Out of Left Field 2013 predictions — award winners/playoff matchups
• AL CENTRAL DIVISIONAL RACE
• AL WEST DIVISIONAL RACE
MVP — Jose Bautista, Toronto: Surrounding this guy with plenty of talent takes away some of the “good player, bad team” counterarguments, and also provides him protection like he’s never seen before. Could have a monster year.
Cy Young — Justin Verlander, Detroit: While the last three winners (Tampa Bay’s David Price, Detroit’s Verlander and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez) are all among the favorites to win it again, Verlander has been the closest thing to the most dominant pitcher in baseball over the past two seasons. He’ll make it three, and capture his second Cy Young.
Rookie of the Year — Wil Myers, Tampa Bay: Granted, it’s likely that the Rays start the uber-prospect in the minors, so they don’t start his arbitration clock, but you know that it’ll be tempting for the always offensively-challenged Rays to bring up the best hitter in the minors, who hit .314 in the Royals’ system last year.
Comeback Player of the Year — Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay: Despite just 74 games played last year, the Rays signed their cornerstone 3B to a contract extension, locking him up through 2022. Last year was the first of his five big-league seasons when he wasn’t a factor in the MVP race, but expect him to be back to his 25-homer, 100-RBI self. Other good bets: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston (again); Victor Martinez, Detroit; Mariano Rivera, New York.
AL Wild Cards: Rays, A’s
ALCS matchup: Angels vs. Tigers (Tigers in 7)
• NL EAST DIVISIONAL RACE
• NL CENTRAL DIVISIONAL RACE
• NL WEST DIVISIONAL RACE
MVP — Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh: The 26-year-old just keeps getting better, even if the Pirates seemingly don’t. His candidacy — as it was last year — likely will be tied to the fortunes of his team, meaning if the Pirates slide in the second half again, guys like LA’s Matt Kemp and SF’s Buster Posey are more likely candidates.
Cy Young — Stephen Strasburg, Washington: Nobody will be asking him questions about when he’s going to get shut down this year — the only thing getting shut down will be opposing offenses.
Rookie of the Year — Oscar Taveras, St. Louis: Seems like it would be one of the Cardinals’ sure-fire pitching prospects here, especially since there’s likely to be more of a need for them. But Taveras is one of the most talented hitters in the minors, and he’ll be a regular in St. Louis sooner or later.
Comeback Player of the Year — Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado: Before being limited to 47 games by of a groin injury that required surgery in 2012, Tulo had finished in the top 5 in NL MVP voting for three straight years, winning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 2010 and ’11. Other good bets: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia; Carl Crawford, Los Angeles
NL Wild Cards: Dodgers, Braves
NLCS: Nationals vs. Dodgers (Nats in 5)
World Series: Nationals vs. Tigers (Verlander beats Strasburg in Game 7)