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Fantasy MVPs & LVPs

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It's the 19th annual edition of the fantasy MVPs and LVPs column. Awards are given to players that most over- or underperformed my preseason projections. So, basically, everyone I was most wrong about. I do, however, tend to give injured players a break when it comes to LVPs

I also have my real MVP/Cy Young/ROY choices below.

The Fantasy Most Valuable Players
MVP - Yadier Molina
Projection: .266/.317/.354, 6 HR, 45 R, 49 RBI, 2 SB in 463 AB
2017 stats: .273/.312/.439, 18 HR, 60 R, 82 RBI, 9 SB in 501 AB

Molina turned 35 in July and has as much mileage on his tires as any catcher his age in major league history, but he turned back the clock offensively, coming up just one homer short of his total from his previous three seasons combined (19 in 1,426 AB from 2014-16). His homer and steal totals were his highest since 2012, and he set a new personal best for RBI. He’s not the overall player he was five years ago, but it’s still incredible he’s displayed this kind of staying power with such a workload.

Honorable Mention - Salvador Perez, Kurt Suzuki, J.T. Realmuto
2016 Winner - Wilson Ramos
2015 Winner - Nick Hundley
2014 Winner - Devin Mesoraco
2013 Winner - Jonathan Lucroy
2012 Winner - Wilin Rosario
2011 Winner - Alex Avila
2010 Winner - Buster Posey
2009 Winner - Joe Mauer
2008 Winner - Ryan Doumit
2007 Winner - Russell Martin
2006 Winner - Brian McCann
2005 Winner - Brandon Inge
2004 Winner - Craig Wilson
2003 Winner - Javy Lopez
2002 Winner - Eli Marrero
2001 Winner - Paul Lo Duca
2000 Winner - Charles Johnson
1999 Winner - Mike Sweeney
LVP - Jonathan Lucroy
Projection: .276/.338/.433, 14 HR, 62 R, 65 RBI, 3 SB in 467 AB
2017 stats: .265/.345/.371, 6 HR, 40 R, 46 RBI, 1 SB in 423 AB

When Lucroy claimed LVP honors two years ago, a concussion was to blame. This year, there was no easy explanation for his utter lack of offense. It took a deadline deal to Colorado to give his numbers a hint of respectability; throw out his 79 at-bats at Coors and he had a .241/.304/.334 line in 344 at-bats. It’s not just offense, either; he’s gone from one of the game’s best pitch framers to one of its worst. I’m not going to bet much on him getting it back next year.

Dishonorable Mention - Tom Murphy, Russell Martin, Evan Gattis
2016 LVP - Yan Gomes
2015 LVP - Jonathan Lucroy
2014 LVP - Joe Mauer
2013 LVP - Jesus Montero
2012 LVP - Carlos Santana
2011 LVP - Joe Mauer
2010 LVP - Matt Wieters
2009 LVP - Russell Martin
2008 LVP - Kenji Johjima
2007 LVP - Ramon Hernandez
2006 LVP - Javy Lopez
2005 LVP - Jason Kendall
2004 LVP - Mike Piazza
2003 LVP - Paul Lo Duca
2002 LVP - Charles Johnson
2001 LVP - Jason Kendall
2000 LVP - Michael Barrett
1999 LVP - Todd Hundley

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First Basemen/Designated Hitters
MVP - Cody Bellinger
Projection: .237/.308/.443, 7 HR, 16 R, 20 RBI, 2 SB in 131 AB
2017 stats: .267/.352/.581, 39 HR, 87 R, 97 RBI, 10 SB in 480 AB

Bellinger was merely good, not dominant, as a 20-year-old in Double-A last year and the Dodgers entered the season with Adrian Gonzalez entrenched and a boatload of outfield options, so I wasn’t optimistic that Bellinger would be much of a factor in 2017. 39 homers qualifies as a factor, though. It was the third highest total for a rookie in MLB history, and the third highest total for a player 21 or younger.

Honorable Mention - Ryan Zimmerman, Eric Hosmer, Justin Smoak
2016 Winner - David Ortiz
2015 Winner - Joey Votto
2014 Winner - Victor Martinez
2013 Winner - Chris Davis
2012 Winner - Adam LaRoche
2011 Winner - Mark Trumbo
2010 Winner - Joey Votto
2009 Winner - Kendrys Morales
2008 Winner - Aubrey Huff
2007 Winner - Carlos Pena
2006 Winner - Ryan Howard
2005 Winner - Derrek Lee
2004 Winner - Travis Hafner
2003 Winner - Carlos Delgado
2002 Winner - Derrek Lee
2001 Winner - Ryan Klesko
2000 Winner - Frank Thomas
1999 Winner - John Jaha
LVP - Miguel Cabrera
Projection: .306/.389/.534, 32 HR, 89 R, 102 RBI, 0 SB in 566 AB
2017 stats: .249/.329/.399, 16 HR, 50 R, 60 RBI, 0 SB in 469 AB

Troubled by herniated disks in his back, Cabrera finally had a bad season at age 34, finishing with an OPS 150 points lower than his previous low mark in 13 full seasons. From 2004-2016, he had never hit lower than .292 or slugged lower than .512. It’ll be the first time ever that he’s failed to get MVP votes; he even did in his 87-game rookie season in 2003. I’ll project a decent rebound next year, probably something that will put him in the 6-10 range among first basemen.

Dishonorable Mention - Chris Davis, Hanley Ramirez, Tommy Joseph
2016 LVP - Jose Abreu
2015 LVP - Chris Carter
2014 LVP - Chris Davis
2013 LVP - Ike Davis
2012 LVP - Eric Hosmer
2011 LVP - Adam Dunn
2010 LVP - Lance Berkman
2009 LVP - David Ortiz
2008 LVP - Travis Hafner
2007 LVP - Richie Sexson
2006 LVP - Todd Helton
2005 LVP - Todd Helton
2004 LVP - Jason Giambi
2003 LVP - Paul Konerko
2002 LVP - Tony Clark
2001 LVP - Mark McGwire
2000 LVP - Sean Casey
1999 LVP - Darin Erstad

Second Basemen
MVP - Whit Merrifield
Projection: .262/.313/.392, 5 HR, 33 R, 28 RBI, 8 SB in 260 AB
2017 stats: .288/.324/.460, 19 HR, 80 R, 78 RBI, 34 SB in 587 AB

My original Merrifield projection was more robust and I labeled him as a sleeper for this year, but then the Royals foolishly picked Raul Mondesi as their second baseman and had Merrifield open the season in the minors. Fortunately, Mondesi was so awful that Merrifield had to wait just 13 games for another chance, and he was better than anyone would have expected. The especially big surprise was the 19 homers; he hit two in 311 at-bats as a rookie and he never reached double figures in the minors. In fact, he finished with a .750 OPS just once in seven minor league seasons before coming in at .784 in the majors this year.

Honorable Mention - Jonathan Schoop, Scooter Gennett, Dee Gordon
2016 Winner - Brian Dozier
2015 Winner - Dee Gordon
2014 Winner - Jose Altuve
2013 Winner - Matt Carpenter
2012 Winner - Aaron Hill
2011 Winner - Ben Zobrist
2010 Winner - Rickie Weeks
2009 Winner - Aaron Hill
2008 Winner - Dustin Pedroia
2007 Winner - Brandon Phillips
2006 Winner - Dan Uggla
2005 Winner - Chone Figgins
2004 Winner - Mark Loretta
2003 Winner - Marcus Giles
2002 Winner - Alfonso Soriano
2001 Winner - Bret Boone
2000 Winner - Jose Vidro
1999 Winner - Roberto Alomar
LVP - Rougned Odor
Projection: .282/.327/.506, 29 HR, 81 R, 95 RBI, 15 SB in 575 AB
2017 stats: .204/.252/.397, 30 HR, 79 R, 75 RBI, 15 SB in 607 AB

I nailed three categories here. The problem is that Odor’s average was so bad in so many at-bats that it killed his value. Odor hitting .204 was about as damaging to a team’s average as carrying a guy with zero homers all year was in that category. Plus, it’s not like his 30 homers counted for as much as they might have a few years ago. Odor hit .259, .261 and .271 in his first three seasons. My .282 projection was optimistic, but it wasn’t completely out of line for a 23-year-old seemingly on the way up. That he fell so far is rather alarming, but what makes it worse is that he doesn’t even realize his approach is a problem.

Dishonorable Mention - Robinson Cano, Matt Carpenter, Jason Kipnis
2016 LVP - Dee Gordon
2015 LVP - Chase Utley
2014 LVP - Jason Kipnis
2013 LVP - Rickie Weeks
2012 LVP - Jemile Weeks
2011 LVP - Chone Figgins
2010 LVP - Aaron Hill
2009 LVP - Kelly Johnson
2008 LVP - Robinson Cano
2007 LVP - Josh Barfield
2006 LVP - Jorge Cantu
2005 LVP - Bret Boone
2004 LVP - Alfonso Soriano
2003 LVP - Roberto Alomar
2002 LVP - Roberto Alomar
2001 LVP - Edgardo Alfonzo
2000 LVP - Jose Offerman
1999 LVP - Delino DeShields

Third Basemen
MVP - Jose Ramirez
Projection: .278/.335/.460, 12 HR, 78 R, 68 RBI, 20 SB in 550 AB
2017 stats: .318/.374/.583, 29 HR, 107 R, 83 RBI, 17 SB in 585 AB

Ramirez slugged .340 in 2015. He slugged .462 last year. He came in at .583 this year. I watched it happen and can still scarcely believe it. In 2015, his success was partly explained by him playing half of his games in baseball’s secret offensive paradise; he actually had a .694 OPS in road games in his breakthrough campaign (.952 at home). This year… well, he hit 19 homers and slugged .638 on the road. Bryce Harper was the only player in either league to have a higher slugging percentage on the road. The whole thing still makes no real sense to me.

Honorable Mention - Travis Shaw, Marwin Gonzalez, Joey Gallo, Eugenio Suarez
2016 Winner - Adrian Beltre
2015 Winner - Josh Donaldson
2014 Winner - Todd Frazier
2013 Winner - Josh Donaldson
2012 Winner - Chase Headley
2011 Winner - Jose Bautista
2010 Winner - Jose Bautista
2009 Winner - Mark Reynolds
2008 Winner - Jorge Cantu
2007 Winner - Ryan Braun
2006 Winner - Michael Cuddyer
2005 Winner - Morgan Ensberg
2004 Winner - Adrian Beltre
2003 Winner - Bill Mueller
2002 Winner - Aaron Boone
2001 Winner - Albert Pujols
2000 Winner - Troy Glaus
1999 Winner - Fernando Tatis
LVP - Kyle Seager
Projection: .275/.353/.488, 28 HR, 87 R, 90 RBI, 5 SB in 578 AB
2017 stats: .249/.323/.450, 27 HR, 72 R, 88 RBI, 2 SB in 578 AB

There were no huge flops at third base this year, but Seager was a significant disappointment; his average was down 30 points from last year’s .278 mark and his 107 OPS+ was his worst mark in six seasons as a regular. I hope it was an aberration.

Dishonorable Mention - Todd Frazier, Kris Bryant, Maikel Franco, Josh Donaldson
2016 LVP - Maikel Franco
2015 LVP - Carlos Santana
2014 LVP - David Wright
2013 LVP - Pablo Sandoval
2012 LVP - Mark Reynolds
2011 LVP - Pedro Alvarez
2010 LVP - Pablo Sandoval
2009 LVP - Garrett Atkins
2008 LVP - Chone Figgins
2007 LVP - Eric Chavez
2006 LVP - Hank Blalock
2005 LVP - Adrian Beltre
2004 LVP - Eric Hinske
2003 LVP - Edgardo Alfonzo
2002 LVP - Jeff Cirillo
2001 LVP - Tony Batista
2000 LVP - Vinny Castilla
1999 LVP - Ken Caminiti

MVP - Elvis Andrus
Projection: .282/.336/.401, 10 HR, 73 R, 61 RBI, 22 SB in 553 AB
2017 stats: .297/.337/.471, 20 HR, 100 R, 88 RBI, 25 SB in 643 AB

Andrus once went homerless in a season of 588 at-bats. He hit two homers in 619 at-bats as recently as 2014. He averaged one homer every 132 at-bats in his eight big league seasons before hitting one every 32 this year. He also topped his previous high in doubles by nine by collecting 44. Andrus was also very good in 2016, but that only resulted in eight homers, 75 runs scored and 69 RBI in 147 games. This year, he finished with the same OPS+ (108 to 109), but he had 20 homers, 100 runs scored and 88 RBI in 158 games, making him far, far more valuable for fantasy purposes.

Honorable Mention - Chris Taylor, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Eduardo Nunez
2016 Winner - Jonathan Villar
2015 Winner - Xander Bogaerts
2014 Winner - Dee Gordon
2013 Winner - Jean Segura
2012 Winner - Ian Desmond
2011 Winner - Asdrubal Cabrera
2010 Winner - Omar Infante
2009 Winner - Ben Zobrist
2008 Winner - Mike Aviles
2007 Winner - Hanley Ramirez
2006 Winner - Hanley Ramirez
2005 Winner - Felipe Lopez
2004 Winner - Carlos Guillen
2003 Winner - Edgar Renteria
2002 Winner - David Eckstein
2001 Winner - Rich Aurilia
2000 Winner - Jose Valentin
1999 Winner - Jay Bell
LVP - Jonathan Villar
Projection: .268/.345/.428, 18 HR, 93 R, 60 RBI, 52 SB in 598 AB
2017 stats: .241/.293/.372, 11 HR, 49 R, 40 RBI, 23 SB in 403 AB

No one expected Villar to match his 2016, but he was so good then that it seemed his status as a regular was assured, meaning he was a safe bet for 40 steals -- maybe a lot more -- and ample fantasy value. Villar, though, never got it together at any point, and the Brewers had little choice but to send him to the bench. It’ll be interesting to see what happens now. He’s cheap enough that the Brewers figure to keep him, but probably as a bench player initially. He’ll still be interesting for fantasy purposes; the list of the players with the ability to steal 50 bases and hit 20 homers is pretty much just Villar and Trea Turner.

Dishonorable Mention - Jose Peraza, Manny Machado, Aledmys Diaz
2016 LVP - Carlos Correa
2015 LVP - Hanley Ramirez
2014 LVP - Jean Segura
2013 LVP - Starlin Castro
2012 LVP - Elvis Andrus
2011 LVP - Hanley Ramirez
2010 LVP - Yunel Escobar
2009 LVP - Jimmy Rollins
2008 LVP - Troy Tulowitzki
2007 LVP - Bill Hall
2006 LVP - Clint Barmes
2005 LVP - Kaz Matsui
2004 LVP - Angel Berroa
2003 LVP - Jose Hernandez
2002 LVP - Rich Aurilia
2001 LVP - Tony Womack
2000 LVP - Royce Clayton
1999 LVP - Royce Clayton


MVPs - Aaron Judge, Tommy Pham, Marcell Ozuna

Judge’s projection: .227/.315/.416, 22 HR, 64 R, 63 RBI, 4 SB in 481 AB
Judge’s 2017 stats: .284/.422/.627, 52 HR, 128 R, 114 RBI, 9 SB in 542 AB

Pham’s projection: .238/.317/.395, 6 HR, 27 R, 21 RBI, 4 SB in 185 AB
Pham’s 2017 stats: .306/.411/.520, 23 HR, 95 R, 73 RBI, 25 SB in 444 AB

Ozuna’s projection: .271/.330/.462, 24 HR, 69 R, 81 RBI, 2 SB in 558 AB
Ozuna’s 2017 stats: .312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 93 R, 124 RBI, 1 SB in 613 AB

Remember when the Yankees talked about sending Judge down at the end of the spring because there might not be enough playing time available for him? The Cardinals actually did send down Pham, keeping Jose Martinez over him. Pham got his 20-20 season despite not debuting until May 5. I feel worse about the Judge miss, not that anyone anticipated this.

I was quite a bit higher on Ozuna a year ago; he was going to hit second and the Marlins were changing the park to make it a bit more hitter friendly. Neither change took, though; Ozuna ended up hitting second for just 21 games and Marlins ballpark was about as favorable to pitchers as before. Ozuna had a decent year, finishing with a 109 OPS+, but the end result was 23 homers, 75 runs and 76 RBI. Due to hit sixth this year, I dropped him from 21st to 44th among outfielders. Of course, the career year followed.

Honorable Mention - Giancarlo Stanton, Avisail Garcia, Charlie Blackmon, Ender Inciarte, J.D. Martinez
2016 Winners - Wil Myers, Charlie Blackmon, Mark Trumbo
2015 Winners - A.J. Pollock, Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon
2014 Winners - Michael Brantley, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson
2013 Winners - Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig, Marlon Byrd
2012 Winners - Mike Trout, Alex Rios, Adam Jones
2011 Winners - Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp, Melky Cabrera
2010 Winners - Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan
2009 Winners - Adam Lind, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp
2008 Winners - Ryan Ludwick, Josh Hamilton, Nate McLouth
2007 Winners - Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Eric Byrnes
2006 Winners - Jermaine Dye, Gary Matthews Jr., Matt Holliday
2005 Winners - Grady Sizemore, Jason Bay, Andruw Jones
2004 Winners - Jim Edmonds, J.D. Drew, Aaron Rowand, Jeromy Burnitz
2003 Winners - Gary Sheffield, Scott Podsednik, Vernon Wells
2002 Winners - Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson
2001 Winners - Ichiro Suzuki, Barry Bonds, Cliff Floyd
2000 Winners - Darin Erstad, Richard Hidalgo, John Vander Wal
1999 Winners - Brian Giles, Luis Gonzalez, Roger Cedeno
LVPs - Starling Marte, Carlos Gonzalez, Gregory Polanco

Marte’s projection: .287/.342/.446, 16 HR, 83 R, 66 RBI. 37 SB in 565 AB
Marte’s 2017 stats: .275/.333/.379, 7 HR, 48 R, 31 RBI, 21 SB in 309 AB

Gonzalez’s projection: .284/.342/.506, 27 HR, 80 R, 91 RBI, 3 SB in 518 AB
Gonzalez’s 2017 stats: .262/.339/.423, 14 HR, 72 R, 57 RBI, 3 SB in 470 AB

Polanco’s projection: .277/.337/.468, 22 HR, 81 R, 87 RBI, 18 SB in 571 AB
Polanco’s 2017 stats: .251/.305/.391, 11 HR, 39 R, 35 RBI, 8 SB in 379 AB

Marte’s 80-game PED ban assured him of his spot here. Gonzalez’s late rally was really impressive -- he hit .377/.484/.766 in September -- but it wasn’t nearly enough to salvage his season after five atrocious months. Polanco was dragged down by injuries, but he still played in 108 games and did very little in them. The run and RBI numbers were especially awful; for comparison’s sake, prorating those totals out to 150 games gets you just 54 runs scored and 49 RBI. Pham had 95 runs and 73 RBI in 128 games.

Dishonorable Mention - Ian Desmond, A.J. Pollock, Mark Trumbo, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson
2016 LVPs - Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Bautista
2015 LVPs - Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo
2014 LVPs - Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce, Ryan Braun
2013 LVPs - Ryan Braun, B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward
2012 LVPs - Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Upton, Delmon Young
2011 LVPs - Carl Crawford, Alex Rios, Jason Heyward
2010 LVPs - Matt Kemp, Adam Lind, Carlos Lee
2009 LVPs - Manny Ramirez, B.J. Upton, Alfonso Soriano
2008 LVPs - Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Carl Crawford
2007 LVPs - Jason Bay, Andruw Jones, Jermaine Dye
2006 LVPs - Jason Lane, Randy Winn, Scott Podsednik
2005 LVPs - Carlos Beltran, Sammy Sosa, Corey Patterson
2004 LVPs - Sammy Sosa, Marlon Byrd, Brian Giles
2003 LVPs - Pat Burrell, Shawn Green, Larry Walker
2002 LVPs - Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Pierre, Richard Hidalgo
2001 LVPs - Richard Hidalgo, Darin Erstad, Carl Everett
2000 LVPs - Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran
1999 LVPs - Jose Cruz Jr., Kenny Lofton, Ray Lankford

Starting Pitchers
MVPs - Luis Severino, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber, Gio Gonzalez, Robbie Ray

Severino’s projection: 9-10, 4.25 ERA, 1.285 WHIP, 150 K in 167 1/3 IP
Severino’s 2017 stats: 14-6, 2.98 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 230 K in 193 1/3 IP

Greinke’s projection: 12-12, 3.90 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 182 K in 203 1/3 IP
Greinke’s 2017 stats: 17-7, 3.20 ERA, 1.072 WHIP, 215 K in 202 1/3 IP

Kluber’s projection: 16-10, 3.33 ERA, 1.083 WHIP, 231 K in 216 IP
Kluber’s 2017 stats: 18-4, 2.25 ERA, 0.869 WHIP, 265 K in 203 2/3 IP

Gonzalez’s projection: 11-10, 3.94 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 159 K in 171 1/3 IP
Gonzalez’s 2017 stats: 15-9, 2.96 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, 188 K in 201 IP

Ray’s projection: 11-11, 3.86 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 215 K in 191 1/3 IP
Ray’s 2017 stats: 15-5, 2.89 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 218 K in 162 IP

Severino went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA in his 11 starts for the Yankees in 2016. I thought projecting a 4.25 ERA and a 1.285 WHIP was actually rather optimistic.

I was flat-out wrong about Greinke. His velocity continued to dip ever so slightly, but he turned back into a strikeout pitcher anyway and managed to shake off the home run spike.

Gonzalez’s season still looks like a big fluke to me. The only thing that stands out for him is his BABIP, which went from .341 in 2015 and .316 in 2016 to .258 this year. He hadn’t been below .280 since 2012. His FIP this year was 3.93, his highest mark since he made 17 starts for the A’s in 2009. I’ll be staying far away next spring.

Honorable Mention - Alex Wood, Ervin Santana, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Brad Peacock
2016 Winners - Rick Porcello, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, J.A. Happ
2015 Winners - Jake Arrieta, Dallas Keuchel, Zack Greinke, Marco Estrada, Jacob deGrom
2014 Winners - Corey Kluber, Garrett Richards, Johnny Cueto, Jake Arrieta, Tanner Roark
2013 Winners - Hisashi Iwakuma, Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey
2012 Winners - R.A. Dickey, Kyle Lohse, Gio Gonzalez, Kris Medlen, Chris Sale
2011 Winners - Justin Verlander, Ian Kennedy, James Shields, Clayton Kershaw, Doug Fister
2010 Winners - Mat Latos, Trevor Cahill, David Price, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jered Weaver
2009 Winners - Zack Greinke, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Wandy Rodriguez, Joel Pineiro
2008 Winners - Clff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Dempster, Ervin Santana, Roy Halladay
2007 Winners - Fausto Carmona, Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang, James Shields, Erik Bedard
2006 Winners - Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Webb, Francisco Liriano, Aaron Harang, Justin Verlander
2005 Winners - Chris Carpenter, Dontrelle Willis, Andy Pettitte, Cliff Lee, John Patterson
2004 Winners - Johan Santana, Ben Sheets, Carl Pavano, Oliver Perez, Chris Carpenter
2003 Winners - Esteban Loaiza, Jason Schmidt, Livan Hernandez, Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay
2002 Winners - Odalis Perez, Derek Lowe, Matt Clement, Tim Wakefield, Roy Halladay
2001 Winners - Mark Mulder, Joe Mays, John Burkett, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt
2000 Winners - Ryan Dempster, Jeff D’Amico, Glendon Rusch, Darryl Kile, Chan Ho Park
1999 Winners - Mike Hampton, Todd Ritchie, Tim Hudson, Kevin Millwood, Jose Lima
LVPs - Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, Rick Porcello, Julio Teheran, Matt Moore

Bumgarner’s projection: 16-11, 3.10 ERA, 1.078 WHIP, 224 K in 218 IP
Bumgarner’s 2017 stats: 4-9, 3.32 ERA, 1.090 WHIP, 101 K in 111 IP

Lester’s projection: 15-9, 3.24 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 187 K in 194 1/3 IP
Lester’s 2017 stats: 13-8, 4.33 ERA, 1.323 WHIP, 180 K in 180 2/3 IP

Porcello’s projection: 15-11, 3.87 ERA, 1.150 WHIP, 175 K in 214 IP
Porcello’s 2017 stats: 11-17, 4.65 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, 181 K in 203 1/3 IP

Teheran’s projection: 13-11, 3.76 ERA, 1.155 WHIP, 175 K in 206 IP
Teheran’s 2017 stats: 11-13, 4.49 ERA, 1.370 WHIP, 151 K in 188 1/3 IP

Moore’s projection: 12-11, 3.67 ERA, 1.233 WHIP, 183 K in 189 IP
Moore’s 2017 stats: 6-15, 5.52 ERA, 1.531 WHIP, 148 K in 174 1/3 IP

I tend to forgive injuries, but not when they’re sustained riding a dirt bike. Bumgarner was just fine when he was on the mound, but it was his fault he made 17 starts, rather than 32.

Lester has given me all kinds of problems lately; I was down on him the previous three years before putting him in my top 15 this season for the first time since 2011. I think I figured the Cubs defense would remain so awesome that it scarcely mattered who was pitching for them. Of course, the Cubs defense came back to Earth and Lester’s home run rate was more than 50 percent higher than his career rate. He still got his strikeouts, but his stuff just wasn’t the same.

Porcello’s problems were also mostly BABIP and home run related. His velocity was better than in his Cy Young campaign, and he sported a career-high strikeout rate. Still, he went from giving up 23 homers in 223 innings to 38 in 203.

Dishonorable Mention - Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey, Jameson Taillon
2016 LVPs - Dallas Keuchel, Felix Hernandez, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright
2015 LVPs - Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Felix Hernandez, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister
2014 LVPs - Justin Verlander, Mike Minor, Clay Buchholz, C.J. Wilson, Justin Masterson
2013 LVPs - CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson
2012 LVPs - Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Ricky Romero, Jon Lester, Dan Haren
2011 LVPs - Brian Matusz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Francisco Liriano, Ricky Nolasco, Chad Billingsley
2010 LVPs - Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum, Javier Vazquez, A.J. Burnett
2009 LVPs - Francisco Liriano, Cole Hamels, Joba Chamberlain, Derek Lowe, Daisuke Matsuzaka
2008 LVPs - Justin Verlander, Fausto Carmona, Pedro Martinez, Ian Snell, Rich Hill
2007 LVPs - Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Mussina, Dontrelle Willis, Jose Contreras, Scott Olsen
2006 LVPs - Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Felix Hernandez, Dontrelle Willis, Odalis Perez
2005 LVPs - Oliver Perez, Curt Schilling, Tim Hudson, Zack Greinke, Eric Milton
2004 LVPs - Esteban Loaiza, Barry Zito, Jose Contreras, Jamie Moyer, Javier Vazquez
2003 LVPs - Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Ramon Ortiz, Freddy Garcia, Derek Lowe
2002 LVPs - Chan Ho Park, Freddy Garcia, Bud Smith, Brad Penny, Javier Vazquez
2001 LVPs - Scott Elarton, Livan Hernandez, Kevin Millwood, Bartolo Colon, Dave Burba
2000 LVPs - Jose Lima, Ramon Martinez, David Cone, Omar Daal, Kevin Millwood
1999 LVPs - Roger Clemens, Jeff Fassero, Chan Ho Park, Tom Glavine, Brett Tomko

Relief Pitchers

MVPs - Corey Knebel, Felipe Rivero, Brad Hand, Greg Holland

Knebel’s projection: 3-5, 9 Sv, 3.66 ERA, 1.254 WHIP, 64 K in 59 IP
Knebel’s 2017 stats: 1-4, 39 Sv, 1.78 ERA, 1.158 WHIP, 126 K in 76 IP

Rivero’s projection: 5-6, 1 Sv, 3.06 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 88 K in 70 2/3 IP
Rivero’s 2017 stats: 5-3, 21 SV, 1.67 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, 88 K in 75 1/3 IP

Hand’s projection: 5-5, 2 Sv, 2.99 ERA, 1.183 WHIP, 77 K in 69 1/3 IP
Hand’s 2017 stats: 3-4, 21 Sv, 2.16 ERA, 0.933 WHIP, 104 K in 79 1/3 IP

Holland’s projection: 3-4, 25 Sv, 3.56 ERA, 1.319 WHIP, 77 K in 60 2/3 IP
Holland’s 2017 stats: 3-6, 41 Sv, 3.61 ERA, 1.151 WHIP, 70 K in 57 1/3 IP

I was growing rather skeptical that greatness was in the cards for Knebel after a rather mediocre showing in 2016, but, then, I didn’t think he’d add two mph to a fastball that already averages 95 mph. He went from striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings to 14.9 this year, which was plenty good enough to cover up his control issues.

Honorable Mention - Brandon Kintzler, Hector Neris, Sean Doolittle, Brad Brach, Craig Kimbrel
2016 Winners - Seung Hwan Oh, Alex Colome, Sam Dyson, Tyler Thornburg
2015 Winners - Jeurys Familia, Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, Shawn Tolleson
2014 Winners - Zach Britton, Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Melancon, Hector Rondon
2013 Winners - Koji Uehara, Kenley Jansen, Edward Mujica, Greg Holland
2012 Winners - Fernando Rodney, Jim Johnson, Aroldis Chapman, Rafael Soriano
2011 Winners - Craig Kimbrel, Fernando Salas, Brandon League, Jordan Walden
2010 Winners - Neftali Feliz, John Axford, Rafael Soriano, Chris Perez
2009 Winners - Andrew Bailey, David Aardsma, Ryan Franklin, Rafael Soriano
2008 Winners - Brad Lidge, Kerry Wood, Brian Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez
2007 Winners - Jeremy Accardo, Takashi Saito, Kevin Gregg, Manuel Corpas
2006 Winners - J.J. Putz, Jonathan Papelbon, Takashi Saito, Akinori Otsuka
2005 Winners - Chad Cordero, Derrick Turnbow, Huston Street, Todd Jones, Bob Wickman
2004 Winners - Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Jose Mesa, Shingo Takatsu
2003 Winners - Eric Gagne, Tim Worrell, Joe Borowski, Guillermo Mota
2002 Winners - Eric Gagne, Juan Acevedo, Byung-Hyun Kim, Octavio Dotel
2001 Winners - Byung-Hyun Kim, Jeff Zimmerman, Octavio Dotel, Jose Mesa
2000 Winners - Keith Foulke, Robb Nen, Gabe White
1999 Winners - Scott Williamson, Billy Koch, John Rocker
LVPs - Seung Hwan Oh, Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman

Oh’s projection: 5-3, 37 Sv, 2.19 ERA, 0.990 WHIP, 83 K in 65 2/3 IP
Oh’s 2017 stats: 1-6, 20 Sv, 4.10 ERA, 1.399 WHIP, 54 K in 59 1/3 IP

Rodriguez’s projection: 3-3, 37 Sv, 3.28 ERA, 1.160 WHIP, 61 K in 60 1/3 IP
Rodriguez’s 2017 stats: 2-5, 7 Sv, 7.82 ERA, 1.658 WHIP, 23 K in 25 1/3 IP

Melancon’s projection: 4-4, 42 Sv, 2.54 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, 62 K in 67 1/3 IP
Melancon’s 2017 stats: 1-2, 11 Sv, 4.50 ERA, 1.433 WHIP, 29 K in 30 IP

Chapman’s projection: 4-3, 41 Sv, 2.32 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 101 K in 62 IP
Chapman’s 2017 stats: 4-3, 22 Sv, 3.22 ERA, 1.132 WHIP, 69 K in 50 1/3 IP

There’s still little doubt in my mind that the Cardinals would have been better off just sticking with Oh like the Diamondbacks did Fernando Rodney; he never resembled the guy he was in 2016, but trying to come up with new solutions every week only made things worse.

Chapman figured it out late, but he still finished with his worst ERA and worst strikeout rate as a closer. And, of course, the 22 saves were 15-20 shy of what everyone was expecting from him.

Dishonorable Mention - Sam Dyson, Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson, Zach Britton
2016 LVPs - Trevor Rosenthal, Jonathan Papelbon, Shawn Tolleson, Jake McGee
2015 LVPs - Jenrry Mejia, Steve Cishek, Greg Holland, Fernando Rodney
2014 LVPs - Ernesto Frieri, Jim Johnson, Grant Balfour, Sergio Romo
2013 LVPs - John Axford, Jonathan Papelbon, Tom Wilhelmsen, Brandon League
2012 LVPs - Heath Bell, Jordan Walden, Brandon League, John Axford
2011 LVPs - Matt Thornton, Joakim Soria, Ryan Franklin, Neftali Feliz
2010 LVPs - Chad Qualls, Jonathan Broxton, Trevor Hoffman, Bobby Jenks
2009 LVPs - B.J. Ryan, Brad Lidge, Brandon Morrow, Matt Capps
2008 LVPs - Jason Isringhausen, Manuel Corpas, J.J. Putz, Huston Street
2007 LVPs - Tom Gordon, Salomon Torres, Jorge Julio, Bob Wickman
2006 LVPs - Derrick Turnbow, Brad Lidge, Ryan Dempster, Armando Benitez
2005 LVPs - Danny Kolb, Danny Graves, Guillermo Mota, Keith Foulke
2004 LVPs - Arthur Rhodes, Joe Borowski, Shawn Chacon, David Riske
2003 LVPs - Billy Koch, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Armando Benitez, Jose Mesa
2002 LVPs - Keith Foulke, Scott Strickland, Armando Benitez, Antonio Alfonseca
2001 LVPs - Todd Jones, John Rocker, Billy Koch, Dave Veres
2000 LVPs - Bob Howry, Scott Williamson, John Rocker, Billy Wagner
1999 LVPs - Rod Beck, Jeff Montgomery, Rick Aguilera, Gregg Olson

Award Ballots
Here are my MVP, Cy Young and ROY ballots for 2017:

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Aaron Judge
2. Matt Chapman
3. Chad Green

There were plenty of solid rookies behind Judge, but no obvious No. 2 and No. 3 here. I imagine that Andrew Benintendi will finish second in the official balloting, by virtue of his 20 homers, 90 RBI and 20 steals, but he was really pretty average as a rookie. Chapman, Mitch Haniger and Matt Olson were more valuable players while in the lineup, with the obvious caveat that Benintendi played a whole lot more than any of them.

I think Green qualifies as a rookie, though I’m still looking for something definitive there. He slipped in under the 50-inning limit, finishing at 45 2/3 innings in 2016. The other qualification is no more than 45 non-September days on the active roster. My count there was 43, but that’s up for interpretation. The Yankees say he’s a rookie, so I’m going with that. If not, then he’d get bumped in favor of fellow Yankees hurler Jordan Montgomery.

AL Cy Young

1. Corey Kluber
2. Chris Sale
3. Luis Severino
4. Justin Verlander
5. Carlos Carrasco

What was shaping up as an excellent race came undone in the end, as Sale turned in just two quality starts in five tries in September. Sale still had the slightly better FIP while pitching 11 more innings than Kluber, but Kluber allowed 17 fewer runs while facing essentially the same quality of opponents as Sale.

There’s not a lot separating the other three pitchers here. Verlander and Carrasco had modest inning advantages over Severino, but Severino faced better competition; among pitchers to throw 190 innings, only Chris Archer had tougher opponents.


As usual, Mike Trout was the AL’s best player. If he had played in 130-135 games this year, I would have picked him here. At 114, though, he was 40 behind the other two contenders for the award. I don’t think his superior play quite makes up for that.

So, it’s Jose Altuve versus Aaron Judge. Judge has the extra 12 points of OPS and 80 points of slugging, but the difference in position and ballparks wipes out a lot of that. Baseball-Reference WAR gives Altuve the edge because it graded him out as a slightly above average defensive second baseman. FanGraphs WAR prefers Judge, since it rates Altuve a bit below average with the glove. I’ve never been a big fan of Altuve’s defense, but I think he’s better now than when he entered the league.

Interestingly, neither had very good “clutch” stats. Judge had an .861 OPS in what B-Ref termed high-leverage situations, which is fine for a mortal, but not good for someone who was at 1.049 overall. He had a .760 OPS in 100 plate appearances in situations deemed “late & close.” Altuve had an .859 OPS in high-leverage situations, compared to a .957 OPS overall. But he was at 1.190 in 70 plate appearances “late & close.” We expect the league as a whole to be worse in these situations, since this is often when top relievers come out to play. That Altuve fared better is a point in his favor. “Clutch” is such a loaded term that I hate using it, but while I don’t believe in clutch hitters, there’s certainly value in past “clutch” performance.

One thing many don’t realize is how pitcher friendly Minute Maid has played lately. Altuve did all of his best work on the road this year, hitting .381/.449/.633 with 15 homers. His road OPS was 247 points higher than his home mark. Judge had an OPS 230 points higher at home than on the road. Judge was still the better hitter, but I don’t think it was by a big enough margin to give him the edge here. I wouldn’t have a problem with it if he ends up with the actual hardware, but I’m going with Altuve as my pick.

1. Jose Altuve
2. Aaron Judge
3. Mike Trout
4. Corey Kluber
5. Francisco Lindor
6. Jose Ramirez
7. Mookie Betts
8. Andrelton Simmons
9. Chris Sale
10. Carlos Correa

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Cody Bellinger
2. Paul DeJong
3. German Marquez

Bellinger has had this sewn up for months, and the other two spots on the ballot were pretty easy to fill, too. I’m not sold on DeJong for the long haul just yet, but he was excellent offensively and solid defensively in 108 games this year. Marquez started 29 games with a 114 OPS+ for the Rockies, allowing him to overtake teammate Kyle Freeland, who faded and was demoted to the bullpen in September.

NL Cy Young

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Zack Greinke
4. Clayton Kershaw
5. Jimmy Nelson

Scherzer kept leaving games with injuries and his last month seemed like such a disappointment, but he still runs away with the crown here. It kind of feels like his 2016 was more dominant, but his 2.51 ERA this year was quite a bit better than last year’s 2.96 mark and was a new personal best. He finished at just 201 innings after coming in at 228 in both 2015 and 2016, but since no one in the NL threw more than 208 innings this year and only seven hit the 200-inning mark at all, he doesn’t lose any points there.

It feels weird to have Kershaw fourth, given that he led the NL in both ERA and wins. Kershaw, though, made just the 27 starts, and they simply weren’t as dominant as usual. His FIP ballooned to 3.07 after coming in under 2.00 each of the previous three seasons. That’s because he allowed 23 homers in 175 innings, matching his total surrendered in 382 innings between 2015 and 2016. He’s also the one guy here working in a pitcher friendly ballpark, and he got one of the easiest schedules among contenders. I think Strasburg and Greinke had better seasons.


At least the difficult call for AL MVP was just between two players. FanGraphs has five National Leaguers within a modest margin of error for the NL WAR lead:

Anthony Rendon: 6.9
Giancarlo Stanton: 6.9
Kris Bryant: 6.7
Joey Votto: 6.6
Charlie Blackmon: 6.5

There’s more separation at the top at Baseball-Reference… but not all of the same names:

Giancarlo Stanton: 7.6
Joey Votto: 7.5
Nolan Arenado: 7.2
Tommy Pham: 6.4
Kris Bryant: 6.1

Still unmentioned is Paul Goldschmidt, who might have won the award had the season ended a month early and who still has a good shot at a top-five finish.

My first instinct is that it comes down to Votto and Stanton, and that while Votto’s 80-point OBP advantage is huge, Stanton had just about as much offensive value after accounting for ballparks and his defense gives him at least a slight edge on Votto. Still, I don’t want to dismiss the other contenders.

Rendon? I think he was quite possibly the NL’s best player this year, but his 147 games are fewer than most of the competition and because he spent half of his time hitting sixth, he just couldn’t be quite as valuable as some of the other stars. In part because he hit lower in the lineup, he came to the plate 100 fewer times than Votto and 85 fewer times than Stanton. Rendon had a 1.165 OPS with RISP this year, but he had 166 plate appearances in those situations, compared to 205 for Goldschmidt.

Bryant ended this year with a 143 OPS+, barely off his MVP mark of 146 from last year, but we can’t just wave away the modest RBI total because he was hitting second. He batted .237/.373/.458 with RISP compared to .305/.408/.573 with the bases empty.

Arenado hit .336/.392/.644 at Coors and .283/.355/.531 elsewhere. Blackmon hit .391/.466/.773 at Coors and .276/.337/.437 elsewhere. By OPS+, Arenado was the NL’s 16th-best hitter among batting-title qualifiers. Blackmon was eighth. They were both very valuable players and both belong on the ballot, but I don’t think they’re contenders for the top spot.

Goldschmidt is another guy who benefits from a hitter friendly ballpark; he hit .321/.443/.639 at home and .275/.363/.489 on the road.

Pham, Bryce Harper, Justin Turner, Freddie Freeman and Zack Cozart all performed like MVP contenders, but none played in more than 130 games. I don’t hold it against Pham quite as much as the others, since he did stay in the lineup once the Cardinals gave him a chance.

Then there’s J.D. Martinez, who I expect will show up on more than a few ballots after hitting 29 homers in 62 games for the Diamondbacks. It’s rather like in 2008, when Manny Ramirez finished fourth in the NL MVP balloting after playing in 53 games for the Dodgers. Martinez wasn’t quite as awesome as Ramirez, though, and the Diamondbacks were already in solid playoff position when he was acquired. It’s no fault of Martinez’s that he wasn’t in the NL all year, but I’d rather fill up my ballot with players that were.

1. Giancarlo Stanton
2. Joey Votto
3. Anthony Rendon
4. Nolan Arenado
5. Charlie Blackmon
6. Tommy Pham
7. Max Scherzer
8. Kris Bryant
9. Paul Goldschmidt
10. Buster Posey

Previous selection

2000: Pedro Martinez
2001: Jason Giambi
2002: Alex Rodriguez
2003: Alex Rodriguez
2004: Vladimir Guerrero
2005: Alex Rodriguez
2006: Derek Jeter
2007: Alex Rodriguez
2008: Dustin Pedroia
2009: Joe Mauer
2010: Josh Hamilton
2011: Justin Verlander
2012: Mike Trout
2013: Mike Trout
2014: Mike Trout
2015: Mike Trout
2016: Mike Trout

AL Cy Young
2000: Pedro Martinez
2001: Mark Mulder
2002: Pedro Martinez
2003: Pedro Martinez
2004: Johan Santana
2005: Johan Santana
2006: Johan Santana
2007: CC Sabathia
2008: Roy Halladay
2009: Zack Greinke
2010: Felix Hernandez
2011: Justin Verlander
2012: Justin Verlander
2013: Max Scherzer
2014: Corey Kluber
2015: Dallas Keuchel
2016: Corey Kluber

AL Rookie of the Year
2000: Terrence Long
2001: Ichiro Suzuki
2002: Eric Hinske
2003: Angel Berroa
2004: Bobby Crosby
2005: Huston Street
2006: Justin Verlander
2007: Dustin Pedroia
2008: Evan Longoria
2009: Andrew Bailey
2010: Neftali Feliz
2011: Jeremy Hellickson
2012: Mike Trout
2013: Jose Iglesias
2014: Jose Abreu
2015: Francisco Lindor
2016: Michael Fulmer

2000: Barry Bonds
2001: Barry Bonds
2002: Barry Bonds
2003: Barry Bonds
2004: Barry Bonds
2005: Derrek Lee
2006: Albert Pujols
2007: Jake Peavy
2008: Albert Pujols
2009: Albert Pujols
2010: Joey Votto
2011: Matt Kemp
2012: Yadier Molina
2013: Andrew McCutchen
2014: Clayton Kershaw
2015: Bryce Harper
2016: Kris Bryant

NL Cy Young
2000: Randy Johnson
2001: Randy Johnson
2002: Randy Johnson
2003: Mark Prior
2004: Randy Johnson
2005: Roger Clemens
2006: Brandon Webb
2007: Jake Peavy
2008: Tim Lincecum
2009: Adam Wainwright
2010: Roy Halladay
2011: Roy Halladay
2012: Clayton Kershaw
2013: Clayton Kershaw
2014: Clayton Kershaw
2015: Zack Greinke
2016: Max Scherzer

NL Rookie of the Year
2000: Rick Ankiel
2001: Albert Pujols
2002: Austin Kearns
2003: Brandon Webb
2004: Khalil Greene
2005: Ryan Howard
2006: Hanley Ramirez
2007: Troy Tulowitzki
2008: Geovany Soto
2009: J.A. Happ
2010: Jason Heyward
2011: Craig Kimbrel
2012: Bryce Harper
2013: Jose Fernandez
2014: Jacob deGrom
2015: Kris Bryant
2016: Corey Seager

Matthew Pouliot
Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.