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Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on March 24, 2008
Most Valuable Player
Mike Chiari - 3B David Wright (NYM). If it weren’t for the gigantic collapse down the stretch by the Mets in 2007, Wright likely would have won the MVP award last season. I think Wright gets redemption this season, and he leads the Mets to the playoffs. I think that he’ll be the best player on the best team in baseball. He puts up rare numbers at the third base position. He was a 30-30 man as he smashed 30 HR’s and swiped 34 bases in ‘07. There’s no weak part to Wright’s game. He’s a gold glover in the field, he hits for average, hits for power, and has good speed. He may be the most complete player in the league.
Bjoern Hartig – David Wright
Nicholas Kramer – Ryan Howard
Jonathan Leshanski – Matt Holliday
Daniel Paulling – If the Braves are going to do anything this season, Chipper Jones is going to carry them there
Matt Sounders - David Wright (.312/36/129 with a run at a gold glove)
David Wagner - Mark Teixeira, 1B, Atlanta Braves. Teixeira is in his contract year, so expect huge power numbers hitting in the strong Atlanta lineup – around .300-40-125.
Other considerations (in no particular order except alphabetical): Prince Fielder, Matt Holiday, Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, David Wright.
Justin Zeth - Jeff Francouer. If somebody can get on base in front of him, Francoeur stands to ring up some gigantic kind of RBI total.
Mike Chiari - SP Johan Santana (NYM). This is the same situation as David Wright. Santana is the best pitcher on the best team in baseball. With his skills, and all the run support he should receive, 20 wins is almost automatic. While it may take him some time to adjust to hitters in the National League, the same can be said for the hitters having to adjust to him. He’s been the best pitcher in baseball for four years running, and the move to New York should do nothing but revitalize him.
Bjoern Hartig – Johan Santana
Nicholas Kramer – Jake Peavy
Jonathan Leshanski – Jake Peavy
Daniel Paulling – Johan Santana won two in the AL; he should win a few more in the NL
Matt Sounders - Jake Peavy (2.41/245 K/19-4 record)
David Wagner - Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s just plain nasty, and over the past three seasons he’s been one of the most consistent dominant pitchers in the NL. I’m looking for that to continue as he edges out some stiff competition.
Other considerations: Jake Peavy, Johan Santana, Tim Hudson, Chris Young, John Smoltz, Dan Haren.
Justin Zeth - Johan Santana. To pick anyone else is just having fun with trying to guess; if you're going to play the percentages, Santana is obvious beyond all previously known standards of obviousness.
Rookie of the Year
Mike Chiari - OF Jay Bruce (CIN). There’s plenty of candidates for this honor. Colby Rasmus, Chase Headley, Homer Bailey, and Joey Votto all come to mind. I think that the most talented and major league ready player of the bunch is Jay Bruce, though. Bruce is a five tool player who can contribute in all categories. I can envision many .300-30-100 seasons for him in the future, but I’ll make a more modest prediction for him this year. Think somewhere along the lines of .270-20-70. He could be a key cog in the Reds’ lineup, and he’s a big reason why I think they can surprise in the NL this season.
Bjoern Hartig – Joey Votto
Nicholas Kramer – Kosuke Fukudome
Jonathan Leshanski – Ian Stewart
Daniel Paulling – Cameron Maybin, since he is just that good and will be getting at-bats
Matt Sounders - Jay Bruce (.276/29/90)
David Wagner - Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs OF. His power numbers won’t be as high as they were in Japan, but he’ll be quite impressive nevertheless.
Justin Zeth - I don't think Jay Bruce's idiot manager is going to give him enough playing time, so I guess I'm going to take a shot in the dark with, say, Brandon Jones.
Comeback Player of the Year
Mike Chiari - OF Andruw Jones (LAD). It’s hard for me to remember a more disappointing contract year than the one that Andruw Jones had in 2007. You can look at his power numbers and say that 26 homeruns and 94 RBI is pretty good. While that’s true, it was a huge drop off from his previous two seasons. Jones went 51-128 and 41-129 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. He also hit at a putrid .222 clip. Jones didn’t garner huge interest in free agency and should have a chip on his shoulder this season. The Dodgers need Jones to produce and I feel as though he will, and make the Dodger management look like geniuses for signing him.
Bjoern Hartig – Andruw Jones
Nicholas Kramer – Kris Benson
Jonathan Leshanski - Nick Johnson, who’ll finally have a good season.
Daniel Paulling – Mike Hampton, despite his spring training injuries
Matt Sounders - Juan Gonzalez (he won’t be a complete waste of space – just making the Cards will be a miracle and when he holds his own, a lot of people will be shocked)
David Wagner - Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves SP. Hampton is slowly returning to the Braves’ starting rotation, and early reports indicate that he’s healthy and expecting to pitch 30-32 games. If he registers double-digits in wins, that’ll be a huge help for Atlanta.
Justin Zeth - I can't immediately think of anybody in the NL that's coming back from anything notable, to tell you the truth. Pedro Martinez, I guess. Nick Johnson, maybe.
One Surprise Thing that Will Happen
Mike Chiari - Kerry Wood will pitch an entire, healthy season. Call it a hunch, but I think this is the year that Kerry Wood finally stays healthy. He’s looked great this spring and has stayed injury free which is an accomplishment for him. While his role isn’t clearly defined at this point, I think he’ll end up being the setup man, and a darn good one. If Wood stays healthy, he’ll give the Cubs one of the best pens in baseball. I think he’ll finally find his niche this season.
Bjoern Hartig - Alfonso Soriano will not lead off for the Cubs
Nicholas Kramer - Johan Santana injures arm in first month of the season and spends the rest of the season on the DL
Jonathan Leshanski - Juan Gonzalez will return to baseball and have a decent year for the Cardinals - who’ll trade him midseason to the Padres.
Daniel Paulling – Carlos Zambrano, Mike Hampton, and Micah Owings combine to hit 12 home runs. That’s still half what Juan Gonzalez hits this year.
Matt Sounders - The Rockies will not compete at the same level this year. The pitching isn’t ready to shine the way it did down the stretch in ’07.
David Wagner - The National League will beat the American League in the All-Star Game…finally!!
Justin Zeth - Tom Gorzelanny's arm will come flying off in June… oh? That wouldn't be a surprise?
The Reds, commonly expected to compete for the NL Central title, will finish in fifth place, ahead of only those adorable Pirates.
One Player to Watch
Mike Chiari - SP Mark Prior (SD): While I predicted that Prior’s former teammate Kerry Wood will remain injury free this season, I can’t guarantee the same thing for Prior. He still isn’t 100 % from last season. Given that he can get some starts in this season, Prior could really surprise. Everybody knows the type of talent he possesses, and everybody know how great Petco Park is for pitchers. A healthy Mark Prior has the potential to be dominant with the Padres. Monitor him throughout the spring, and if things look good, he could be a steal for you in your fantasy draft, and for the Padres in general.
Bjoern Hartig – Lastings Milledge
Nicholas Kramer – Nick Johnson
Jonathan Leshanski – David Wright
Daniel Paulling – Wily Mo Pena
Matt Sounders - Pedro Martinez – If the Mets want to make me regret not going with consensus and picking them to win the east, they’d better hope Martinez can stay healthy this year and contribute something to their rotation…because without him, they’re still very thin despite Santana’s presence.
David Wagner - James Loney, LA Dodgers, 1B. Loney finished in the ROY voting last year, and it looks like he’ll have a full-time role at first in LA.
Justin Zeth - I like Tim Lincecum's chances of being among the best pitchers in the National League right now. You'll have to watch him to notice, though, because even with a 2.75 ERA he'll go 8-13 or something, and no one in the media will notice him.