As a baseball fan, it is a yearly tradition of mine to predict which players I think will win baseball’s biggest awards. While a lot of my predictions may not be the most popular, or even very unlikely, I make my picks after doing some research-based on past performance and projected future performance. As with my past articles, I really hope that my picks will start good baseball conversation and debate.
NL MVP: Juan Soto
With the plethora of young, exciting players in the National League, you really can’t go wrong in predicting a 2021 NL MVP. With that being said, I think Soto has the potential to put up the best offensive season in Major League Baseball this season. He is coming off an incredible 2020, as in 47 games, he produced a league-leading .351/.490/.695 slash line. He also led the league with a 1.185 OPS and 212 OPS+. As I stated on my colleague David Payne’s podcast Call to the Bullpen, I believe he is the best pure hitter in baseball. Although some may favor 2020 NL MVP runner-up Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr., or another player that is better than Soto defensively or on the bases than Soto, I really think Juan’s offensive production will be significantly better than anyone in the National League.
AL MVP: Jose Ramirez
This is a very bold prediction on my part and one that is certain to stir debate. While Ramirez is widely recognized as one of the top hitters in baseball, he is overlooked in regards to other analyst’s 2021 AL MVP predictions. However, when Jose is hot at the plate, he is an extra-base hit machine. He led the AL in runs with 45 in 2020 and was on pace for 45 home runs and 124 RBIs in a full 162 games season. It may be a bold prediction to pick him as the 2021 AL MVP, but given his top-3 finishes in 2017, 2018, and his runner-up finish in 2020, he does have the pedigree as a top American League player.
NL Cy Young Award: Jacob deGrom
Coming off a more bold prediction with Ramirez, I think 2021 is the year for DeGrom. Coming off his back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019, he saw a jump in velocity in 2020, and another elite season on the mound. In 12 starts, he had a 2.38 ERA and led the National League with 104 strikeouts over 68 innings pitched. He finished third in NL Cy Young voting last year, but I really believe he would have won his third straight Cy Young if it were a normal, 162-game season. Given how poor Trevor Bauer is in the second half, and how unreliable and inconsistent runner-up Yu Darvish had been in 2018 and 2019, I think Jake would have taken over in the second half of the season and won. Now that the Mets are a far better team on paper than they were in 2018 and 2019 when he won the award, I think he will pitch with more confidence, given the better support at the plate, and a deeper rotation behind him.
AL Cy Young Award: Gerrit Cole
I’m sure that all of the Yankees fans out there will appreciate this prediction. In his first year in the Bronx, Cole lived up to the hype. Over 12 starts in 2020, he had a 2.84 ERA, led the league with 2 complete games, and struck out 94 batters over 73 innings pitched. Although an easy pick for the AL Cy Young would be 2020 winner Shane Bieber, I believe that Cole being the ace on a top-tier big market American League team will give him the recognition that he deserves for the award. Given how electric his stuff is, I think he will finally win the coveted Cy Young Award.
AL Rookie of the Year: Ryan Mountcastle
This prediction is especially tough, considering the plethora of elite rookies in the AL like Randy Arozarena, Nick Madrigal, as well as guys that have yet to make their debut in Jarred Kelenic and Andrew Vaughn. However, I was really impressed with what I saw out of Mountcastle in his 126 at-bats in 2020. He posted a .333/.386/.492 slash, and a very good .878 OPS. He will get plenty of opportunities in Baltimore this season, and I think he will be a force for the promising young Orioles squad in coming years.
NL Rookie of the Year: Ian Anderson
In his six regular-season starts in 2020, the Albany-area product was nothing short of incredible. He posted a 3-2 record, with a terrific 1.95 ERA, over 32.1 innings pitched. He followed his regular-season dominance up with a terrific postseason, going 2-0, with a 0.96 ERA. I fully expect him to be dominant over a full 162-game season and prove that he’s a top pitcher in the NL.
AL Manager of the Year: Charlie Montoyo
In 2020, Montoyo led the Blue Jays to a third-place finish and a Wild Card Series berth. Given the improvements, the Jays made this offseason in signing marquee free agent George Springer, and a solid utility infielder in Marcus Semien, I think the Toronto squad will be neck and neck with the Yankees in 2021. With their young stars in Guerrero Jr., Biggio, Gurriel Jr., and Bichette due to get significant at-bats this year, it will only help them develop into an elite offensive squad. With Montoyo entering just his third year at the helm for Toronto, I believe he is a capable manager and one that can lead the Blue Jays deep into the playoffs.
NL Manager of the Year: Luis Rojas
In the 2020 season, the Mets simply underperformed. They had a 26-34 record, and a fourth-place finish. However, I believe that Rojas’s second year in Queens will be much better than his first. With key offseason additions in Francisco Lindor, James McCann, Trevor May, and Taijuan Walker, the Mets are well-equipped to push for a postseason berth. Rojas has a reputation as a manager that is well-liked by his players, and that chemistry can only help them in the upcoming season.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Trey Mancini
In 2019, the Orioles slugger was a top hitter in the AL East. He was poised for another terrific season in 2020, until he was sadly diagnosed with colon cancer, and missed the entire season. However, he’s recovered and poised to have a great 2021. He’s been going off in Spring Training thus far, to the tune of a .333/.352/.451 slash. Given the feel-good comeback story and the talent Mancini possesses, he is the clear front-runner for this award.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Stephen Strasburg
Since he burst onto the scene in 2010, Strasburg has been both dominant and consistent. Over his 11-year career, he’s amassed 112 wins, 1,697 strikeouts, and a 3.19 ERA. The 2019 NL wins leader made just two starts in 2020, before falling to the IL. He’s looked solid this Spring Training, and he’ll be a key factor in how the Nationals do in 2021.