Every year it's the same picks for MVP and Cy Young -- Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. This year I'm going out on a limb and picking players who I think will breakthrough with great seasons and win an award or two. Here are my slightly delayed picks for the 2003 MLB season. And remember at the end of the season that I was the one who picked the A's to defeat the Diamondbacks in the World Series... unless I'm wrong, then lets just forget this ever happened.
East -- New York Yankees
As usual it's difficult to bet against the Yankees. Even without Derek Jeter and a healthy Mariano Rivera for an undetermined amount of time, the Yankees will persevere. So much has been said about the Yankees "buying whatever they need" but for the most part they've done a great job of getting talent that fits what they need and not getting guys who are major busts. The signings of Jose Contreras and Hideki Matsui should be enough to push them over the top.
Central -- Chicago White Sox
The maturation of this team should come to fruition this year. Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko can add to their all-star years and Frank Thomas didn't have a bad year, he just had a sub-Frank Thomas year. Konerko, Ordonez, Thomas and Carlos Lee compose a formidable lineup that should lead the White Sox past the Minnesota Twins for the division. Pairing newly acquired Bartolo Colon with Mark Buerhle could spark a nice playoff run.
West -- Oakland Athletics
I love having those big three (Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder), knowing all three have a chance to win the Cy Young every year. We haven't said that since the Braves (Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz) in the mid to late '90's. With the Miguel Tejada contract situation out of the way they are playing and only worrying about this year. I think Eric Chavez is an underappreciated star and Erubiel Durazo is a great addition who should add more power to an already solid lineup.
Wild card -- Boston Red Sox
With the Yankee injuries piling up, they would be able to contend for the division but they are lacking a closer and a third starter. A healthy Manny Ramirez can put up Triple Crown-like numbers this year and the lineup should have enough run support for Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe.
Cy Young: Mark Buerhle (White Sox)
MVP: Manny Ramirez (Red Sox)
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Phillips (Indians)
East -- Atlanta Braves
Lineups change but the Braves stay the same. Despite losing Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood to division rivals, the Braves still have one of the best rotations in the league and arguably the best closer to slam the door at the finish. Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield are the linchpins of the lineup and newly acquired first baseman Robert Fick should help carry the offensive load. Make it a dozen consecutive division titles.
Central -- Houston Astros
What a lineup! The addition of Jeff Kent to a lineup that already featured Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell should prove devastating to pitchers in this division. Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt are great pitchers and it looks like they've figured out how to win in that ballpark.
West -- Arizona Diamondbacks
I just can't bet against Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. They aren't just two of the best in the league they are two of the best ever. They have an underappreciated offense that scored more runs last season than any other team in the National League. Manager Bob Brenly should lead this team back to the World Series.
Wild card -- Los Angeles Dodgers
Last year the Dodgers won 92 games without starting pitchers Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort. This year they have them and with Eric Gagne closing the door it should be enough to warrant the first playoff run of the Jim Tracy era. They've been overshadowed in this division but this will be the year that they breakthrough.
Cy Young: Roy Oswalt (Astros)
MVP: Jeff Kent (Astros)
Rookie of the Year: Marlon Byrd (Phillies)