Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Predicting MLB awards

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on March 12, 2012 @ 13:05:07 PDT

 


Hi everyone and welcome to the first post daylight savings time edition of Lord Zola's Roundtable. Today we are going to discuss a rather general and common barroom type question, with the hope that the answers will shed some light on how the knights feel about some impactful players, without directly asking them how they feel about said players. You'll see what I mean.

Who do you guys think will be the AL and NL MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year winners?

Perry Van Hook, who is too busy attending Cactus League games to share his reasons, offers:

AL

Cy Young - Christopher John Wilson, LAA

ROY - Matt Moore, TB

MVP - Prince Fielder, DET

NL

Cy Young - Roy Halladay, PHI

ROY - Bryce Harper, WAS

MVP - Justin Upton, AZ

Apparently I struck a nerve in Nick Minnix:

Washington Nationals OF Bryce Harper
Mixed reactions on Harper

I think I very much dislike awards.

AL: MVP, Miguel Cabrera, not in spite of but in small part because of his move to third. Prince Fielder plays second fiddle again, and in the award race, Ian Kinsler is a close second because gets the batting average up.

I like Perry's C.J. Wilson pick for the Cy Young quite a bit, he's come a long way. I think he keeps the BB/9 gains somewhat easily. I think Max Scherzer is close to competing, but I don't have the baseballs to pick him.

ROY is likely to be either Jesus Montero or Matt Moore, right? Think I'll go with Montero. Moore. Montero. OK, Moore. Uh, More will be expected of Montero, and if reports about his lack maturity are accurate, have to wonder how he'll conduct business if the club's a loser. Moore has an uphill climb, though, in that division - three great offenses, and I don't think the Orioles will be quite the doormat that they've been, either (although they'll still be a doormat). Screw it, Yu Darvish. Or Jarrod Parker. But not Yoenis Cespedes.

NL: MVP, Hunter Pence. Change in environment (not the ballpark, the clubhouse and the lineup) has been big for him. The rest of Philadelphia's card is quality - if they're healthy - but none of them would do enough to detract from Pence's candidacy in an award race.

For the Cy Young, either Zack Greinke or Tommy Hanson. I'll go with Greinke. I think last year's second half is going to be most of this year's ride.

Pass on Bryce Harper. Trevor Bauer for ROY, for his knowledge and the depth of his repertoire. Shelby Miller may give Bauer a run for his money.

Lawr Michaels reluctantly opines:

Boy, I feel like a real curmudgeon. I have no idea, nor do I really care (I guess I am with Nick in the awards thing).

Not that I don't speculate who might deserve it during or after the fact.

In the NL I think Matt Cain is poised for a big year. And if Matt Kemp does it again, he becomes a pretty likely MVP candidate. I will gamble on Jimmy Paredes for ROY in the NL, though no clue why. Maybe since I have him on a few teams I am hoping?

AL, James Shields becomes a Cy guy, and Adrian Gonzalez helps the Red Sox make up for the fade last year. Cespedes for ROY - don't know why.

I don't know why any of this.

Although I am happy to point out that I wrote in October of 1999 for the 2000 STATS Scouting Notebook that Jason Giambi was a clear candidate for MVP (it is on page 214) which he did win in 2000. Not sure how I knew that either.

So, it is better to quit while one is ahead, I think.

Ryan Carey is not attending spring training games:

AL MVP - Carlos Santana, C, CLE - If anything bothers me about the MVP award is that it doesn't often go to the guy who is the most "valuable" to his team. I wish MLB would just get around to creating a "Babe Ruth" award to recognize the best offensive season so the MVP can take into account other things. That said - I kind of agree with some of what Lawr said. Picking these award winners is really just throwing darts at the wall. You pick the guys who have a chance to put up big numbers. Sure, this could be Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury or Evan Longoria. But you know what, it's spring and I am going to be like every other fan and choose to still believe that my team can win it all THIS year. If the Indians do find a way to win the Central, it will be because of Santana. Catchers don't need to do quite as much to win the MVP. Hitting .300 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs while leading the Indians to the playoffs would be enough.

AL CY YOUNG - Jon Lester, BOS - First - I will say I like the C.J. Wilson choice, but since he's been picked I'll go a different route for varieties sake. One thing we know is that the winner of this award will likely come from a playoff contending team. That narrows the places to look down. I think Lester has as good a chance as any of the candidates of taking his game up to the next level. He is motivated to put "chicken-gate" behind him, and when he does I think that storyline (along with the cancer one) will be too compelling for voters to ignore.

AL ROY - Yu Darvish, TEX - I think he will be successful and he will generate a buzz whenever he takes the mound, especially on the road. Ichiro Suzuki set the precedent here and Darvish will be the next to come over, excel in their first season, and walk away with the hardware. I think Matt Moore will hit more than one speed bump this year. Mike Trout would be my other contender here.

NL MVP - Justin Upton, OF, ARI - I can't disagree with Upton. I see a big year coming and he will be the face of Kirk Gibson's exciting team. Everyone will know his name after this year is over.

NL CY YOUNG - Cole Hamels PHI - He's nicely hidden behind two former winners on his own team, but this could very well be the year he emerges from the shadows. Really all that is missing from the resume is a 20-win season. I think he clears that hurdle this year and gets the accolades for the NL's best rotation.

NL ROY - Yonder Alonso, SD - While I like Bryce Harper, that kid is too immature and I just don't see it. He's going to find himself in Triple-A more than he will in a major league lineup this year. Alonso on the other hand is going to be in the lineup from day one and he's going to be a nice story to follow all year. I actually think SD surprises a bit in the West this year and Alonso will be in the Top 10 in the BA race, which will keep him in voters' minds. He'll play enough that he'll just have the best stats when all is said and done.

Greg Morgan, newest knight and author of Masters of the NFBC, joins the fray:

AL

Cy Young - Jered Weaver, LAA - With Prince and Miggy at the corners, I expect Verlander to take a step back this year. That leaves Weaver as the best pitcher in the AL. I like Perry's CJ Wilson pick here. I have him as the runner up to Jered.

ROY - Addison Reed, CHW - This one was very difficult as a number of rookies could step up this year, but some candidates lack opportunity. With 500 AB's Mike Trout would be the pick, but he needs a Bobby Abreu trade and an injury in the Angels outfield in order to be summoned from AAA. Chris Parmelee could surprise if given a chance, but that won't happen unless Morneau is completely shut down. Yu Darvish and Matt Moore both received heavy consideration. Moore is a better pitcher than Reed, however, it's more difficult to succeed as a starting pitcher than it is as a reliever. Thornton's 1.43 WHIP and 15 walks in 33 innings pitched vs. right handed hitters cause me to lose confidence that he's suited for the closer role and I expect Addison to take the job and run with it when he's given the opportunity.

MVP - Miguel Cabrera, DET - Best Hitter in the AL.

Arizona Diamondbacks OF Justin Upton
Upton on his way up?

NL

Cy Young - Zack Greinke, MIL - 2011 FIP predicts a vastly improved ERA from Zack this year. If he makes 32 starts he will challenge for the NL lead in K's.

ROY - Bryce Harper, WAS - Another very tough pick. Ryan is right about Harper's maturity issues, and we don't know yet how many AB's he'll receive. I like Nicholas' selection of Trevor Bauer, but ultimately I went with the best player even though I might be one year too early. Nolan Arenado was given strong consideration, but with Casey Blake in town and no Double-A or Triple-A experience, I'm worried about how much playing time he'll receive before September.

MVP - Matt Kemp, LAD - Triple Crown threat plus 40 SB

Tim Heaney closes us out with:

AL

Cy Young - CC Sabathia: Sabathia will throw a typical season and finally break through because the Angels pitchers will cancel each other out for votes and Justin Verlander will have a correction year.

Rookie of the Year - Yu Darvish: He'll meet the hype, at least around 85 percent of it, which will be enough. Matt Moore will finish a close second but probably won't pitch as many innings, which will shortchange his case, unfortunately.

MVP - Albert Pujols: His first taste of Junior Circuit glory in a division-winning lineup; don't expect a repeat of last April.

NL

Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw: Would love to pick Zack Greinke for this, but I think he has too much to do to overcome the status of Kershaw. If Adam Wainwright were a lock for 200 IP, I'd be bold and say this award would belong to him, if only for a great five months (not six) that I expect from him. But Kershaw is the most dominant starting arm in the NL, and the voters will once again be wise to that again even with the deficiency in his supporting offense.

Rookie of the Year - Devin Mesoraco: If Bryce Harper breaks camp, he'd be the winner. But for now, Mesoraco lines up for the longer stretch of impactful play ... if Dusty Baker allows him to. Mesoraco is competent behind the plate and thunderous at it.

MVP - Justin Upton: Love the steps forward he took last year, and he'll take another big one that'll make him the Matt Kemp of 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.

Lord Zola's Wrap Up

Unbeknownst to my knights, they accomplished exactly as I had hoped, and then some. But first, I would like to address a point made by Nick and shared by Lawr, but take it in a slightly different direction. Both Nick and Lawr expressed a disdain for this sort of exercise, with the underlying tone of "we just don't know." And we don't.

But isn't this akin to making our picks or bids during our fantasy drafts or auction? Here too, we just don't know. So we go with who we think. We use educated guesses, granted some more educated than others, but at the end of the day, we determine in our minds who we think will do better than the next guy. And if we aren't sure, we do like Ryan did and pick his hometown team players, because after all this is a game and it is more fun for some to be able to root for their favorite players.

I'll go through my choices, then pick out what I found most interesting in terms of fantasy relevance from the knight's discussion.

AL MVP - Albert Pujols: I just think King Albert is in for a monster season. I know when he hits the ball it is going to go out anywhere, but Busch Stadium is quietly one of the hardest venues for right-handed power and Pujols lost some dingers that would have gone out elsewhere, even in Anaheim, which only slightly disfavors right-handed power.

There really were not any surprises in the AL MVP choices, other than to point out they were all first basemen or first base eligible (Pujols, Cabrera, Fielder and Gonzalez). This suggests in an AL-only auction, that a lot of money is going to be spent at first base early, and if you are patient and willing to go a little cheaper at the position, you can focus on stars at other spots and slide in with a first baseman at a discount later.

AL Cy Young - Felix Hernandez: I respectfully disagree with Ryan as we do not know the Cy Young winner will come from a playoff team as King Felix proved in 2010 and will do so again. His peripherals were every bit as good as his first Cy season; the surface stats suffered. I have tried to take advantage of this in several drafts, as Hernandez has dropped to second tier status and I feel he is still a first tier ace.

Other than the knight-love for C.J. Wilson, the most fascinating aspect of the Cy Young discussion is no votes for Justin Verlander, deservedly in my opinion. Verlander has thrown almost half a season's worth more pitches than anyone else combined the past three seasons. That has to catch up. I also believe Detroit is going to watch his innings to keep him fresh (he did fade down the stretch and in the playoffs last season) which takes away from his fantasy value. A quick word on Wilson: While he will benefit from the bigger park, he is such an extreme ground ball pitcher that the boost is not as great as it would be for a more fly ball guy. Wilson has to hope that his infield defense is as good as that in Texas, and he will probably be disappointed. But if he continues to keep the walks down, he will be fine.

AL ROY - Matt Moore: This selection says a couple of latent things. First is I don't think Mike Trout will play enough or well enough to win and second I think Moore will outpitch Yu Darvish.

The diverse opinions on Yoenis Cespedes are interesting. I think he will play and play pretty well, being sort of a mistake hitter for now, crushing bad pitching, of which there is still some, while being handled by the better hurlers. I happen to agree with Greg about Addison Reed, but think Moore's campaign will be good enough to push the closer down the ballot. What all this says in terms of fantasy is Cespedes is a risk and most here favor Moore over Darvish.

NL MVP - Joey Votto: I think Matt Kemp's numbers will regress and he has a weak surrounding cast to lower his run production and even if Ryan Braun kicks butt, which I think he will, there will be a voter backlash. And I think Votto is going to knock in a ton of runs this season, I really like the Reds' lineup and think there will be a surprise at the top, more in a moment.

Perhaps the most compelling take away from this whole exercise is how high everyone is on Justin Upton. This should translate to fantasy and suggests he could be the guy to target at the end of the first, if not earlier. The only catch is he does not need a .300 average to be the NL MVP, but he probably needs something close to that to be the top fantasy player.

NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay: While Clayton Kershaw is scary good and getting better, he needs to show he can maintain his improved walk rate. Halladay is still king of the mountain.

The most intriguing take home lesson with the NL Cy talk is Zack Greinke and how much better he pitched than his surface stats indicate. You can get a fantasy ace from the second or even third tier, depending on how astute your league mates are (remember, some guesses are more educated than others).

NL ROY - Zack Cozart: It took me a while to warm to the Reds' rookie shortstop, but I just have a feeling that if he hits second as has been discussed, he is going to have a productive year and score a ton of runs.

The interesting element of the ROY discussion is at least a couple of knights expect Bryce Harper to play enough (and well enough) to win the award while others are skeptical.

We just don't know.

If there is something you would like the Roundtable to discuss, drop us a request via KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by at @KFFL_Baseball.

Todd is the Content Manager for the Mastersball Platinum Subscription product, featuring frequently updated player projections, values, rankings and profiles along with unique Excel tools, Minor League rankings and cutting edge strategy essays. Click HERE for details.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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