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Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
The former University of Arkansas outfielder has the perfect trifecta going for him:
1. He’s one of the best prospects in baseball.
2. He already has some playing time – with incredible success – in Boston under his belt.
3. He’s going to be handed the starting left fielder’s gig on Opening Day.
Jose De Leon, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Another beneficiary of the perfect trifecta mentioned above, De Leon’s odds of winning the award skyrocketed with his trade away from the loaded Dodgers to the quietly solid Rays. Something else playing in his favor: he’ll be pitching at the backend of an extremely talented Tampa rotation.
Matt Strahm. LHP, Kansas City Royals
This is largely dependent on the Kansas City moving the power-armed lefty into the rotation come Opening Day. If he does, he could be this year’s version of Michael Fulmer. But if he stays in the pen expect him to pitch in a lot of high-leverage innings.
Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees
The former first round pick is going to struggle keeping his batting average north of .245, but he’s going to stuff a stat sheet enough that he’s going to grab more than a few votes. Twenty homeruns and a handful of stolen bases coupled with New York’s media hype will do wonders.
Francis Martes, RHP, Houston Astros
He has enough to talent to step into a big league rotation now and average a punch out per inning with a sub-3.00 ERA. The problem – or problems: Houston’s small budget and the five arms holding down the fort (Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Mike Fiers). He’s going to be lightning in a bottle for the club in the second half, though.
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Chicago White Sox & Joe Jimenez, RHP, Detroit Tigers
It all comes down to playing time for both of these talented flame-throwers.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
The former #1 overall pick elevated his offensive approach as he was bumped up to Atlanta last season. It’s going to be difficult for Swanson to repeat his .302/.361/.442 MLB showing in 2017, but he’s a top prospect at a premium defensive position. Meaning: he’s going to get plenty of votes.
Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
After a solid debut in 2016 – one in which he slugged .273/.368/.406 but managed to keep his rookie status in tact – Bell is entering the year as the Pirates’ starting first baseman. Also in his favor: The Buccos’ lineup has a bevy of talented hitters – Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Jung Ho Kang, Jody Mercer, and Francisco Cervelli – so Bell won’t be expected to shoulder a lot of the offensive responsibility. It’s safe to expect his counting stats (RBI, Runs, etc…) to blossom.
Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis’ rotation is already spilling over with the likes of Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha. So Reyes may be relegated to relief work during his first extended look at the big leagues. Even so, the hard-throwing right-hander is poised for some high leverage, impactful outings.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Judging by his showing in Class AAA last season, Crawford might need an adjustment period of sorts in Philadelphia. But, again, he’s a top prospect at a premium position. Plenty of voters will look his way.
Where will Weaver, who’s ready to step into the middle of a big league rotation, find innings? Can Marquez survive – and be successful – in Colorado?