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2017 Major League Baseball Outlook

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As the sun gets stronger and the days get longer, you can smell what’s around the corner: hot dogs, beer and peanuts, but also blood, sweat and tears on the diamond.

Opening Day of the 2017 season is upon us, and it's time to take a peek at the potential Most Valuable Players, Cy Young winners and Rookies of the Year awards.

MVP Candidates
American League Favorites:
Mike Trout – The reigning AL MVP led the league in WAR (10.6) for the fifth straight year. Only Babe Ruth had a longer stretch from (1926-31). In addition, this slugger finished with 1.6 wins ahead of the runner up. As well, he has showed no signs of slowing down after three consistently good seasons. The only knock on Trout is that the Los Angeles Angels finished with a 74-88 record, which can make Trout stand out amongst a mediocre team, but can also show his worth from a lack of talent around him prospectively.

Mookie Betts –
In his three years of play for the Boston Red Sox, the 24 year-old has improved drastically each season. The 5’9" right fielder is very quick and agile but can bring power in his hits as well. This past season he was second in the league with 214 hits, 122 runs, a batting average of .318 and WAR of 9.6. For the Nashville native, a fourth season of improvement will definitely lead him in the running for MVP status.

Jose Altuve –
The Houston Astros star second baseman had his best season statistically last year, recording the most hits with 216 and the highest batting average of .338 in the league. The speedy Altuve also tied for second in the league with 30 stolen bases and increased his RBI by 30 since 2015. If he slams a few more homeruns next season, which he is totally capable of, the Venezuelan can very well see himself earning his first MVP honor.

Dark Horse Candidates:
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles

National League Favorites:
Kris Bryant – The reigning NL MVP had a remarkable season, leading the league with 7.7 wins above replacement and 121 runs scored. He was also in the top six in OPS (.939), HR (39) and RBI (102). The last time a player in this league went back-to-back was when Albert Pujols hit the mark in 2008-2009. However, for the 25 year-old, Bryant playing on the 2016 World Series Championship team helps a lot in his favor.

Nolan Arenado – The 25 year-old third baseman for the Colorado Rockies led the league in home runs with 41 and was second in slugging percentage with .570 and second in WAR with 6.5. Although the Rockies were a bit under .500 last season they have some upside and if they can get over the hump in the NL West, the California native will have more credibility in his favor.

Daniel Murphy – The Washington Nationals second baseman was in the running last year for MVP honors, receiving the second-place vote. The 31 year-old recorded the second-best average at .347 and was first in slugging percentage at .595. If Murphy can generate a few more homers, he'll attract more hype and have a greater chance to receive MVP honors for a competitive NL East team.

Dark Horse Candidates:
Anthony Rizzo 1B, Chicago Cubs
Corey Seager SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

Cy Young Award Candidates
American League Favorites:
Corey Kluber – The Indfians 30 year-old right handed pitcher was in the running last year, but fell short to Boston’s Rick Porcello. He was top 5 in ERA at 3.14, strikeouts with 227 and wins with 18. If the Indians have another stellar season this year, with a chip on their shoulders, Kluber may be the pitcher with the hot hand.

Justin Verlander – Many fans and critics thought the Tigers veteran should have won the Cy Young. He led the league in strikeouts with 254 and also recorded a 3.04 ERA. The tough AL Central does not make it easy.

Rick Porcello – Last year's winner won more games than anyone else with 22 and posted a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings pitched. For the 28 year-old from Morristown, NJ, the Red Sox ace will have to remain consistent if he wants to win back-to-back awards, something that has not been done in the American League since former Red Sox Pedro Martínez in 1999-2000.

Dark Horse Candidates:
Dallas Keuchel LHP, Houston Astros
David Price LHP, Boston Red Sox

National League Favorites:
Jon Lester – The 33 year-old lefty was 19-5 in 2016 for the World Series Champion Cubs and posted the second best ERA at 2.44. In addition, he finished in the top 7 in the league in strikeouts with 197. The Cubs powerhouse lineup helps.

Kyle Hendricks – The right-handed 27 year-old allowed just 45 earned runs last season and posted a 16-8 record with the best ERA in the league at 2.13.

Max Scherzer – Scherzer led the league in wins with 20, recorded the most strikeouts with 284 and took home the Cy Young last year. Scherzer has already reached a milestone being the sixth pitcher to in history to win the award in both leagues. But, the Washington Nationals have concerns that his stress fracture to the knuckle in his right finger may still be a problem.

Dark Horse Candidates:
Clayton Kershaw LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Madison Bumgarner LHP, San Francisco Giants

Rookie of the Year Candidates
American League Favorites:
Andrew Benintendi – This Boston Red Sox youngster was placed as the top prospect for 2017 according to MLB.com. He had 31 doubles, 12 triples, 9 homeruns, 76 RBI and a batting average of .312 in Triple A last season.

Yoan Moncada
– A former Red Sox prospect, the 21 year-old was the centerpiece of a four-prospect package that landed him in Chicago likely to play second base for the White Sox.

Bradley Zimmer – The Indians outfielder recorded 18 runs and 31 hits to go along with 1 home run in his brief call-up last season. However, Zimmer has been able show that he can be a threat with above-average speed that has allowed him to tally 82 stolen bases in a span of two seasons.

National League Favorites:
Dansby Swanson – The shortstop for the Atlanta Braves was selected first round in the 2015 draft after an outstanding college career at Vanderbilt University that included one College World Series title.

Tyler Glasnow – Standing tall at 6’8", this right-handed pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates has a powerful arm but still has to improve on his command. His potential and upside says it all, as he may find himself in the starting rotation eventually. If he can stay consistent with his changeup and improve his command, Glasnow should be able to throw against the highest level of hitters in the big leagues.

Ozzie Albies – The tenth-ranked prospect in 2017 according to MLB.com, this 20 year-old has made a name for himself and proved his abilities enough to get his chance to play for the Atlanta Braves as a combination player either as second baseman or shortstop.

Dark Horse Candidates:
Jose De Leon RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Josh Bell 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

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