Spring Training is right around the corner and that means the start of 2016 baseball! Of course with every season, there are the wins, championships, and awards. I’d like to continue looking at awards’ candidates for 2016 with the American League Cy Young award.
We’ve got to first look at who’s already accomplished this major accomplishment and determine whether it’s viable for them to do it once more. Here are the current AL pitchers that have won a Cy Young award previously with the year and team they accomplished it with and then the team that they currently play with if it’s different:
C.C. Sabathia (2007 Indians; Yankees): The 6-time All-Star hasn’t been known to dominate in recent years since the early years of his Yankees tenure. His velocity has been diminishing and he recently backed out of the Yankees postseason roster due to his alcohol struggles. Sabathia needs to first get his life back together before he can return to pitching. I don’t expect him to do it at an elite level to contend for the Cy Young any time soon.
Félix Hernández (2010 Mariners): Also a 6x All-Star, Hernández is still only 29 years of age–the middle of his prime. In 2015, he became the fourth-youngest ever to record his 2000th strikeout. He’s been selected to the All-Star team for the past five seasons and is still one of the most dominant in the business. If King Felix continues to do what he does, he should be up there in contention for his second Cy Young.
Justin Verlander (2011 Tigers): Verlander had a stellar 2011 season when he not only won the Cy Young, but he won the AL Triple Crown and the MVP award. The 6x All-Star hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing one of the most lucrative pitching contracts in history with the Tigers and his velocity has been diminishing as well. However, there is still hope for JV. Verlander was one of the best pitchers in the second half of 2015 season. He found a way to work with his slower velocity and still get guys out. It seems he’s found how to deal with phase two of his career and prove he’s still among the best. With a healthy offseason, Verlander could have a productive year next year. He might not contend for the Cy Young, but his future is still bright.
David Price (2012 Rays; Red Sox): Price has simply been one of the best in the business for quite a while now. The 5x All-Star is coming off a second-place finish in the 2015 Cy Young. With big bats backing him up in the powerful Red Sox lineup, there is no doubt that Price can continue his success in Beantown. Expect Price to contend for that Cy Young and be that ace the Red Sox needed so badly last year.
R.A. Dickey (2012 Mets; Blue Jays): Dickey hasn’t lived up to expectations since the Blue Jays traded for the reigning NL Cy Young after the 2012 season. His single best season was 2012, and besides that, Dickey hasn’t been dominant in any other season. Simply put, the Blue Jays are not counting on Dickey to have a Cy Young season this year, and possibly not even a decent season, considering they’re trying to deal the 41-year-old.
Corey Kluber (2014 Indians): Kluber took the major leagues by storm when he beat out King Felix for the Cy Young in 2014. Since then, the K-Bot has done just that–rack up strikeouts like nothing else. With a solid Indians offense, Kluber hopes he can lead the Indians to the playoffs and possibly himself to his second Cy Young in three seasons.
Dallas Keuchel (2015 Astros): Keuchel started 2015 off with a bang when he pitched to an 0.73 ERA in April, winning Pitcher of the Month. That surely was a sign of things to come, as Keuchel finished with a sub-2 ERA and beat former Cy Young David Price. Post the playoffs, Keuchel was awarded for his play on the field with the Cy Young, the Gold Glove, the Fielding Bible, and the Warren Spahn award (for the best lefty in the majors). Astros expect great things out of Dallas, and he hopes he can repeat as the AL Cy Young.
Besides the former Cy Youngs, there are always those pitchers that are consistent with their team and have good seasons year in and year out. There are always those young studs that can have a breakout year. And there are players that possibly have switched leagues to the American League that could contend:
Sonny Gray, Athletics: Gray finished in third place in last year’s Cy Young voting. The Vanderbilt product started showing his best stuff in the playoffs, on baseball’s biggest stage, during the 2013 season. During the last game of the season, he defeated the Twins to clinch the Athletics the AL West division crown. In the ALDS against the Tigers, he pitched eight scoreless innings in Game 2 against the Tigers. In a win or go-home Game 5, the A’s chose Sonny Gray over their ace Bartolo Colon to pitch against Justin Verlander. Gray surrendered only three runs, but the A’s offense couldn’t back him up in a 3-0 defeat. He became the A’s Opening Day starter the following season. He went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA in 2015. He’ll definitely be contending for a Cy Young next year, as long as he remains healthy.
Chris Archer, Rays: Archer broke into the Majors in 2013 when he finished third place in the Rookie of the Year voting behind teammate at the time, Wil Myers, and Jose Iglesias. In 2014, the Rays decided to lock up their ace of the future to a six-year extension. In 2015, he was named the Rays’ Opening Day starter and had his first All-Star selection. He finished in 5th place for the Cy Young and this young stud figures to climb up the rankings next year.
Chris Sale, White Sox: Sale has always been an analyst’s favorite whenever someone attempts to predict that year’s Cy Young winner. The four-time All-Star has never received enough support from the White Sox lineup to get him enough wins to put him into serious consideration. However, his other stats were exemplary. He holds the current record for the most strikeouts in a season, accomplished just last year. With the White Sox adding Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie and possibly adding another outfielder to the Sox’ lineup, Sale figures to finally get that run support that could lead the Sox to the playoffs.
Yu Darvish, Rangers: Darvish is one of the best in the business when he’s healthy. Unfortunately for him and the Rangers, health has been a major concern the past two seasons. Before his injury shortened year in 2014, Darvish was elected to three All-Star teams in the three years he spent in the MLB. In 2013, he placed second in the Cy Young to Max Scherzer. If Darvish can stay healthy, there’s no reason not to think that he can resume his dominating ways. However, that’s a big if and Darvish hasn’t pitched in the majors for nearly two years. He might have a bounce back season, but perhaps not Cy Young-worthy.
Cole Hamels, Rangers: Currently the co-ace of the Rangers since being brought over from Philadelphia at the Trade Deadline, Hamels is a seasoned veteran. He’s a 3x All-Star who’s also won the NLCS MVP and the World Series MVP while with the Phillies in 2008. However, he’s put a lot of innings on his arm and there’s no way of knowing how his 32-year-old body can hold up playing in the American League for a full season. He might be dominant for the injury-prone Rangers to be a solid co-ace or #2, but it might not be a season where’s one of the best in the league.
Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers: The two-time All-Star is transitioning to the American League for the first time in his career. He’s spent seven years with the Nationals, leading the NL in wins in 2013 and threw a no-hitter in 2014. He’s a career 3.32 ERA pitcher so he’s been consistently reliable for the Nationals over the years. However, due to lack of experience pitching to AL hitters, it’s easy to assume that Zimmermann might struggle early. He still has the stuff to be an All-Star in 2015, but perhaps not the Cy Young. If he can adjust quickly and stay healthy, he can be a game-changer for a Tigers team that’s looking to return to the playoffs.
In light of all those candidates, I think there are a few that I think really stand out to me:
Predicted Finalists: David Price, Chris Sale, Chris Archer
Predicted Winner: Chris Sale
What do you think? Who do you think will contend for the Cy Young? Who will win it? Let me know!