Every year around the start of a new season, no matter what the sport is, we always see analysts and reporters break down how they think the year will go. In doing this, they try to predict which players will have the breakout year or be atop the statistical board when game 162 has seen its last pitch. Well, I’m here to do the same thing by declaring who I believe will earn some of the highest honors this season. These are my 2016 National League award predictions.
Comeback Player of the Year
This award is given to a player who has, in the past, been a top player in the league but struggled in his most recent season. Many times this is due to an injury, but it could simply be due to poor play. The 2015 National League award winner was Matt Harvey of the New York Mets.
In 2015, Hunter Pence fractured the ulna in his left arm during a Spring Training game against the Chicago Cubs. Due to his injury, he would only play in fifty-two games, have 227 plate appearances, and hit .275. This may not seem like a complete loss of a season, but Pence had played in 324 games over the previous two years. If you do the math, that’s 324 games out of a possible 324 games. Yes, he played in every game during the regular season in 2014 and 2013. He also finished eleventh in the NL MVP voting in 2014. So, Pence had a very important role for the Giants.
So far in this young season, Pence is hitting .250 (6 for 24). He has five RBI and only a single home run, a grand slam off of Dodger’s pitcher Pedro Baez.
Hank Aaron Award
The Hank Aaron award is given to the top hitter in each league for that year. The 2015 National League award winner was Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.
Paul Goldschmidt is a superior hitter in MLB, and he is my pick to be the best slugger in the NL this year. He is a career .299 hitter in four and a half seasons of baseball. Last year he hit a whopping .321, and mashed thirty-three home runs. He also ended his season slugging .570, which placed him fourth in the league. This would be his second time taking home the hardware; he previously won the award in 2013.
Obviously, these numbers are slightly skewed due to the season only being a little over a week old, but he is off to a good start, hitting .280 with two home runs while slugging .640.
Rookie of the Year
This award is given to the best rookie in the league. To qualify as a rooki,e a player can’t have more than 130 at-bats or more than fifty innings pitched in a previous season. The 2015 National League award winner was Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs
My pick for rookie of the year is Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. At this point in the season, some of you may be thinking that Trevor Story has this thing pretty much wrapped up already. Hitting seven home runs in his first six games in an astronomical feat, and Story is the front-runner early for this reason. But these numbers are, without a doubt, unsustainable. Story has nine hits in twenty-seven at-bats and, again, seven of them have left the yard.
Seager is ten-for-thrty on the year so far, resulting in a .333 batting average, which matches Story’s. Corey has driven in four runs and has a .407 on-base percentage. This is fifty points higher than Story’s. I am also a strong believer that Seager could throw his name into the mix for the title of the best defensive shortstop in baseball. Combining his Double- and Triple-A stats at shortstop for the 2015 season, he ended the year with a .973 fielding percentage. That number would exceed the fielding percentages of shortstops like Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Ian Desmond, and Marcus Semien. Keep in mind this kid is only 21-years-old. He still has a lot of room to grow.
This award is given to the best pitcher in the league for the year. The most dominant pitcher gets the privilege of being named the Cy Young winner. Last year’s National League award winner was Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs.
This, in my opinion, is my boldest pick. It would be easy to go with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, or to just pick Jake again. I’m picking Noah “Thor” Syndergaard. He throws hard, people, and I mean hard! He currently leads the league in average pitch velocity with his sinker at 98.2 mph. His four-seam fastball is third on that list as well, with an average velocity of 97.7 mph. That doesn’t leave hitters a whole lot of time to react. If that wasn’t enough, from what I’ve seen in his two starts so far this year, he has finally made a big step in developing his slider. His arsenal of pitches makes him a good contender to take the title of number one hurler in the NL.
Most Valuable Player
Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Last, but certainly not least, the MVP of the NL. If you don’t already know, this award is given to the player who end the year above the rest. He performs the best out of all the other players in the league, and almost always is a major contributor to his teams’ success. Bryce Harper was the 2015 National League award winner; the previous year, Clayton Kershaw took home the top prize.
My pick is Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen. I think he is going to have a breakout year, which is saying a lot since he is already seen as one of the best players in baseball. In 2015, McClutch had some left knee issues that many believed held him back to just a .292 batting average, twenty-three home runs, and ninety-six RBI. Yes, I said “just”. This was actually a down year for the guy. But now, he declares that he is healthy. In an article written by Stephen J Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McCutchen said that his knee injury “robbed him of explosiveness…”, and would later say, “Got my power back, got my legs back.” If this is even remotely true, opposing pitchers are in trouble.
Well there you have it folks. My five champions. My 2016 National League award predictions. Only time will tell how well I did with my picks, but, barring injury or a complete blow up of someone’s season, I think these guys could very well bring home bacon. Next week I will pick my five American League winners.