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MLB awards and World Series predictions: Mets get redemption for last year's World Series loss


Jordan Grossman
/ The Spectrum The Spectrum

This may be the most exciting time to be a baseball fan in quite some time.

It’s always good to watch the mainstays of the league – the players who have rewritten record books and have made their own legacies.

But there’s something about the allure of the youth movement. Some of the best players in the league aren’t even 25 yet. There’s still so much potential in these young rosters that may or may not break out this year.

So this season will be interesting. Who will prevail: the veterans who have been in these situations before or the young players who are primed to take over the game?

AL MVP winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Everyone seems to forget that the MVP doesn’t have to make the playoffs to earn the award.

That situation may happen to Trout this season. He’s without a doubt the best player on the Angels and there’s a fair case to call him the best player in the game. His five-tool ability is wicked and at only 24 years old, he seems ready to proclaim that he is the best player in the game.

He hits for power and plays one of the best center fields in baseball. His worst season to date was last year and he still put up 41 home runs and compiled a .299 batting average.

His biggest problem to face will be his own team. Without a few stars in the lineup makes it easier for pitchers to pitch around him and take away those batting opportunities. But by the end of the year, Trout will raise the MVP trophy once again.

Dark Horse: Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

NL MVP winner: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

It’s incredibly rare to have a player repeat as the MVP.

It’s even more rare to find a player of the caliber of Bryce Harper.

He finally broke onto the scene last season with a 40-plus home run season and a .330 average en route to his first MVP award at the age of 22 years old.

Imagine what he can do at 23.

He’s a five-tool player that any team would want. He has the arm, speed and defensive ability to make him an All-Star year after year alone. Harper connected on that highly touted power last season and is now one of the most feared long ball hitters in the game.

It’s very possible he can hit 50 home runs this season and challenge for the batting title once again. Other than injury, there’s nothing slowing down Harper this year or in the distant future.

AL Cy Young Award winner: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

The proclaimed king of the MLB has a perfect game, a Cy Young Award and over 2,000 strikeouts in his career already.

He’s not even 30.

Hernandez finished with an 18-win season and another 200-plus inning performance last season with a team that was virtually out of the playoff picture by mid-August.

The Mariners have the pieces to make a run and this may be the year as they are equipped with a better offense. That’s only good news for Hernandez, who has been plagued his entire career because of the offense behind him. The 3.53 ERA is a little concerning for this pick, but Hernandez followed his last ERA over 3.00 with a stellar 2.14 ERA that almost won him Cy Young honors in 2014.

This is the year for the Mariners. This is the year for King Felix.

NL Cy Young winner: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

This was the toughest decision I had to make all week.

The award could have gone to reigning-champ Jake Arrieta or reigning ERA-leader Zack Greinke. But there’s something about Kershaw that impresses me year after year: his consistency.

He may have had the best season of his career last year when he posted over 300 strikeouts, a sub-2.00 ERA and single-digit losses. He is the definition of a dominant pitcher. His jerky motion throws batters off as he switches up from his mid-90’s fastball and devastating curveball that stalemates many left-handed hitters.

And if it weren’t for a crazy second-half run by Arrieta, Kershaw could have gotten the nod.

The wins will always be present. The Dodgers have one of the best offenses in the league and give Kershaw plenty of run support. Kershaw’s efficiency in pressure situations is what makes him a superstar. HE rises to the occasion every five days as if it were a playoff game.

He got snubbed last year. It won’t happen again.

Darkhorse: Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets

AL Rookie of the Year: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

I had the pleasure to watch Buxton play live last summer. Any indication from the four-hour stretch I saw him play, he will, undoubtedly, be a star in this league one day.

He’s what MLB GM’s clamor for – a five-tool player. He possesses elite speed, a bionic arm from the outfield (he was a dominant pitcher in high school) and has above-average contact skills with power coming along in a few short years.

What may deter people about Buxton is his proneness to injury. He’s battled a thumb injury that limited him to 46 games in his first campaign in the majors. And in that first stint, he batted a mere .209 with six RBI and 44 strikeouts.

No matter. Here are the numbers of a first-year player just a few years back - .220 average, five home runs and 16 RBI in 123 at-bats. That player? Mike Trout – the superstar that Buxton draws comparisons to.

Look how Trout took the league by storm. Buxton will, one day, look to do the same. This season will begin that transition.

Dark Horse: Byung-ho Park, first baseman, Minnesota Twins

NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

He broke through in the majors to the tune of a .337 batting average.

That’s not even the best part of his game.

Seager, ranked as Keith Law’s No. 1 prospect heading into 2016, is slotted to take over for Jimmy Rollins at shortstop for the Dodgers. With this chance, he’ll finally make the splash everyone was hoping to see.

Seager has the rare combination of power and speed at shortstop. He makes contact and could make a small dribbler into a potential infield hit with his speed. In his first full season, it wouldn’t shock me if he reached the 20-20 club.

I’m still bitter I didn’t draft him in Fantasy Baseball.

The best part of his game is his glove. He has the quickness to cover the left side of the infield and has an underrated arm. Seager has the potential to win a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove in the same season. He’s the next great shortstop – a position that has seen a decline in production in the past couple of years.

He could help bring another title to Los Angeles. He’s that good. In his first full year, I don’t expect any play less than astonishing.

Darkhorse: Lucas Giolito, SP, Washington Nationals

World Series pick: New York Mets over Houston Astros

I truly didn’t let my biased intentions get it the way. For the first time in quite some time, there’s excitement for Mets fans. This team is equipped with the right tools to make a run. So, 30 years after their last championship, the New York Mets will take home a World Series championship.

Their dominance begins with the pitching. The four active arms in Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are some of the most compelling pitchers in the game. Former and current players even think this may be the best rotation of all time.

Then, there’s the offense the received a jolt of energy once Yoenis Cespedes joined the team via trade and stayed to continue a winning atmosphere. He is joined by veterans Curtis Granderson and David Wright, who is finally healthy enough to make a difference this year.

The youth movement continues with Michael Conforto and Travis D’arnaud. Youthful players are key importance in the MLB. The Astros know that.

Remember just a few years back when the Astros were a 100-loss club? They’re primed now to be a 100-win team. They were a few outs away for a chance at the AL pennant last year. That was during a year where it shouldn’t have happened. The core of this team is scary and will be for quite some time. One more year of experience for all of those players will help Houston get over the hump.

The Cubs will be great, but a super team always needs a year to gel. The Royals have a great shot as well. In fact, I picked them as the AL runner-up. But there’s an allure about the Mets and Astros that I like. Maybe I like an underdog, or two clubs that made success happen the right way – to develop players and trust the farm system.

Ultimately, it’s the Mets that will get the job done.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him @jordanmgrossman.

            


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