Time for our second annual ballin'-ass preview. The first annual one was great. We were all right about everything! Let's get it on.
Steve: With an improved Blue Jays team that might actually make the playoffs, I'm gonna go with Jose Bautista. He should've gotten it in the Verlander year, and he'll be healthy this whole year and ball out. Plus, with Lawrie hurt for a bit, he might step over and play a little third. SO valuable.
Sean: Josh Hamilton. He's totally going to get it despite being the third-most valuable hitter on his own team. But I can see him getting like 135 RBI and carrying the narrative.
Jon: If he can stay healthy for the whole year (a big if at this point, despite being only 27 years old), I'm predicting a huge breakout for Evan Longoria. I picked his Rays to win the AL East, and he's far and away the best player on that team. A good amount of his value is tied up in being an elite fielder, but he's a good enough hitter on a good enough team to get the award.
Steve: In a similar way to Jose Bautista, Joey Votto will have a full year of being healthy, and he'll ball out as well. The Reds are my pick to win the World Series, and Votto is their best player. STAY HEALTHY!
Sean: Bryce Harper. He looked like he figured out how to hit major league pitching the last couple months and is freakishly talented. Oh and he's like 16. Fuck the Nationals.
Jon: I gotta go with Joey Votto. Last year, he hit 44 doubles in 111 games, which is an insane pace but was also the only way he could hit after coming back from injury. This year, I expect the home run power to be back, a scary thought for a guy who still hit .337/.474/.567 last season.
AL Cy Young
Steve: Justin Verlander is now the guy who's gonna be at or near "best pitcher in baseball" for the next few years, the way Halladay/Sabathia were a few years ago. He's the best, and pretty much by default the most likely guy to win the Cy Young.
Sean: King Felix. Kings don't finish second.
Jon: He may have faded hard down the stretch in 2012, but my pick for Cy Young is Yu Darvish. He's just 26, he's got lights-out stuff and I think he has better control this year. Plus even with a slightly neutered Rangers offense he should get a ton of wins.
NL Cy Young
Steve: R.A. Dickey winning last year was cute, but I'm going to pick the guy I picked last year: Cliff Lee. He's going to be the shining star on a theoretically great rotation. He had one of the more bizarre seasons last year, making 30 starts, pitching 211 innings, a 3.16 ERA, 4.9 WAR, and a 6-9 record. 6-9? Wins and losses obviously don't matter, but that's just so bizarre. You would expect a guy who had that year to go, like, 15-8 or something on last year's Phillies. He'll have a great year this year, and his win-loss total will be normal enough for the voters to consider him.
Sean: Clayton Kershaw. He's going to win the Cy Young and get the first $200 million contract for a pitcher. Totally going to be worth it when he blows his elbow out in four years.
Jon: Johnny Cueto. I'm sticking with my Reds picks, and Cueto had a higher ERA+ that Kershaw last year. He should also be good for 20 wins.
Steve: Can I just make this generally the Yankees' 4th outfielder/DH? Right now, to fill these positions, they have Ben Francisco, Vernon Wells, Brennan Boesch, Dan Johnson and Travis Hafner. At least two of these guys will be playing in every game until Curtis Granderson returns in late May. IT'S A DREAM COME TRUE. Oh, and their corner infielders are currently Jayson Nix and Kevin Youkilis's corpse. Love ya, Youk!
Sean: Jeff Francoeur. Seriously, he said if OBP is so important why don't they show it on the scoreboard? He's going to hit .260 with 15 homers and show signs of being a good player. News flash to Dayton Moore: he isn't. In fact, he's the least valuable player. The Royals doubled down on their stupidity by moving Wil Davis, uberrrrr-prospect, partly because they had Francoeur in right already.
Jon: Alex Rodriguez is going to be out the whole season. Calling it.
Steve: I'll leave Jon to talk about Yuniesky Betancourt, and I'll go with Michael Young. We get it, you did steroids 10 years ago. You cannot seriously be a team's third baseman. DIE ALREADY.
Sean: The Mets Outfield. Seriously, I'll give anybody $20 if they can name the Mets starting outfield. Of course, we know their two most highly paid outfielders are Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay. It don't get less valuable than that.
Jon: Yuniesky Betancourt. Goddammit. Also the Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla and Jason Bay. So that.
MVLP (Most Valuable Little Player)
Steve: The Laser Show! Dustin Pedroia, bringing a whole new meaning to the term DP. Well, someone on the Red Sox has to be gross now that Youk's gone!
Sean: Shane Victorino. He's 5'9'' which is pretty terrible. If I'm Big Papi, I'm making him and Pedroia measure who is taller every single night.
Jon: Jose Altuuuuuuuuuve. I'M TALLER THAN HE IS.
Most Disappointing Team
Steve: I'm really good at picking these. The one I picked for the NFL this year really turned out to be right. So I'm gonna go with the Dodgers. They got guys, but they're not a playoff team overall. They're the third-best team in their division probably.
Sean: The Cardinals. The Cardinals always sneakily get into the playoffs and get hot. Ain't happening this year. The NL teams contending for a Wild Card spot are too good and they are already getting banged up.
Jon: I think people generally have the AL pretty well calibrated, and wouldn't be surprised to see the Yankees, Red Sox or any of the top-tier AL West teams struggle. My pick for disappointing team is also the Dodgers, who like the Blue Jays have amassed a lot of talent and might still end up sucking.
Steve: It's almost funny to say this, because they won their division last year, but my sleeper is the Oakland Athletics. Everyone is expecting the Angels to run away with the division because Texas got a little worse, but everyone forgets that the A's win 94 GD games last year. Never count out the ol' Beanemaster.
Sean: Indians. Some team is going to win 85+ games in the AL Central that isn't the Tigers. The Indians quietly have a nice lineup, and if a couple of their pitchers make it happen, they could use their weak division to push for the second AL Wild Card spot.
Jon: Diamondbacks. They're just two years removed from 94 wins and a division title, and they had some injuries and bad luck last year. They lost Justin Upton in the offseason, but they still have some hitters and some intriguing pitchers (like Brandon McCarthy).
Biggest Leap Forward
Steve: Gotta go with everyone's favorite prospect, the Royals' Eric Hosmer. Disappointing second year last year, but his BABIP was .255 and he's learning to walk more. He'll have a good year.
Sean: Freddie Freeman. He's four days older than me, already in his third season, and all the stats are trending in a good direction. He is walking more, striking out less, and had the fourth-highest line drive percentage in baseball last season (highest if you require more than 600 PAs--suck it Votto).
Jon: Matt Moore. He came into last season with way too much hype, which is pretty much SOP for 22-year-old guys who throw 98, and struggled to locate his pitches until about June. But from the beginning of June through the end of August, he was one of the best pitchers in the AL. And he's only getting better.
Biggest Step Back
Steve: Old friend Adrian Beltre. He had a real resurgence with the Red Sox back in 2010, and I'll love him forever. He's been awesome in Texas, but he's 34 now and Josh Hamilton ain't there to help him out. Love ya, Belt!
Sean: Mike Trout. Just because if he doesn't take a huge step back then he's just going to be the best baseball player ever. He's still going to be really freaking good, but I could see him losing half of his 9 WAR and still being really freaking good.
Jon: It hurts to say it, but last season was Aramis Ramirez's last elite year. He can't field at all and he's probably not slugging .540 with 50 doubles again. The Brewers got him before last season for three years and $36 million, and he almost played to the value of that contract (about 7 wins) last season, putting up a WAR of 5.6.
Steve: The Kung Fu Panda himself, Pablo Sandoval. "HE'S THE BEST FAT THIRD BASEMAN SINCE BOBBY BONILLA!" --my impression of Tim Kurkjian talking about Pablo Sandoval.
Sean: I'll take your Pablo Sandoval and forklift raise you a Juan Francisco.
Jon: Since Fat Chipper Jones is no longer in the league, I'm rooting for Miguel Cabrera to get back up to his old fightin' and drinkin' weight and challenge Sandoval for the fat third basemen mantle. Yes, Miggy's not even close to the biggest in his own infield, but voting Prince Fielder for biggest is like voting America for best country. It doesn't even need to be said.
Steve: For the 7th year running, it's the Navajo Nice-Looking Guy, Jacoby Ellsbury.
Sean: I don't know if anyone has said this before but that Derek Jeter guy is pretty handsome. I wonder if he gets any girls.
Jon: Tim Lincecum cut his hair during the offseason and no longer looks like the kid in Dazed and Confused. Now he looks just like Rachel Maddow (they even rock the same glasses). And as everyone knows, Rachel Maddow is a very handsome man.
Steve: A.J. Burnett. You're a Yankee and you'll always be a Yankee you bastard.
Sean: John Lackey. He magically lost a lot of weight and is totally going to "work out in Miami" his way into a good season.
Jon: For the umpteenth year in a row, it's Bud Selig.
Steve: The Rollie Fingers/Darryl Strawberry Award for Best Name in Baseball in 2013 goes to Edwin Encarnacion. So regal. Best name sleeper: potential Yankees outfielder Melquisedec Mesa. Three problems: he's a Yankee, he might not make the big league team, and he goes by Melky.
Sean: Allen Craig. Two terrible names mashed up together work perfectly.
Jon: Alberto Callaspo. It's just really, really fun to say. I also love Carlos Lee's nickname "El Caballo."
Steve: Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is most.
Sean: This category is brought to you by Tim McCarver's keys to the game. Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty we are free at last (Tim McCarver's retiring you guysss). The most is Buster Posey. He won the damn MVP and still can't get any love.
Jon: It's obvs Jim Thome. I love that he just doesn't give a fuck at this point. Also should be a first-ballot HoF, but there's no way he will be.
AND THAT'S THE WAY IT'LL BE.