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SI.com 2013 MLB Experts' Picks

Season Picks
 
Tom
Verducci
  East Central West Wild-Cards League Champions World Series
Champion
NL
Manager Davey Johnson has managed this team before: the 1986 Mets. Like the '86 Mets, the Nationals are coming off a 98-win season, are loaded with young pitching, star players and a deep bullpen and expect to win. Washington has no obvious flaw.
 
Albert
Chen
  East Central West Wild-Cards League Champions World Series
Champion
NL
I'll take the team with the clearest path to the postseason -- the Tigers still play in a mediocre division, and with Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter, are better than their flawed World Series team of a year ago. As long as they find a closer by the postseason, they'll be as dangerous as any team in October.
 
Ben
Reiter
  East Central West Wild-Cards League Champions World Series
Champion
NL
The most financially lopsided World Series of all time -- LA's 2013 payroll could exceed Tampa Bay's by a factor of four -- will be won by the penny-pinchers. The Rays match the Dodgers in depth and quality of pitching (they could have seven above-average starters if you count Roberto Hernandez, eight if you count Fausto Carmona, which you shouldn't) but exceed them in fielding, versatility and relentlessness.
 
Joe
Lemire
  East Central West Wild Cards League Champs World Series
Champion
NL
In baseball's new era of extraordinary parity, Washington stands alone as a possible superpower. The Nationals combine a good offense with a great 1-through-12 pitching staff that's suited to not only tally the most regular season wins again but this time -- thanks to its tri-aces of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann -- emerge victorious in postseason play.
 
Jay
Jaffe
  East Central West Wild Cards League Champs World Series
Champion
NL
The Nationals won more games than any other team in baseball last year, got better over the winter via the additions of centerfielder Denard Span and closer Rafael Soriano, and will get six months of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg instead of five, not to mention full seasons from Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos. The bet here is that Davey Johnson atones for last year's slow hook of Drew Storen in the Division Series finale by penning a storybook ending to his managerial career, solidifying his Hall of Fame credentials.
 
Cliff
Corcoran
  East Central West Wild Cards League Champs World Series
Champion
NL
The 2013 Tigers are a better team than last year's version, which won the pennant before being dominated in the World Series by the Giants' pitchers. By the time the Nationals get to the World Series, their young starting pitchers will be winded, and the improved Detroit offense, which upgraded from Delmon Young and Quintin Berry to Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter this winter, will be able to build on Justin Verlander's first representative World Series showing. In the end, the Tigers will become the first team to win the World Series the year after losing it since the 1989 A's.
 
Joe
Sheehan
  East Central West Wild Cards League Champs World Series
Champion
NL
The best team in baseball actually wins the World Series this year, as the young, exciting Nationals let all their best players play in October this time. The Rays get to the Series on the work of their fantastic starting rotation but can't close the deal.
 
Surprise Team
 
Verducci
They should not only post a winning record but also push Detroit the way Chicago did last year. Stability in the rotation will allow the hardest-throwing bullpen in the majors to shine.
Chen
We have no idea what Philadelphia is going to get out of Roy Halladay, but it still has two elite starters in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Domonic Brown's breakout season is finally coming. If Ryan Howard and Chase Utley stay healthy (so far so good), the Phillies will make a run.
Reiter
This is a difficult year to make a pick here -- at least if you interpret the category to call for a "surprise in a good way" -- as there are so few candidates. The only teams whose playoff participation would really shock me are the Astros and Twins in the AL, and the Cubs, Marlins, Mets and Rockies in the NL, and I can't find much to recommend any of them. So I'm picking the A's, the surprise being that last year's playoff run was not a one-off based on good fortune and an unrepeatable magic, but the advent of a sustainable and even improvable model.
Lemire
The confluence of a rebuilt rotation (with James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana now in the mix) and a resurgent core (Eric Hosmer, et al., rights the ship) will keep K.C. on the Tigers' heels into September and propel the Royals to their first winning season since 2003 and their first 85-win season since 1989, even though they fall a few games shy of a wild-card berth.
Jaffe
It's difficult to look at any of the 30 teams and imagine a run culminating in a playoff spot akin to last year's A's or Orioles. With a new manager in Terry Francona, a remade roster that includes Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and (eventually) Trevor Bauer and a solid young nucleus of up-the-middle talent in Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Indians have created a pathway to respectability. They could be the second-best team in the AL Central, if not a real playoff contender.
Corcoran
Don't get me wrong, the Astros are going to finish in last place in the American League West, but I expect they will only be ordinarily bad, not historically awful, as many are expecting, and I don't think they will be the worst team in baseball in 2013 (looking at you, Marlins). I very much liked their acquisition of A's slugger Chris Carter, whose right-handed power is a perfect fit for Minute Maid Park's Crawford Boxes, they have some upside plays in the rotation in veteran Erik Bedard and faded prospects Brad Peacock and Alex White, and they could have one of the best defensive infields in baseball if Marwin Gonzalez and Matt Dominguez can manage to hold onto their jobs at shortstop and third base, respectively. Surprises are all about subverting expectations. Everyone expects the Yankees to decline and the Blue Jays to become contenders, but how many are willing to consider the possibility that the Astros could avoid a 100-loss season?
Sheehan
Your NL West champs, the San Diego Padres. Even accounting for the Chase Headley injury, they have a young offensive core and year-in, year-out, manager Bud Black assembles great bullpens from air.
 
American League MVP
 
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Mike Trout :: AP
Verducci
Mike Trout, Angels. Let's see, the best player in baseball hitting leadoff for the best offense in the league? Sounds like Rickey Henderson on the 1985 Yankees, when he scored 146 runs in 143 games (Henderson finished third in MVP voting in the pre-wild card days), or on the 1990 Athletics (when he did win the MVP).

Chen
Evan Longoria, Rays. We all know how important he is to the Rays -- last year they were 47-27 with him, 43-45 without. I'm betting that he's over his hamstring issues and at age 27 puts together the season we've all been waiting for.

Reiter
Mike Trout, Angels. What would a sophomore slump for Trout -- my posteason choice for MVP last year -- even look like? Say his numbers are 90% of what they were last year, when, remember, he wasn't called up until late April. He'd still hit .293, with 27 home runs, 44 steals and an OPS+ of 154, borderline MVP stats. Of course, why would you expect the amazing Trout's career path to follow the shape of any of his predecessors'?

Lemire
Prince Fielder, Tigers. The lone AL player to exceed the .300/.400/.500 thresholds last year, Fielder will improve on his raw counting numbers of 30 homers and 108 RBIs and follow Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera to the podium as the team's third straight winner of this award.

Jaffe
Mike Trout, Angels. He should have been the MVP last year, and even if he can't equal those elite numbers, his defensive prowess may still make him by far the most valuable player in the league again.

Corcoran
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. Cabrera, who has finished in the top five in the AL MVP vote in each of the last four years, made a difficult switch last year by returning to third base. While adjusting to that transition in the first half of the season, he hit .324/.382/.557. In the second half, he hit .337/.407/.667. Last year, the Tigers' second-place hitters reached base at a .313 clip ahead of Cabrera. This year, Torii Hunter, who had a .352 OBP in his five years with the Angels, is hitting second. So, take Cabrera's Triple-Crown season, which was actually a step back from his rate of production in 2010 and 2011, subtract the adjustment period and add more runners on base for him to drive in. I'm not picking against that.

Sheehan
Evan Longoria, Rays. Two years ago it was bad luck on balls in play, last year it was a balky hamstring. This year, everything comes together.
 
National League MVP
 
Joey Votto :: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Verducci
Joey Votto, Reds. Votto was the MVP frontrunner last year at the All-Star break, before he hurt his knee and Buster Posey got hot. He hits in a small ballpark in a very good lineup for a very good team.

Chen
Bryce Harper, Nationals. I had a scout tell me this spring that "50/50 isn't out of the question" this year. He wasn't joking. I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say Harper can reach those levels of home runs and stolen bases, but I will say this: At 20 years old this season, he'll be the youngest MVP winner ever.

Reiter
Joey Votto, Reds. When Votto was sidelined due to a torn meniscus last July 15, he ranked first in the NL in extra base hits (50) and walks (66), second in OPS (1.069) and fifth in batting average (.342). Had he not missed 51 games, he very likely would have added another MVP trophy to the one he won in 2010. That second award will come this year instead.

Lemire
Joey Votto, Reds. Votto was on his way to an MVP last year until he missed seven weeks with a knee injury. Amazingly, he still led the NL in walks, and he had a .474 on-base percentage, which only Barry Bonds has matched in the last decade (min. 475 PAs). With a healthy knee, Votto's power will return and he'll nab his second MVP.

Jaffe
Joey Votto, Reds. He's been the best hitter in the league over the past three years by a wide margin, and should be past the knee woes that cost him seven weeks on the disabled list last year.

Corcoran
Joey Votto, Reds. Votto won this award in 2010 and was way out in front of the race for it last year before going down with a knee injury. He's an excellent fielder, an emerging team leader in the clubhouse, and the best pure hitter in baseball, and his Reds are going back to the playoffs this year. All Votto has to do is stay healthy.

Sheehan
Bryce Harper, Nationals. The track record of 19-year-old outfielders who play like Harper did is amazing, with most going to the Hall of Fame while playing at an MVP level at age 20.
 
American League Cy Young
 
Yu Darvish :: Fred Vuich/SI
Verducci
David Price, Rays. Yes, we're talking something that's never happened before: back-to-back Cys for an AL lefthander. He's still only 27 and keeps getting better, especially with the addition of the cutter he picked up from James Shields.

Chen
Yu Darvish, Rangers. Despite everything -- the media circus, the expectations, the move to a new league and a new country, the oppressive Texas heat -- the Whirling Darvish in his debut season was mostly very good, and at times great. He'll cut down on his walks, build off his excellent 2012 finish and become the Rangers' first-ever Cy Young winner.

Reiter
Justin Verlander, Tigers. Nothing against David Price, but last year's AL Cy voting reminded me of the NBA's MVP voting of two decades ago, when people often picked players other than Michael Jordan so as not to get bored. Verlander is the Jordan or pitching, a singular performer with relentless drive (he's thrown 516 more pitches the past two years than anyone else), and he'll be the annual favorite until further notice.

Lemire
Yu Darvish, Rangers. Darvish's 2012 numbers were mostly good -- 16-9, 3.90 ERA, 10.4 K/9 -- though hampered by a high walk rate (4.2 BB/9). In his final seven starts, however, Darvish had a 2.13 ERA while averaging 7 1/3 innings per outing, striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings, not walking more than two in any game and allowing just a .167 batting average against. Look for him to sustain an improved K/BB rate and outperform his AL peers.

Jaffe
Yu Darvish, Rangers. His late-season performance uptick wasn't just chance, it owed to the improvement of his cut fastball, as if he needed another weapon with which to attack hitters. Toiling in a hitter-friendly ballpark means that he'll have a tougher road to the award than Justin Verlander or David Price, but the potential is certainly there.

Corcoran
Justin Verlander, Tigers. Verlander was the unanimous winner of this award in 2011 and should have won it in 2012 (he had one fewer first-place vote than actual winner David Price). I have no reason to believe he'll regress in his age-30 season, and with the Tigers' upgrades on offense, he stands a good chance to see his win total increase from last season, which should help convince the fringe old-school voters who abandoned him last year after he won 17 games.

Sheehan
Felix Hernandez, Mariners. Choosing from among the top three starters in the AL -- David Price and Justin Verlander are the others -- is virtually impossible. They've won the last three AL Cy Young awards, and Hernandez, helped by extra starts against the Astros, squeezes out his second.
 
National League Cy Young
 
Clayton Kershaw :: Brad Mangin/SI
Verducci
Matt Cain, Giants. At 28, Cain, who like Price keeps getting better and better, has hit his prime. His WHIP has declined four straight years and he has cut is walks in half since he was a rookie.

Chen
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals. Clayton Kershaw will be in the mix, of course, and I think Kris Medlen, Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos will be in the discussion with big breakout seasons. But I'll go with Strasburg, who's lost a little off his fastball after Tommy John surgery, but is still the filthiest pitcher on the planet.

Reiter
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals. Take out his last three starts, which suggested that Washington wasn't entirely wrong in shutting him down (he allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings), and Strasburg had a 2.85 ERA, with an absurd strikeout rate of 11.33 per nine innings. Since 1884, only five men have exceeded that latter number: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Kerry Wood, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden. And remember, 2012 represented Strasburg's first extended stay in the majors. His second will be even more successful, and throw in another Silver Slugger for him, too. Strasburg batted .277 last year, with an OPS of .759, and is the game's best hitting pitcher.

Lemire
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Aside from one being a lefty and the other a righty, Kershaw and Justin Verlander are essentially mirror images. They are of similar height and effectiveness, both won their league's pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young awards in 2011 and finished as Cy runners-up in '12. Look for the Dodgers' southpaw to lead the majors in ERA for a third straight season.

Jaffe
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. It's tempting to say Stephen Strasburg here, but he has yet to reach 162 innings in a professional season, let alone the 200 or more that Cy Young contention essentially requires. Kershaw already has one Cy on his mantle from 2011, and was nearly as good last year.

Corcoran
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Sure, Stephen Strasburg is the sexy choice, but Kershaw, like Verlander, won this award in 2011 and finished second in 2012, a year in which he finished second in the voting and was every bit as good as the man who won. I want to see how Strasburg holds up over a 200-inning workload before I'm willing to pick him over a 25-year-old stud whose career ERA (2.79, 138 ERA+) is better than Strasburg's was in 159 1/3 innings last year (3.16, 125 ERA+).

Sheehan
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Kershaw won the award in 2011 and was arguably the best pitcher in the NL last year as well. In the NL right now, only Cliff Lee approaches his performance level and durability.
 
American League Rookie of the Year
 
Wil Myers :: Pouya Dianat/SI
Verducci
Jurickson Profar, Rangers. He's so good the Rangers are going to have to find a place for him to play, even if it means having second baseman Ian Kinsler change positions. Only 20, Profar fits nicely with Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as the next generation of stars who play the game with a visible joy.

Chen
Wil Myers, Royals. There was no chance he was going to make Tampa Bay's Opening Day roster, but Myers should be in the Show before the All-Star break, and by September he'll have emerged as one of the Rays' best hitters, a middle-of the order masher on a World Series contender.

Reiter
Jurickson Profar, Rangers. He's a 20-year-old middle infielder in an organization that has a pair of middle infielders who were All-Stars in 2012, but pure talent has a way of shaping itself to fill whatever holes require filling. The Rangers should find 500 at-bats for the game's precocious top prospect, enough for him to edge out the Rays' Wil Myers and the Indians' Trevor Bauer as AL ROY.

Lemire
Wil Myers, Rays. In a close race with the Indians' Trevor Bauer, Myers wins the award thanks to a prolific second half in which he helps power the Rays to an AL East title after his June call-up.

Jaffe
Wil Myers, Rays. The Rays have already sent him down, and may not bring him back until June due to service time issues. Even so, the opportunity for a full-time role is clearly there once he's recalled, which is more than can be said for many other top prospects, including Jurickson Profar.

Corcoran
Wil Myers, Rays. Myers won't open the season in the major leagues, but he hit .304/.378/.554 in Triple A last year and the Rays need another impact bat like his in their lineup. Ben Zobrist will start the season in rightfield, but who is going to keep him there and Myers in the minors, Kelly Johnson? Ryan Roberts? James Loney? Myers, the fourth-best prospect in baseball this spring per Baseball America, should be up sometime in May and a key middle-of-the-lineup bat for the Rays soon after.

Sheehan
Wil Myers, Rays. He won't be in the minors for long, and when he comes up, he's going to hit for excellent power out of the gate.
 
National League Rookie of the Year
 
Oscar Taveras :: AP
Verducci
Travis D'Arnaud, Mets. The pick would have been Adam Eaton, but the elbow injury of the Arizona centerfield puts him out of play for two months. D'Arnaud should soon take over the starting job behind the plate from John Buck.

Chen
Jedd Gyorko, Padres. Arizona's Adam Eaton was my pick until his injury, so I'll take Gyorko. He raked as a third baseman in the minors -- he hit 30 home runs and slugged .547 at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year -- and after making the transition to second this spring, should get plenty of at bats in the Padres order. Even in Petco Park, 25 home runs is a possibility.

Reiter
Oscar Taveras, Cardinals Like Jurickson Profar, Taveras is a 20-year-old who plays in an organization that seems to have no immediate room for him, as St. Louis' outfield has Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay and Matt Holliday. Like Profar, he'll probably start the season in Triple A and also like Profar, he's simply too talented to keep down for long. Taveras can simply hit, and he could prove a key to a third straight playoff run for the Cardinals.

Lemire
Oscar Taveras, Cardinals. The Diamondbacks' Adam Eaton -- who had an astounding .456 on-base percentage in three minor league seasons, capped by a .381 batting average in 119 Triple A games in 2012 -- seemed to have the leg up as a premium rookie who'd be starting on Opening Day, but his elbow injury may cede that trophy to the five-tool superstar that one pro scout said could start for any big league team not just today but "yesterday." That's the 20-year-old Taveras, a five-tool outfielder, who hit 37 doubles and 23 homers with a .953 OPS in 531 plate appearances in Double A last season; he'll probably start the year in Triple A but be in the big leagues by June.

Jaffe
Julio Teheran, Braves. Again, opportunity is a key factor when it comes to Rookie of the Year candidates, and Teheran appears on track to start the year in the majors instead of staying in the minors until June for service time purposes. With 26 major league innings under his belt, he should be past the initial jitters stage, and after trying to break through simply on the strength of velocity, he's shown improved command of his sinker and curve this spring.

Corcoran
Julio Teheran, Braves. Teheran was a top-five prospect a year ago and will be the Braves' fifth starter this April. In between he had an awful season at Triple A and a rebirth in winter ball following a conversation with Pedro Martinez. This spring, he pitched like a top-five prospect again. He'll have to keep that up to keep his job past Brendan Beachy's midseason return from Tommy John surgery, but if he really is back to being the pitcher he was prior to last year, that shouldn't be a problem.

Sheehan
Kolten Wong, Cardinals. It's very slim pickings in the NL to start the year, so look for a midseason call-up to take the award. Wong is just about MLB-ready and he'll hit when he arrives.
 
Breakout Player
 
Matt Moore :: AP
Verducci
Matt Moore, Rays. Moore had a 16-start stretch in the middle of the season when he was 9-3 with a 2.90 ERA. With an improvement in command, he can be that kind of pitcher over 32 starts. At 23, he's a year younger than Stephen Strasburg.

Chen
Alex Cobb, Rays. Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, take your pick: One of these Rays pitchers is going to have a big breakout season. I'll take the more unheralded Cobb, who's had an outstanding spring and is a big reason why the Rays, even without James Shields, are my pick to win the AL East.

Reiter
Yoenis Cespedes, A's. A central reason why the A's will be able to outdo themselves will be the continuation of Cespedes's explosive development. More impressive than the Cuban's obvious physical gifts in his rookie season last year were the adjustments he made in his first year in the U.S. His strikeout rate declined in nearly every month, from 25% in April to 14.7% in September. As a scout suggests in this week's Sports Illustrated, with a learning curve like that, he could approach last year's 23 home runs and 16 steals by the All-Star break.

Lemire
Matt Moore, Rays. We've seen this story before: Rays rookie lefthander assumes starring role late season and into the playoffs, which he follows up with a decent first full season and then becomes a star as a sophomore. First, there was David Price; now there's Moore.

Jaffe
Jason Kipnis, Indians. From his late-2011 callup through the end of last May, the Indians' second baseman hit a robust .277/.339/.473 with 15 homers in 374 PA, but he slumped to .246/.331/343 with just six homers over his final 448 plate appearances. His minor league track record showed much more power than that latter showing, and the bet here is that he'll emerge as an an offensive force.

Corcoran
Andrelton Simmons, Braves. A top-100 prospect a year ago, Simmons made the jump from Double A to the Braves starting shortstop job seemingly ahead of schedule last June, but he held his own, hitting .289/.335/.416. However, a broken hand meant that he spent as much time on the disabled list as in the field last season. This year, the 23-year-old should get a full season in the bigs where his bat will exceed expectations and his play in the field will dazzle, making him one of the top shortstops in the game.

Sheehan
Cameron Maybin, Padres. Already a better player than most people recognize because of his speed and defense, Maybin will take a step forward at the plate and be a downballot MVP candidate.
 
Free-agent flop
 
Shane Victorino :: AP
Verducci
Zack Greinke, Dodgers. Any elbow issue in spring training is a red flag, and even when healthy he has yet to put together back-to-back very good seasons of 200 innings.

Chen
Jonathan Broxton, Reds. This signing's already a flop -- of course the Reds wouldn't have committed $21 million to Broxton if they knew Aroldis Chapman was going to close this year; now Broxton's a setup man, and a very overpaid one.

Reiter
Shane Victorino, Red Sox. Why did the Red Sox give Victorino -- a player who simply could not get it going last year in either Philadelphia or Los Angeles -- three years for $39 million? Especially when the following outfielders, each of whom outproduced Victorino's .704 OPS and 2.3 WAR, were available for either the same annual salary or a lesser one: Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Angel Pagan? Victorino's character has something to do with it, but unless he experiences a significant bounceback at the age of 32, the Sox will have drastically overpaid for that particular attribute.

Lemire
Shane Victorino, Red Sox. In his age-31 season, Victorino struggled mightily with a .724 OPS in Philadelphia that already would have been a career low, until he played worse after his trade to the Dodgers. He signed a three-year, $39 million contact with the Red Sox but is hardly a $13 million-per-year player any more and could even get pushed for playing time by prospect and spring sensation Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jaffe
Shane Victorino, Red Sox. After setting career lows in all three slash categories last year (.255/.321/.383), Victorino signed a three-year deal, $39 million with the Red Sox. While Fenway Park may give him a boost relative to Citizens Bank Park or Dodger Stadium, the switch-hitting 32-year-old's performance against righties has collapsed over the past three years (.244/.311/.390 in 1,366 PA), and he's now got a higher offensive bar to clear in rightfield.

Corcoran
Brandon McCarthy, Diamondbacks. I hate to do this because McCarthy is a friend to the sabermetric community, and his wit and intelligence are a welcome addition to my Twitter timeline, but even at just $15.5 million for two years, the Diamondbacks are not going to get their money's worth on the field from him. The primary reason is that his shoulder just won't hold up. Since suffering a stress fracture in his right scapula in July 2007, McCarthy's pitching shoulder has sent him to the disabled list in five of the last six years (a forearm strain that cost him most of the 2008 season didn't give his shoulder a chance to act up). In the last four years, he has racked up 294 days on the DL, an average of 73 per season, due to shoulder problems, including 51 shoulder-induced DL days last year.

Sheehan
Shane Victorino, Red Sox. He's stopped hitting from the left side and has lost a step in the outfield, two huge problems for a guy making $13 million a year.
 
Who will have a better year, Mike Trout or Bryce Harper?
 
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout :: H. Darr Beiser/USA Today Sports
Verducci
Mike Trout, if only because he can hit for a higher average and steal more bases. Harper will see his RBIs and power numbers spike if the Nats leave him in the third spot in the batting order.

Chen
Bryce Harper. I'll take Harper because he's my NL MVP pick, but Trout isn't going to regress much: the biggest concern is the average, but with his game-changing speed, I don't think there will be a big drop off there.

Reiter
Mike Trout. What seemed destined to be a landslide win for Trout last year tightened up just a bit in September, when Harper hit .330 with seven home runs, 14 RBIs and five steals to Trout's .289, five home runs, nine RBIs and seven steals. I'll still take Trout now and for the next dozen years or so, for his slightly more well-rounded all-around abilities.

Lemire
Mike Trout. Presuming the intention of the question is "better statistical season," then it'll be Trout by a small margin. Harper, however, will not only improve on his rookie numbers but also be the only one playing deep into October.

Jaffe
Bryce Harper. For as much as I love Trout -- to the point of pegging him as my AL MVP -- there's nowhere for his numbers to go but down. On the other hand, Harper, who hit .270/.340/.477 as a 19-year-old rookie, has left himself considerable room to grow. I doubt he'll exceed .326/.399/.564 (Trout's 2012 line), but he'll close the gap considerably, and have the better year relative to the sky-high expectations for the two.

Corcoran
Mike Trout, because he's a year older and a year further along in his development, and at their ages (21 and 20, respectively) one year is a big increment. They debuted on the same day last April, and Trout went on to hit .326/.399/.564 with 49 stolen bases, while Harper hit .270/.340/.477 with 18 steals and was caught stealing six times to Trout's five. There's room for Harper to improve and Trout to regress without the former passing the latter in terms of total value.

Sheehan
Bryce Harper. As mentioned, the track record of players like Harper is exceptional. Trout has nowhere to go but down after last year's performance, and there's reasons to think his batting average, home run rate and stolen-base percentage will all slip a bit -- while still leaving behind one of the best players in the game.
 
Bold Prediction
 
Curtis Granderson :: AP
Verducci
Record number of no-nos.Eight no-hitters will be thrown, one more than last year and tying the record that has held up since 1884.

Chen
Aroldis Chapman becomes a starter. Aroldis Chapman starts the year in the bullpen, but after Mike Leake struggles and the Reds rotation is hit by injuries, Chapman tells manager Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jocketty that he wants to start. The Cuban Missile dominates, and in the postseason he throws a complete game shutout against Stephen Strasburg in the Game 6 NLCS clincher.

Reiter
Desmond Jennings will outproduce B.J. Upton. The loss of Upton to the Braves in free agency will actually lead to an upgrade in centerfield for the Rays. The intelligent Jennings will not only move to his natural position, but he is maniacally focused on improving his plate discipline, which paid off this spring. Look for him to match Upton's counting stats (say, 25 homers and 30 steals) while getting on base at a much higher rate, and for him to serve as the latest example of how the Rays seem to lose so much each off-season without really losing anything.

Lemire
Braves hitters will set a single-season strikeout record. Atlanta's 1,289 strikeouts last season were the 22nd most in history and 240 behind the record set by the 2010 Diamondbacks. In the offseason, Atlanta replaced high-contact hitters such as Chipper Jones and Martin Prado (and one high-strikeout hitter, Michael Bourn) with a trio of high-strikeout hitters in B.J. Upton, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson. The Braves' preponderance of strikeouts won't be a detriment to their success -- the projection here is that they still make the postseason -- because it will come with a corresponding boost in their power numbers.

Jaffe
The Yankees will miss the playoffs. Because their roster looked incomplete even before injuries began decimating its ranks, and because their solutions thus far have been half-baked, the Yankees will be fail to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since the 1994 players' strike.

Corcoran
No AL East team will win 90 games. Three AL East teams won 90 or more games last year and multiple teams in the division have won 90 or more games in each of the last six seasons and 10 of the last 11 years. This year, however, the Yankees, who won 95 games a year ago, have taken a significant step back. The Orioles, who won 93 in 2012 despite an 82-80 Pythagorean record, will experience a correction. The Rays, coming off a 90-win season, had a 95-67 Pythagorean record but lost James Shields, B.J. Upton and Jeff Keppinger, three players worth a combined seven wins above replacement last year per Baseball-Reference's WAR, and should experience some correction in their bullpen. The Blue Jays, though greatly improved, won't gain the full 17 wins they'll need to reach 90, and the Red Sox likewise have too far to go to reach that total.

Sheehan
Labor relations take an ugly turn. Confrontations over MLB's work in the Biogenesis case and the prospect of so many teams punting wins -- and payroll -- at once get the MLBPA off the mat and into the boardrooms.
 
 

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