2021 MLB Predictions: Early Awards Picks

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While the 2021 MLB season is still a few months away, it’s not a bad time to make some 2021 MLB predictions. Previously, Josh Cohen wrote about his early power rankings, and now it’s time to talk about potential award winners. Considering that we are still a ways away from the beginning of the season, not all of these 2021 MLB predictions will end up coming true, as injuries and various other factors could hamper a player’s performance. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some potential award winners.

2021 MLB Predictions: Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year is always one of the toughest awards to project, and that’s no different for 2021 MLB predictions. Most of the players eligible have yet to play a game in the majors. The most experience that a candidate could have is 50 innings for a pitcher or 130 at-bats for a position player. One note before we get to the predictions –– these picks could change depending on where Tomoyuki Sugano ends up signing.

American League: Jarred Kelenic, SEA

Kelenic entered the 2020 season as a consensus top-15 prospect in baseball. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Mets before he was infamously sent to Seattle as the centerpiece in the Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano trade. Kelenic has hit very well in the minors thus far, hitting a combined .290/.366/.516 with 29 homers, 41 doubles, and 11 triples in 173 minor league games. He hasn’t played above Double-A and we don’t know for certain if he will make the Opening Day roster, but he seems like a strong bet to win Rookie of the Year, as there aren’t many other candidates.

National League: Ha-Seong Kim, SD

Kim comes stateside after spending seven seasons playing the KBO. The 25-year-old has had a strong career in Korea, hitting .294/.373/.493 with 133 homers, 191 doubles, 23 triples, 134 steals, and 575 RBIs. Kim had the best season of his career in 2020, in which he hit .306/.397/.523 with 30 homers, 23 steals, 24 doubles, and 109 RBIs, while also drawing more walks than strikeouts. Considering that Kim is projected to fit into the high-powered Padres offense, it’s easy to envision Kim having a strong rookie season.

2021 MLB Predictions: Cy Young

Cy Young Award predictions always tend to vary from writer to writer. Coming off a season where starters only made at most 12 starts, 2021 MLB predictions for the Cy Young are a bit tougher to project.

American League: Chris Sale, BOS

Picking Sale may be a bit of a stretch. He is coming off Tommy John Surgery and had a bit of a down year in 2019, however, this might just be the year he finally wins a Cy Young Award. Even in a down season, Sale still racked up 218 strikeouts in just 147.1 innings, giving him a strong 13.3 K/9. Other than staying healthy, his biggest issue in 2019 was giving up home runs, as his 1.5 HR/9 was the highest of his career. If he can limit the long-ball while maintaining his great strikeout and walk numbers, then Sale will be in a great position to win his first Cy Young Award.

National League: Jacob deGrom, NYM

Make no mistake, Jacob deGrom is still the best pitcher in baseball. While he finished third in Cy Young voting in 2020, the two-time Cy Young Award winner improved in some ways. His average fastball velocity improved from 96.9 miles per hour in 2019 to 98.6 in 2020, and his spin rate and whiff percentages improved on all of his pitches. Furthermore, deGrom struck out an NL-best 104 batters in 68 innings, giving him a career-high 13.8 K/9. For 2021 MLB predictions, deGrom is the safest pick to win the NL Cy Young.

2021 MLB Predictions: Relievers of the Year

Relievers tend to be very volatile, which can lead to these MLB 2021 predictions looking really bad at the end of the season. Some past winners of these awards include Edwin Diaz, Brad Lidge, and John Axford, all of whom had rough seasons following winning their award. These 2021 MLB predictions could change based on where 2020 award winner Liam Hendriks signs.

American League: Garrett Crochet, CWS

This may be one of the more controversial 2021 MLB predictions. Crochet was just drafted by the White Sox this past June with the 11th overall pick. He made the majors this September and lit up radar guns with his blazing fastball that regularly hit triple digits. We still don’t know if Crochet will be a starter or a reliever, but if the White Sox keep him in the bullpen, he could very well win two awards next year since he retained his rookie status.

National League: Brusdar Graterol

Similar to Crochet, Graterol has lit up radar guns ever since he reached the majors. He averaged a blistering 99.3 miles per hour on his sinker this year, which was the highest speed on any pitch in the majors for those who threw at least 250 pitches. Graterol was fantastic at limiting home runs and walks, but he didn’t generate a lot of strikeouts either (just 13 in 23.1 innings). If he can manage to get more strikeouts, then this prediction will seem less crazy. Right now, he is projected to be the set-up man for Kenley Jansen, but many expect Graterol to eventually assume the closer’s role.

2021 MLB Predictions: Manager of the Year

Manager of the Year might be the toughest 2021 MLB predictions to make. Normally, the winner of this award goes to the manager of a team that surprised the league by exceeding expectations. This award does not necessarily go to a good manager though, as shown by past winners immediately getting fired after winning (such as 2020 AL winner Rick Renteria). Right now, these two skippers seem like they have the potential to get their teams to do exactly that.

American League: Charlie Montoyo, TOR

Montoyo had a compelling case to win Manager of the Year in 2020. The Blue Jays are a young team who are poised to build on their strong showing that included a playoff birth. The Jays have been linked to many of the top free agents on the market, and if they bring one of them in, expect the team to take another step forward in 2021.

National League: Jayce Tingler, SD

I thought Tingler should have won Manager of the Year in 2020, as the Padres exceeded all expectations with a 37-23 record. For 2021 MLB predictions, the Padres are expected to compete once again, as they have had a huge offseason thus far. Similar to the Blue Jays, the Padres have a very young roster and look as if they are going to improve upon their strong showing from 2020.

2021 MLB Predictions: MVP

The MVP Award is the most coveted individual award a player can win in any sport. In the AL, there always tends to be a clear favorite, while in the NL, it varies from season to season. For 2021 MLB predictions, that is once again the case.

American League: Mike Trout, LAA

Mike Trout had a “down” season in 2020, one in which he still had a .993 OPS and hit 17 homers in 53 games. Yes, this was supposedly a disappointing year for Mike Trout even though he was on pace for a career-high in homers. Trout still ranked near the top of every Statcast category in 2020, and his average exit velocity actually increased to career-best 93.7 miles per hour. The three-time MVP also finished fifth in MVP voting and won his eighth Silver Slugger.

The only problem with Trout is that his team still lacks a lot of pieces to get him into the postseason. He is still just 29 years old, which means that there should be enough time for the Angels to turn their franchise around to get Trout at least back into the playoffs.

National League: Juan Soto, WAS

If Juan Soto had played a full season, he would’ve had a strong case to win the 2020 NL MVP Award. In 196 plate appearances, Soto hit a scalding .351/.490/.695 (212 OPS+) with 13 homers, 14 doubles, and 37 RBIs while drawing 41 walks against just 28 strikeouts. Soto won the NL batting title and led the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. While he isn’t a great defender, when you’re producing at the plate the way Barry Bonds used to, you don’t need to have a great glove. Soto is only 22 years old and even though the Nationals aren’t expected to make the postseason in 2021, expect another huge season from Soto.

2021 MLB Predictions: Final Thoughts On MLB Awards

2021 MLB predictions for awards feature some familiar faces and some new players that seem poised to break out. Not all of these predictions are expected to come true, but these are players (and managers) that I expect to have big seasons in 2021.

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Mathias is a graduate student at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He is currently studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism on the Sports Media and Communications track. He graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2021, where he studied journalism and served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020 before taking over the MLB department in June of 2021. Mathias is also a former varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.