It's the week before the season starts and I'm nervously counting down the hours until Chris Carpenter throws out the first pitch of the year against the NL East champion New York Mets.
At the same time, there are many youngsters on every roster who can't wait to play in their first major league game. After six weeks of spring training it's time for the real thing to begin and this means watching Alex Gordon and countless other rookies break in to the majors for the first time. It is also a difficult time for me to predict who will be the top rookie in each league, if Daisuke Matsuzaka can live up to the grand expectations he has received and if their is that one surprise player who comes up mid season and tears up every pitching staff.
While Alex Gordon and Delmon Young might dazzle the baseball world and prove that they are the future stars of baseball, there is something special about Matsuzaka that will make him a star pitcher on the major league level. For that reason I believe he'll be the Al Rookie of the Year. He will quickly become the ace of the Red Sox's staff and by his outings in spring training he appears to throw some deadly pitches.
In the NL, there is not a celebrity list of rookies, but rather hard working players who'll leave their stamp on National League pitchers. Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff will be good with the Padres, but my selection for NL Rookie of the Year is the Diamondbacks center fielder Chris B.Young. Young is a five tool player in the making who has both power and speed. It will not be long until the baseball community hears the name Chris B.Young and the names of many of his young teammates who are quietly making the D-backs into a real contender in the NL West.
It's very difficult to decide who the home run leaders will be because any year a certain player can have a breakout season. In the NL, Ryan Howard seems like the consensus pick to me because he plays in an extremely favorable hitters park and possesses fantastic power to all parts of the field. Even though Albert Pujols is a power hitter I seem him hitting more extra base hits than long balls.
Still, there is something telling me that Andruw Jones is ready for another 50 home run season and being that it's his contract year he wants to look impressive to potential buyers. A pair of Rockies sluggers, Matt Holiday and Garrett Atkins, are primed for career season's, but they are more in the range of 30-40 dingers. So is Miguel Cabrera, Derrek Lee and Lance Berkman.
In the AL, the home run race will come down to Alex Rodriguez, Travis Hafner and David Ortiz. All three players are the offensive leaders of their teams and can easily belt 45-50 homers. My choice for home run leader is Alex Rodriguez because I feel that he will finally silence the critics and produce a monster season.
Dark horse choices to belt the most dingers are Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Jim Thome. If Thome can remain healthy he can have a 40 plus season and A's slugger Nick Swisher is quickly turning into an elite hitter. Year in and year out Teixeira remains a triple crown threat and is definitely capable of hitting 45-50 home runs.
In my next column, I will reveal who the batting champions and comeback players of the year will be in each league.