SN’s baseball season preview: player awards

The regular season opener between the Red Sox and the Yankees is just days away (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET), so what better time to look into the crystal ball? Sporting News’ 2010 forecast includes our awards predictions, division-by-division forecasts and playoff projections. Not only are we predicting a World Series rematch—with an identical result—but also we’re projecting that seven of last season’s eight playoff teams will return to the postseason.

With lineup protection this year, opponents won't be able to pitch around Albert Pujols as much.
With lineup protection this year, opponents won’t be able to pitch around Albert Pujols as much.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
2006 Sporting News player of the year Ryan Howard says: "He is consistent year in and year out. He does what he does. Having Matt Holliday behind him definitely can help him get better pitches. He is one of the top players in the game, and he goes out there and does his thing."

A.L. PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
2003 Sporting News A.L. pitcher of the year Roy Halladay says: "You see the overwhelming stuff, and it’s not just one pitch. He’s got three, four pitches that he can throw in any count. When you can do that, hitters are always defending because there’s not a count they can get into where they know what they’re going to get. The more he pitches, the more comfortable he’ll get doing that. His stuff will get better as his location gets even better."

N.L. PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
2005 and 2006 Sporting News N.L. pitcher of the year Chris Carpenter says: "He throws 95 with a nasty forkball and curveball. Watching him pitch, he commands the strike zone as well as anybody I see. He’s only going to get better as long as he stays healthy. He’ll continue to figure out when to take a little off, put a little on so he won’t use as much energy."

A.L. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Austin Jackson, CF, Tigers
2006 Sporting News A.L. rookie of the year Justin Verlander says: "He has all the necessary talent—speed, agility, good fielding, good hitting, hits for power, makes contact—and he’s for sure stepping into a big opportunity. That’s what you want when you’re a young player. You don’t want to be somebody who fills in; you want be a player."

N.L. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
2006 Sporting News N.L. rookie of the year Dan Uggla says: "You never know what’s going to happen, but I’ve heard he’s like a freak over there. He’s got great stuff. He throws everything for plus pitches. I’ve heard he’s (throwing) 95 to 100 (mph). I’ve heard he has a good head on his shoulders and he works hard."

— Stan McNeal

The regular season opener between the Red Sox and the Yankees is just days away (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET), so what better time to look into the crystal ball? Sporting News’ 2010 forecast includes our awards predictions, division-by-division forecasts and playoff projections. Not only are we predicting a World Series rematch—with an identical result—but also we’re projecting that seven of last season’s eight playoff teams will return to the postseason.

With lineup protection this year, opponents won't be able to pitch around Albert Pujols as much.
With lineup protection this year, opponents won’t be able to pitch around Albert Pujols as much.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
2006 Sporting News player of the year Ryan Howard says: "He is consistent year in and year out. He does what he does. Having Matt Holliday behind him definitely can help him get better pitches. He is one of the top players in the game, and he goes out there and does his thing."

A.L. PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
2003 Sporting News A.L. pitcher of the year Roy Halladay says: "You see the overwhelming stuff, and it’s not just one pitch. He’s got three, four pitches that he can throw in any count. When you can do that, hitters are always defending because there’s not a count they can get into where they know what they’re going to get. The more he pitches, the more comfortable he’ll get doing that. His stuff will get better as his location gets even better."

N.L. PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
2005 and 2006 Sporting News N.L. pitcher of the year Chris Carpenter says: "He throws 95 with a nasty forkball and curveball. Watching him pitch, he commands the strike zone as well as anybody I see. He’s only going to get better as long as he stays healthy. He’ll continue to figure out when to take a little off, put a little on so he won’t use as much energy."

A.L. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Austin Jackson, CF, Tigers
2006 Sporting News A.L. rookie of the year Justin Verlander says: "He has all the necessary talent—speed, agility, good fielding, good hitting, hits for power, makes contact—and he’s for sure stepping into a big opportunity. That’s what you want when you’re a young player. You don’t want to be somebody who fills in; you want be a player."

N.L. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
2006 Sporting News N.L. rookie of the year Dan Uggla says: "You never know what’s going to happen, but I’ve heard he’s like a freak over there. He’s got great stuff. He throws everything for plus pitches. I’ve heard he’s (throwing) 95 to 100 (mph). I’ve heard he has a good head on his shoulders and he works hard."

— Stan McNeal

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