You heard it here first: 2014 is going to be a big year for the Nationals, Mike Trout, Brett Anderson and Nolan Arenado.
Five current and former Purple Row staff members voted for division winners, league and World Series champions, and individual accolades, and those four names stood out.
The Nationals are coming off of a down year, but they return one of the top pitching rotations in the league and have a lineup full of players who are trending upward. They're just a full season removed from winning 98 games, and judging by our vote, they're primed to not only do that again, but also take a huge leap forward toward World Series glory, according to three of our five voters.
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez were all well-above-average on the mound a year ago, and all their team did in the offseason was add Doug Fister, who is coming off of a three-year stretch in the American League in which he posted a 124 ERA+ with 6.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. A move to the National League might just allow Fister to take his game to the next level, which would make that rotation as daunting as you will find in all of baseball.
Offensively, the Nats return every starter from a lineup that produced six players with an OPS+ of more than 100. Second baseman Anthony Rendon is one of the few who didn't and he could be primed for a breakout season. Denard Span is the other, and he's one of the more underrated center fielders in the game. And even if those two continue to lag behind, it certainly helps having players like Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to go along with the aforementioned rotation. Bottom line: this team is good. Real good.
Mike Trout just signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract on Friday, and that could turn out to be one of the greatest bargains in baseball history. That statement sounds ludicrous, but it shines light on the greatness that is Trout. The superstar outfielder received four out of five AL MVP votes, and something tells me that's actually going to play out as planned when the season is over. It's not going to be easy to produce all-around better offensive numbers than Miguel Cabrera, but Trout just might do that in 2014. And if he does, the Angels might just be good enough to make a surprise run to the postseason -- or at least, that's what three of our voters think.
The Rockies needed all kinds of help at the back-end of their rotation, so they went out and got Brett Anderson -- a guy who is easily a solid No. 2 when he's healthy -- during the offseason. Anderson looked tremendous this spring; reports of his velocity and stuff are glowing, and he says he feels as good as has in a long time (don't they all?). If he's able to avoid the injury bug, Anderson could be exactly what the Rockies have been missing since Ubaldo Jimenez's departure: a dominating presence atop their rotation who has all the tools necessary to succeed at Coors Field or anywhere else.
Three out of the five voters picked Anderson as the Rockies' (not the league's) preseason Cy Young favorite -- and the predicted winner of the NL Comeback Player of the Year award. Optimistic? You bet. But it's also wholly realistic.
It's no secret that Nolan Arenado has looked like a different hitter this spring. He has squared up nearly everything thrown his way, leading scouts to drool and fans to dream. Many have said over the past month that Arenado is a future All-Star, it's just a matter of when. The glove is already there, and the Purple Row staff unanimously believes the bat is trending in the right direction, as everyone picked the young third baseman to be Colorado's most improved player in 2014. It's not going to be easy to improve upon a 3.9 WAR campaign, but Arenado seems to be the right guy to do so.
Here are the full voting results. Enjoy baseball!
|Bryan Kilpatrick||Jay Tymkovich||Andrew Martin||Jeff Aberle||Chris Chrisman|
|AL East||Rays||Red Sox||Red Sox||Rays||Rays|
|AL Wild Card||Royals, Angels||Rays, Mariners||Rays, Athletics||Athletics, Red Sox||Rangers, Red Sox|
|NL Wild Card||Giants, Pirates||Reds, Rockies||Braves, Pirates||Giants, Braves||Diamondbacks, Pirates|
|World Series Champ||Dodgers||Nationals||Nationals||Cardinals||Nationals|
|AL MVP||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Evan Longoria|
|AL Cy Young||Felix Hernandez||Yu Darvish||Yu Darvish||Felix Hernandez||Sonny Gray|
|AL Rookie of the Year||Yordano Ventura||Jose Abreu||Yordano Ventura||Jose Abreu||Jose Abreu|
|AL Comeback POY||Michael Pineda||Mark Teixeira||No vote||Michael Pineda||Michael Pineda|
|NL MVP||Buster Posey||Troy Tulowitzki||Joey Votto||Yadier Molina||Paul Goldschmidt|
|NL Cy Young||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw||Stephen Strasburg||Clayton Kershaw||Stephen Strasburg|
|NL Rookie of the Year||Archie Bradley||Javier Baez||Carlos Martinez||Oscar Taveras||Archie Bradley|
|NL Comeback POY||Brett Anderson||Brett Anderson||No vote||Matt Kemp||Brett Anderson|
|Rockies final record||84-78||86-76||No prediction||79-83||75-87|
|Rockies MVP||Troy Tulowitzki||Carlos Gonzalez||Carlos Gonzalez||Troy Tulowitzki||Troy Tulowitzki|
|Rockies Cy Young||Jorge De La Rosa||Brett Anderson||Brett Anderson||Jhoulys Chacin||Brett Anderson|
|Rockies ROY||Chad Bettis||Eddie Butler||Tommy Kahnle||Chad Bettis||Chad Bettis|
|Rockies most improved||Nolan Arenado||Nolan Arenado||Nolan Arenado||Nolan Arenado||Nolan Arenado|