Mike Trout of the Angels and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies are the 2017 MVP frontrunners.
NL MVP: Nolan Arenado
There are several more popular MVP candidates in the NL — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Bryce Harper — but for fans of the Colorado Rockies, an MVP for Nolan Arenado would come as no surprise.
He has hit over 40 homers and 130 RBIs in each of the last two seasons, won four straight gold gloves at third base and will once again be hitting cleanup in 2017 for a deep Colorado lineup.
Arenado’s detractors would assert that his playing at the incredibly hitter-friendly Coors Field upwardly skews his power production in a misleading way and though his slugging percentage is higher at Coors Field, he produces at an impressive level in away games as well.
Arenado even hit more home runs on the road than at home in 2015.
While Arenado is almost guaranteed to continue his success in 2017, his MVP candidacy is mostly contingent on the success of the Rockies. The MVP award should be based solely on individual performance, but, realistically, the voters of the Baseball Writers Association of America will likely choose a player on a playoff team with comparable stats over Arenado if the Rockies cannot at least compete for a Wild Card spot this season.
AL MVP: Mike Trout
Sure, this is the obvious pick, but Mike Trout is a once-in-a-generation player. He has led the AL in fWAR for the last five seasons and barring an injury, Trout will surely do the same in 2017.
His performance truly cannot be understated, as he has posted a career 0.964 OPS, hit 169 homers, consistently played stellar defense in centerfield, and won the AL MVP twice.
By the way, he is only 25. The one problem with Trout’s MVP candidacy and career resumé is that he plays for a team that is not built to be a playoff contender and does not have a farm system that positions them to become a contender in the near future.
This has not deterred MVP voters lately, though, and Trout is poised to take home his third MVP award this season.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Trout may be the MLB’s best position player, but across town to Dodger Stadium, pitcher Clayton Kershaw has forged an equally impressive career for himself. Before a back injury that sidelined him for two months last season, Kershaw was on pace to post the lowest ERA of his career, and assuming his back is 100 percent healthy, Kershaw will pick where he left off in 2016.
In 2015 Kershaw struck out 301 batters and posted a WHIP of 0.881, and in 2014, Kershaw became the first pitcher since Cardinals legend Bob Gibson to win both the NL Cy Young and NL MVP.
Kershaw constantly draws comparison to left-handed Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, and his numbers indicate that he has met and may even surpass the lofty expectations that come with such a comparison.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
After being traded to the Boston Red Sox in the offseason, Sale is positioned as the ace of a rotation that features two former AL Cy Young winners in Rick Porcello and David Price.
Sale will benefit from being involved with Boston’s winning culture — which starkly contrasts with the culture of the White Sox — and there is no reason to doubt that he will finally receive a Cy Young award of his own this season.
After leading the AL in strikeouts in 2015, Sale seemingly regressed a bit. Though his K/9 fell from 11.82 in 2015 to 9.25 in 2016, Sale’s numbers were otherwise nearly identical, so there should be no cause for concern. Now that he is in Boston, Sale has the opportunity to turn heads on a bigger stage against excellent AL East competition.
NL ROY: Dansby Swanson
During the 2016 offseason, the Diamondbacks and Braves agreed to a historically lopsided trade deal that will haunt Arizona fans for years. The centerpiece of that deal was shortstop Dansby Swanson, the Vanderbilt star and first pick of the 2015 draft.
After finishing just one at bat short of losing rookie eligibility in 2016, Swanson looks to establish himself as one of the league’s most well rounded young players and the face of his hometown team, the Atlanta Braves. Swanson does not have any one tool that is well above league average and does not hit for much power, but he frequently draws walks, plays plus defense due to his very quick hands, and has great speed and baseball IQ on the base paths. In his first full season, Dansby will likely have an OBP around .350 and hit 10-15 home runs while providing the Braves with consistent value through every facet of his game.
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi
MLB’s current number one prospect, Andrew Benintendi, boasts a uniquely well-rounded skillset. Much like Swanson, Benintendi has no substantial holes in has game. As he matures, the Red Sox expect him to be a player who hits over 20 home runs and he has quick, simple left-handed swing that will allow him to hit for average against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers in the future.
In limited appearances last season, Benintendi struggled a bit against lefties, but once he adjusts to big league pitching, those numbers will likely improve. Though he would be average as a center fielder, Benintendi has above average range for a leftfielder, the position he will play for the Red Sox, and thus brings defensive value to the table as well.
Overall, Benintendi is one of several exciting young talents that will grace Fenway Park in the upcoming seasons and the league will undoubtedly feel his presence in 2017.