Continuing on, we will look at the AL Central, a division that holds three potential 90+ win teams, a slowly revamping Royals team, and a Tigers team continuing a rebuilding stretch. As always, the front runner, is the player most likely to win it on the team, and the sleeper is the player who many arent talking about, but has a legitimate chance of possibly contending for one in 2021. And i will be leaving the likelihood next to the player from 1-100 (1= no shot, 100= very good chance)
Front Runner: Jeimer Candelario (8/100)
Sleeper: Willi Castro (6/100)
As much as I wanted to put Miguel Cabrera for either one of these, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, as he is 37, and regulated to a full time DH, which makes it nearly impossible to take home the award moving forward. Candelario for the first time in his career with the Tigers, showed a “full” season of promise, finishing 2020 with an .872 OPS and making much more consistent hard contact, ranking in the top 86th percentile in Hard Hit percentage in 2020. Entering his prime at 28, if he can sustain this level of rising contact percentages, and continue to play a slightly above average third base he could receive some votes.
The youngster Castro really impressed in his first full look in the big leagues, finishing fourth in the voting for ROTY, and finishing with a .349/.381/.550 slash with an .932 OPS over 36 games. He showed a very impressive collection of power and contact that is rarely seen in 23 year old players. Castro should likely find a spot at second base with the likely departure of Jonathan Schoop to free agency, which is good, because as a shortstop he was, well… horrible, posting a -7 DRS in 212 innings a short.
Kansas City Royals
Front Runner: Salvador Perez/Whit Merrifield (30/100)
Sleeper: Hunter Dozier (19/100)
I just could not decide between who truly was the front runner for the Royals between Perez and Merrifield, so I put both of them, because they are pretty opposite players and appeal to both sides of the game. Perez is a power hitting catcher, and with Alex Gordon leaving, will be the face of the franchise moving forward, going on his tenth year with the team. 2020 was an outstanding bounce back season for Perez after an injury, posting a .986 OPS and finishing 17th in MVP voting. On the other side, Merrifield has all the tools to be an MVP caliber player, as he also finished 17th in MVP voting back in 2018. 2020 was a bit of a down season by Merrifield’s perspective, seeing his OBP drop and his OPS go to the lowest it has been since his rookie year, coming in at .764.
Hunter Dozier is an underrated player, who had a bit of a down season in 2020. Remember when first baseman Hunter Dozier led the majors in triples in and was the only player in MLB to have at least 10 doubles, 10 triples and 10 homeruns in 2019? Or when he posted a .870 OPS and 125 OPS+ in that same season? Yeah, that happened. Dozier does not have a cemented spot on the field, seeing time at the corners in both the infield and outfield in 2020, and the Santana signing probably means he will move over to third base full time.
Front Runner: Josh Donaldson (47/100)
Sleeper: Luis Arraez (34/100)
The obvious choice for front runner is the 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, or the Bringer of Rain as he is called. The newly 35 year old (how is he already 35) is coming off of a strange 2020, that saw his average drop, but his ability to get on base maintain at the same level it was when he was voted 11th in MVP voting in 2019. His 2020 stat line ended up looking like this: .222/.373/.469 with an .842 OPS, and on top of that he plays well acknowledge outstanding defense at third, despite his aging. He will be a contender for the MVP until the day he retires and I stand by that firmly.
Luis Arraez will not hit for power, which might hurt his chances, as he only has hit four home runs in 487 career plate appearances, but he still finds ways to put up numbers in his first two seasons that make plenty of people take notice. So far in his career, he has posted a .331/.390/.429 line with a .819 OPS. If going into his age 24 season he can begin to show the promise to hit for a little more power, it wont be long before he begins to be put into the conversation for MVP.
Chicago White Sox
Front Runner: Jose Abreu (89/100)
Sleeper: Tim Anderson (43/100)
I mean, of course the 2020 AL MVP is the front runner for his own team, I mean who else would it be, Adam Engel? Forget about it. Abreu has long been an undervalued portion of this team and of the entire league, just casually putting together a .870 OPS for his career, which will now be highlighted by a .987 mark that was made in 2020. On top of everything else, Abreu is such a great human being, it makes you root for him just that much more.
Anderson catches a good deal of heat for his play on the field, constantly being marked as bad for baseball by the act of his own “antics” as they call it. I absolutely love it, and im a “pitcher” (if you call what I did last year pitching) at the college level, baseball needs more people like Anderson who attract the younger generation. Oh yeah, he also is pretty damn good at baseball, especially in the last two seasons, and finishing 7th in MVP voting in 2020, despite not having much talk behind how good of a campaign he had.
Front Runner: Jose Ramirez (86/100)
Sleeper: Carlos Carrasco (10/100)
Now while I do believe that Francisco Lindor is going to get traded at some point in the upcoming season, I believe he isnt the best player on his own team, I think Jose Ramirez is better. The second place finisher in last years MVP voting and finishing top 3 in voting two other times, Ramirez has apparently kicked the demons that were surrounding him during that horrible half a season stretch in 2019.
The sleeper just couldn’t have been Shane Bieber, because he is not a sleeper one bit, and is right behind Ramirez and Lindor for the Indians main players that should have the best chance. That brings the soon to be 34 year old Carrasco to the main spotlight for the sleeper, and like Mancini, after battling with cancer, what a story it would be. Carrasco had a beautiful bounce back season for the Indians in 2020, posting a 2.91 ERA with a 157 ERA+ and 1.21 WHIP. While this is a long shot, especially when it comes to a pitcher, I wouldn’t put it past someone who has won a bout with cancer and who is also an outstanding pitcher.