Today is your first instalment of Optimus Prime's, Awards Watch List and Predictions. There were more than enough worthy candidates in each category, therefore some great players will feel snubbed. Keep in mind that this list will be updated after the all-star break, so your favorite guy has some time to prove me wrong. Without further ado here are my preseason hardware handouts:
Has quickly become the most feared hitter in the American League. His numbers last season were scary good: 60 HRs, 164 RBIs, and a .322 BA. Only 27 years old, he already has back-to-back MVPs to his name (seasons 9 and 10). There will be no gripes about his name being mentioned here as Arnold is an obvious choice to defend his award once again this season.
While Arnold is the most feared hitter in the AL, Franco has become the most respected with his ML leading 32 intentional walks last season (2nd all-time in Cobb history). Did we mention he's only 22 years old. Watch out AL pitchers, he's only getting better! Gifted against both righties and lefties with an uncanny eye at the plate, there's about a 50/50 chance Pedro is going to get on base when he comes to the plate.
Weaver is still crying like a little girl after his postseason confrontation with "Dizzy" Dean Hernandez, when Hernandez attempted to plunk him in the head...twice! The second incident lead to a bench clearing from both sides, but the umpires and managers were able to break it up before anything got out of hand. However, later footage revealed that Weaver didn't join his fellow Steamers when they charged the field. Shockingly he stayed in the batters box curled in the fetal position. Adding to his embarrassment, a story leaked by an old high school teammate revealed that Weaver was a perpetual bed wetter and has to wear adult diapers. Other than the fact that he plays for the evil empire, what's not to like about Weaver? This guy can hit for average, get on base, has power to all fields...oh and he has plenty of speed to boot! He's a great player with many productive seasons in his future.
The anchor of what always seems to be a lethal lineup. Hernandez is one of the most overlooked players in all of Cobb. He puts up great numbers year after year and we think this season is no different. In fact we are predicting Hernandez will have his best year ever in a Scranton uniform. 45 HRs 125 RBIs and .300 BA this season would not catch this beat writer by surprise.
What's a guy gotta do to get any respect in this league? Hit 63 HRs and bat .300 in the same season....apparently that's not enough to get the balloters attention. Zeile has arguably been the best pure power hitter to come through Cobb and is a sure lock to be a hall of famer when he decides to hang it up. At the age of 30 he doesn't have many more 60+ HR seasons left in the tank, but we think he is going to surpass his total from last season and belt 65! He's pissed and that's not a good thing for AL pitchers.
Prediction: Kip Zeile. It will be a close race between Kip Zeile and Kory Arnold. Zeile is coming into the season with a chip on his shoulder, while Arnold may be a little complacent after winning back to back years. The added focus should give Zeile the edge. He will finally get the respect he deserves after he wins his first ever MVP award.
*Due to injury Hades will be out for an extended part of the season and is no longer a likely candidate for MVP honors.
The best there ever was!!! Nuff said....nah we love talking about this guy. The "Legend of Big Bad Barrios" continues to grow after winning the triple-crown last season. He already holds many (if not most) of the Cobb batting records and there's no telling when he'll stop piling it on. His durability could allow him to be an effective player until he's 40 and by then no one will be able to touch his records. The "Legend of Big Bad Barrios" will be put in the same category as the tall tale of George Washington and the Cherry Tree....except his tale is actually true. We anticipate another standard season from Barrios and usually that means an MVP award.
How has this guy not been to an all-star game since season 8? We think that is absolutely incredulous! Blair is a stud - he has averaged close to 40HRs and 40SBs the last 4 seasons. Obviously the all-star snubs are a byproduct of Blair being a second-half season player. This little tidbit tells us he is at his best when it matters most. To make matters worse for NL pitchers, Syracuse is loaded 1-8 so it will be nearly impossible to pitch around Blair this season. Great expectations are on the horizon for Blair and we would be shocked if he isn't in the running for MVP by year’s end.
Harper is every owner’s wet dream. Fittingly, team owner rbf (close friends call him Richie) came out during a press conference last season and stated, "I have a man crush on Chip!" For those who are unaware, Chip is rbf's pet name for his star player. Much to the chagrin of local fans in St. Louis, photos from a correspondent at the Cincinnati Inquirer revealed Chip and Richie - known as Chippie by the tabloids - exchanging valentines over dinner at their favorite restaurant Brio. Even with the off the field distractions, Chip is expected to have his best year yet with the HounDogs. We think his stat line could look like this by the end of the season: 35 HRs, 130 RBIs, .350 BA, and 15 SBs.
Keats is a five-tool player who is one of the select few in Cobb to accomplish the 40-40 feat in a single season. He was at his best last season and would have likely won the MVP award if it weren't for "that guy" in Omaha. Rumor has it Keats is still bitter over Barrios' dominance last season. Overheard from an anonymous source, during the winter meetings Keats attempted to pull a "Tanya Harding." Little did he know Barrios can walk on water and read minds, therefore foiling his plot of sabotaging his career. With that said Keats looks refocused at having a great year for his team and should reproduce similar numbers to last seasons 44 HRs, 140 RBIs, .313 BA, and 31 SBs.
"King Louie" is coming off his worst season, which is still better than 98% of the league. Fargo owner mrploppie had high expectations for him after making 104 trade attempts just to finally get him out of Atlanta/Durham. We think Tarraga is due for a rebound season and will have numbers that fall somewhere between his season 9 MVP year and last year, which is good enough to be in the company of the afforementioned players.
Prediction: Kenny Blair. It's hard to pick against the man, the myth, the legend - Jose Barrios; however, we here at the Cobb Times are paid nothing to make bold predictions. Although there are many worthy candidates in the NL we think Kenny Blair takes home the hardware this season. Is a 40-40 season in store for Blair? If it is, that should get the voters attention. We like his odds seeing that he plays for arguably the best team in Cobb.
AL CY YOUNG
"Dizzy" Dean is the ace of spades amongst AL pitchers. At 28 years old he already has 2 Cy's to his name. He strikes fear into a batters eyes when he stands at the mound...just ask Weaver! Most of all Hernandez is a workhorse with phenominal stuff. The only concern is that his career takes a sudden drop in production from the wear and tear of pitching all those innings the last 2 seasons. We anticipate another 20 win season for this future hall of famer.
Known in just about every corner of the United States by the ladies for his mean mustache rides, Collins is building an even better reputation as a studly pitcher. Last season's co-ROY doesn't have a weakness in his game and is expected to put up big numbers for Mexico City this season. Who doesn't like a guy on the mound with 5 good out pitches to choose from? We're guessing that by seasons end Collins will have the best winning percentage and WHIP in the ML.
To the window. To the wall. To all skeet, skeet, skeet! Ironically Lil John's "Get Low" is Robertson's favorite song to warmup to before a game. As a member of the Pawtucket rotation he is bound to get his wins. There are few (if any) owners in this league who can match Pawtucket ownership's evaluation of pitching talent. Skeeter was a finalist for the Cy last season and we expect the same kind of results this year.
"Anthrax" is as lethal as his nickname sounds. The AL better watch out this season because he is ready to rebound from a year where his ERA hovered around 5. Based on the law of numbers and how highly we think of this youngster, "Anthrax" is destined to have fine campaign this season. Blessed with 4 great pitches in his arsenal as well as a formidable lineup behind him, we expect this spore-forming bacterium to reach 2o wins this year.
"The Kydd" is a model of consistency in the Anaheim rotation. With future hall of famer Olmedo Contreras in the twilight of his career someone in their rotation needs to step in and fill his size 24 shoes. We think that guy is Mr. Kydd. He already has 20 and 18 win seasons to his name and should be close to that number with the mighty Anaheim lineup behind him. If Kydd can match his production from season 8 he will be an easy choice as a finalist for the Cy.
Prediction: Eric Collins. The man with a stache that puts Tom Selleck's to shame is ready to shine this season. We think his numbers will jump out at you by season's end and be enough to edge out Hernandez and Quixote.
NL CY YOUNG
A bit of surprise last year in beating out his former teammate Kaz Ong. Moreno isn't flashy with his pitches as he only really has 2 effective ones in his arsenal, but he has great movement within the strike zone. Bottom line is Moreno knows how to get batters out, which is all that matters in this league. Playing for a up and coming team in New York expect to see this younsters name among the finalist once again.
While Hernandez is the Ace of Spades, Ong is a Royal Flush. This 3 time Cy winner is devasting during the regular season, but "King Ong" is the dictator once playoff time rolls around. As a workhorse with incredible stuff he can carry a team on his back through the post-season. He's the kind of pitcher you don't wish on your worst enemey (unless his name is p-vowel). There's no doubt Ong will be a finalist for the Cy again, even after skipping 3-4 starts due to a shoulder strain.
This guy always seems to be at the top of the list of candidates year in and year out, yet Hooper still doesn't have the hardware to match his dominance over the last 6 seasons. At 31 years old could this be his year? We think there's a good chance "Captain Kirt" will break through the 20 win plateau for the first time, which should make him an easy choice to put on the ballot.
Last season's ROY is an ace in the making and is an early favorite to win the Cy. Why? Reilly's playing for a loaded team in Syracuse and his overall stuff is filthy. Combine the two ingredients and you have yourself a pitcher who capable of winning every time he takes a step up to the mound. The only potential setback for Reilly is the always auspicious sophomore slump after a ROY type of season. However, we think he is just too good to let that sort of thing affect his game.
Another great young pitcher in a division loaded with them. "Sterling Silva" won the Cy 2 seasons ago when he posted an absurd 1.66 ERA along with 20 wins. Last season Silva had the sophomore blues as far as wins were concerned, but still managed a 3.21 ERA and 40 starts. There's no doubt Silva's ERA and WHIP will be among the best come seasons end. He is just too good on too good of team to not make it back to 15-20 wins this season. With all expectations considered it would be idiotic to believe Silva won't be in the mix to win the Cy this season.
Prediction: Kirt Hooper. Yes, this is finally the year Hooper takes home his first piece of hardware in what will be another extremely tight race. Altough Fug Nut ownership will be sweating it out as they don't like to shell out the premium dollars that follow a Cy Young winner.
Prediction: Benito Beltre will be a future Cy Young award winner, but this year he will start things off by taking home the ROY honors.
Call ups to keep an on: Tony Arnold
Prediction: Anthony Tabaka. He is tearing it up early on and we like his combination of speed, power, contact, and batting eye all of which should make up for his low splits.
Call ups to keep an eye on: Omar DaSilva
Prediction: Jose Rios. Good closer with 3 scary pitches on a team that will win a lot of close games should translate into Rios winning the award.
Prediction: Shane Parrish. Should be a close race with all the good closers in the NL, but Parish has won this award before and will do again this season.
AL SILVER SLUGGERS
DH - Pedro Franco
C - Eddie Helms
1B - Kip Zeile
2B - Enrique Guardado
3B - Joseph Funaki
SS - R.J. Cubillan
LF - Nick Weaver
CF - Jose Cervantes
RF - Mark Hocking
NL SILVER SLUGGERS
P - Davey Silva
C - Jung Lee
1B - Chipper Harper
2B - Kenny Blair
3B - John Helms
SS - Pedro Chavez
LF - Jose Barrios
CF - Paul Jung
RF - Grant Keats
AL GOLD GLOVERS
P - Flip Heathcott
C - Mule Parker
1B - Francis Kent
2B - Vic Guardado
3B - Thomas Hill
SS - Malcom Young
LF - Armando Chavez
CF - Harpo Hurst
RF - Luke Henley
NL GOLD GLOVERS
P - Josias Lopez
C - Luis Fernandez
1B - Wikki Vazquez
2B - Enrique Morales
3B - Steven Grilli
SS - Angel Vazquez
LF - Emmanuel Castillo
CF - Valerio Carrasquel
RF - O.T. Jarvis