I recently took a look at 9 players who could have breakout seasons in the American League. While I didn’t intend for this to become a series, I wanted to take a look at some pitchers who should be vying for the American League Cy Young award, and figured, why not use the same format? So, again, with a nod to MLB Network’s Prime 9 series, I will look at some 2012 Cy Young candidates.
Some of these of course are going to be obvious, but that doesn’t make them any less of a candidate. At the end of the list, I will give my candidate to win the award. Last year, prior to the season, I had Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw as the winners. I hit on Kershaw, and if it wasn’t for Detroit’s own Justin Verlander, Weaver might have won as well. Anyway, here we go…..
1. Justin Verlander (Tigers)-
Of course I have to list the reigning Cy Young and MVP winner as a candidate for the 2012 Cy Young award. While these awards are often difficult to repeat, I’m certainly not going to put it past Verlander to do so. Justin has become one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, and arguably possesses the best stuff for a starter in the game. He put it all together last season, and while I do expect some regression, he is certainly going to have 20 win potential again.
2. Jered Weaver (Angels)-
My choice for last season had himself a fantastic 2011, and at the start of the year, it looked like he might run away with it. His implosion on the mound against the Tigers in a battle against Verlander ultimately changed the race for the Cy Young last year. Weaver should have a little more offensive support behind him, and if he can replicate his own numbers, it might mean a few more wins.
3. James Shields (Rays)-
Shields took his solid career to another level last season, finishing 3rd in the Cy Young award voting. He led the league in complete games and shutouts, all while posting a sub 3 ERA and winning 16 games for the Rays. Some of his difficulty in winning the award will be because his offense isn’t the best, and is record might suffer from it, but Shields K/BB ratio has been really good for two years in a row, and I don’t expect his production to drop much, if at all.
4. Felix Hernandez (Mariners)-
Hernandez won this award two years ago, and while he toils in somewhat relative anonymity in Seattle, he still possesses some of the best pure stuff in the game. His “bad” year last year was still better than most pitchers, posting an ERA of 3.47 and a 3.31 K/BB rate. Felix should benefit from what looks like an improving Seattle offense, and of course has a fantastic home park in which to pitch in.
5. C.C. Sabathia (Yankees)-
One of the more amazing things to me the past few seasons is the quietness in which Sabathia goes about his yearly dominance in New York City of all places. The past 3 seasons, Sabathia, has finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting, has won 59 games, and has posted an ERA of around 3.18. There is no reason to believe he can’t win around 20 games again, especially considering he is backed by one of the best offenses in the league. That might actually hurt him when it comes to voting, but people shouldn’t miss what a real good pitcher he is.
6. David Price (Rays)-
Price, along with teammate James Shields, is one of those guys whose W-L record might suffer a little bit because of his team’s lack of offense. However, Price is becoming one of the best young pitchers in the game. His K rate is increasing, while his walk rate is decreasing, which is obviously a good sign. I think he was a little bit unlucky last year, giving up quite a few homers, and if that rate drops, he could be a serious contender.
7. C.J. Wilson (Angels)-
Wilson is another one of those guys who kind of slips under the radar, but has been quite fantastic the past 3 seasons. Now an Angel, Wilson could see some really good numbers improve, pitching in a more favorable home ball park. He finished 6th in Cy Young voting last season, and could move up the list this season easily if he can repeat his career low walk rate of 3/9 of last season.
8. Jon Lester (Red Sox)-
A couple things go against Lester winning the award. One, he pitches in Fenway half of the time. Two, his K rate has seen a decline the past couple of years. That being said, Lester’s stuff, and his very good results for 3 years in a row means that he is in the discussion at least. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see him post a Cy Young season, and he does have the advantage of a good offense that could pile up wins for him.
9. Ricky Romero (Blue Jays)-
I’m sure some of you might be thinking….what the hell? And no, I am not putting his name on this list for shock value. If I wanted that, I would’ve went Justin Masterson or something. How many of you realize that Romero finished 10th in the voting last season? Romero won 15 games last year, posting an ERA of 2.92. I like that he has improved every year he has been in the league. And I like that he has a strong offense supporting him. He is obviously a dark horse, but if the Jays as a team surprise, he is going to be a part of the conversation.
Well, there you have 9 guys. There are certainly more guys that could emerge. A couple of Red Sox in Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz might be in the mix. I wouldn’t be surprised if second year pitchers Michael Pineda and Jeremy Hellickson were a part of the conversation as well.
I said I would give you my winner, and as much as I want to say Justin Verlander, I just can’t expect him to repeat the type of season he had last year. He may not need to, but it just seems that winning an award like this two years in a row is very difficult. I do believe the Angels are going to be a good team, but I can’t go Weaver as I think last year is about as good as it gets for him.
I’m just going on a hunch here, but I like David Price.
Who do you all have?