The 2020 Major League Baseball season brought a handful of unexpected circumstances: Covid protocols and postponements, red-eye travel, on-the-spot Minor League call-ups and a shortened 62 game season. As the league adapts and adjust to the always-changing pandemic times, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Major League Baseball will be playing a full-162 game season. This elated news brings a blissful and uplifting spirit to fans, coaches and most importantly, the players. As we look forward to a full season, many players will rise to the occasion and take home the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards. Here are six players to keep an eye on in the respective races.
MVP – Mike Trout (+200)
With three MVP awards in his back pocket, Mike Trout looks to add on his impressive resumé this coming season. The New Jersey native and 2009 first-round draft pick enters the season as slight favorite to take home the American League MVP award. Surrounded by power bats in the Angels lineup with two-way Shohei Ohtani and third baseman Anthony Rendon, Trout should seek more opportunities to push runners across the plate and flourish in the box score. Through last year’s shortened 60-game season, Trout connected on a career low .281 batting average along with 46 RBIs, 17 home runs and 56 hits all while placing fifth in AL MVP voting. In 10 years at the major league level, fifth was the lowest placement in MVP voting for Trout. With the Angeles expected to compete for the AL West, Mike Trout should lead them to a potential postseason appearance along with another American League MVP Award in hand.
Cy Young – Gerrit Cole (+350)
Landing in New York on one of the largest contracts in baseball history, nine-years, $324 million, Gerrit Cole leads the Bronx Bombers as the favorites in the American League. Finishing his first season in pinstripes, Cole dazzled hitters with a 7-3 record, 94 strikeouts, two complete games and a 2.84 ERA through 12 games. Motivated to accomplish more, Cole’s best Cy Young award placement was second in 2019. Expected to lead the New York rotation to a division title and beyond, Gerrit Cole will do so with a tremendous amount of run support from arguably the best lineup in baseball. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez all are able to provide 90+ RBIs on top of 30+ home runs. Don’t be surprised if Cole ends up with the Cy Young award in addition to a possible World Series title.
Rookie of the Year – Triston McKenzie (+1500)
Cleveland Indians’ right-hander Triston McKenzie begins the 2021 season as an underrated arm to take home the American League Rookie of the Year award. The 6-foot-5 Brooklyn, New York native was called up last season and had a small glimpse of the Major League waters. Starting in six games, McKenzie struck out 42, walked nine and finished with a record of 2-1 in 33.1 IP. Learning from clubhouse veterans such as 2020 Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and star Zac Plesac, McKenzie will receive world class pitching advice from arguably the best in the game. Projected to make 20+ starts in a full 162 game season, the Cleveland Indians’ future is here and is looking brighter than ever. With experience, confidence and a positive aura around the clubhouse, McKenzie is a star waiting for his time to shine.
MVP – Juan Soto (+750)
When you think of swagger and confidence at the plate, one name comes to mind: Juan Soto. The rising Washington Nationals’ phenom has electrified fans all across the nation and has brought the city a World Series title in 2019. With mind-boggling 2020 numbers at the dish – .351 Batting Average, .490 OBP, .695 SLG, 1.185 OPS – Soto will carry his superstar momentum into the 2021 season. Beginning his fourth year of play at the major league level, Soto has arguably one of the best power abilities at the plate in the game. With a batting title, a World Series title and a Silver Slugger award in his trophy case, Soto will set his eyes on an MVP this coming season. Although having to compete with the “face of baseball” Fernando Tatis Jr., Mookie Betts and Corey Seager in the MVP race, Soto will come into the new season better than ever as ready to prove he is one the best players in the game. Juan Soto is the best player in Washington since Bryce Harper and has the projection to even surpass what he accomplished in the Nation’s Capital.
Cy Young – Jacob deGrom (+425)
Debatably the best pitcher in the sport, Jacob deGrom aims for his third Cy Young award in four years with the New York Mets. In his back-to-back 2018 and 2019 Cy Young seasons, deGrom posted incredible numbers on the mound. Despite a below-average record of 21-17, the dominant right-hander diced up the competition as he led the league in strikeouts, ERA, HR9 and ERA+. Heading into 2021, this year will be different than the past for deGrom. With an influx of talent rising in the New York Mets’ lineup — featuring the newly acquired All-Star and Gold Glove winner Francisco Lindor and catcher James McCann — deGrom should see plenty of run support this coming season and beyond. As the Mets look to compete for a division title, — under new owner Steven A. Cohen — anticipate Jacob deGrom to return to his old Cy Young form in 2021.
Rookie of the Year – Ke’Bryan Hayes (+350)
Stepping into the spotlight and making his debut as he played in 24 games, rising sensation Ke’Bryan Hayes still managed to place seventh in the 2020 Rookie of the Year voting. This year, a full 162, Hayes gets another shot at taking home the hardware and enters the new season as front-runner. Despite playing in an eighth of last season’s contests, Hayes was the Pirates’ most valuable asset. The Pirates’ top prospect brings tremendous power, speed and versatility to his position day in and day out. As he carries a .376/.442/.682 slash line into 2021, the Pirates rookie is also expected to compete for a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards at the hot corner. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a star in the making and taking home Rookie of the Year would be his first step towards greatness.
Odds provided: Vegas Insider
Photo: Getty Images