in the AL Central despite the belief that their window was closed, especially after they traded away Francisco Lindor.

But the pitching is there and the Tribe might have enough hitting to challenge the White Sox, who have been hurt by injuries this season. If Cleveland can win the AL Central, Francona stands a good chance of winning Manager of the Year for the third time.

NL Manager of the Year: Gape Kapler

A lot could change before the end of the season, but Gabe Kapler looks like the obvious choice right now.

The Giants have come out of the gate strong and been better than both the Dodgers and Padres. Talent-wise, it could be a struggle for San Francisco to maintain their levelof play all season. But if Kapler keeps the Giants in the playoff race and gets them to the Wild Card Game, he should be the favorite for Manager of the Year, especially with so many National League teams (looking at you, NL East) looking rather mediocre early in the year.

AL Rookie of the Year: Yermin Mercedes, White Sox

Don’t sleep on Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena despite an uneven start. But Mercedes has made such a monumental impact over the first month. The notoriety he’s gained already will make him tough to beat as much as the 1.051 OPS.

Nobody knew about the 28-year-old before the season, but now everyone knows who he is and he has a giant head start in the Rookie of the Year race.

NL Rookie of the Year: Dylan Carlson, Cardinals

Dylan Carlson disappointed in 2020, although he retains rookie eligibility this year and has gotten off to a fast start. There’s no doubt that he has the talent to keep it going and remain a key part of the St. Louis lineup behind Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.

Carlson is also benefiting from Ke’Bryan Hayes getting hurt. He entered the season as the frontrunner, but the longer he remains sidelined, the more likely Carlson or someone else is to steal Rookie of the Year honors away from him.

AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, Yankees

Surprisingly, Gerrit Cole has never won a Cy Young despite getting the largest contract ever given to a pitcher. However, based on the first month of the season, this could be his year.

He’s looked sharp, won most of his games, and is striking out batters at a higher rate than any other starting pitcher. Of the other starters who have looked brilliant in April, Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber might pose the biggest threat to him. But Cole has been amazing and knows that the Yankees need him to be at his best, which could fuel him to finally win the Cy Young.

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets

Based on the first month of the season, Jacob deGrom might have his third Cy Young in four years locked up.

Outside of a minor injury that caused him to get scratched from his last start, deGrom has done no wrong in 2021. Of course, the Mets haven’t helped him, which is why he’s only 2-2. But deGrom had 10 and 11 wins when he won the Cy Young in 2018 and 2019, respectively, so that’s not a concern. The thing that matters is that he was the first pitcher in baseball history to strike out 50 batters in his first four starts. Between that and his 0.51 ERA, he’s well on his way to another Cy Young.

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels

There are definitely a few players who could make this interesting, including Trout’s teammate Shohei Ohtani, who has the advantage of being a two-way player. Byron Buxton, Vladimir Guerrero, and J.D. Martinez could also have a say. But roughly 15% through the season, Trout is still batting over .400 and has the best OPS in the majors.

There’s even a chance the Angels could remain competitive all year and be in the playoff hunt, which would give Trout even more attention. But even if that doesn’t happen, he’s still the best player in baseball.

NL MVP: Jacob deGrom, Mets

Injuries and slow starts have hindered some of the top preseason candidates in the NL, so we’ll go outside the box and pick deGrom, who actually has the third-best betting odds, according to most sportsbooks.

The Cy Young frontrunner has been so dominant thus far that he warrants MVP consideration. It also doesn’t hurt his case that he’s 6 for 13 as a batter. If he can come close to pitching at his current level and keep picking up hits, he’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with the best hitters in the NL for MVP honors.

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