MLB award predictions for 2024: Mookie Betts, Juan Soto, Wyatt Langford among Bowden’s picks

Happy Opening Day Eve! It’s time for my annual award predictions for the American League and National League. Will Ronald Acuña Jr. win a second consecutive NL MVP Award? Will the AL Rookie of the Year Award go to a Ranger or an Oriole? Will the NL Comeback Player of the Year be Chris Sale or Frankie Montas, two of my top candidates, or someone else? Which managers and executives from each league will be honored as the best?

I’ve never been able to run the table on my award predictions — who does? — but they’re always a blast to do and even more fun to debate.

The most difficult predictions for me this time were AL MVP and NL Cy Young because those races are loaded with so many strong candidates.

As in previous years, I have included second – and third-place predictions for each award as well as a dark-horse pick. Let’s hear your winners in the comments section and then we can look back at the end of the season to see who got the most right.

American League

MVP: Juan Soto

Second place: Julio Rodríguez
Third place: Corey Seager
Dark horse: Royce Lewis

Being traded to the Yankees put Juan Soto in the best possible position to have a career year. The reasoning is four-fold. First, on most days Soto will be batting directly in front of Aaron Judge, which will make it more difficult for pitchers to walk him and force them to pitch to him. Second, the small confines of right field at Yankee Stadium will help him for half of the schedule as soon as he learns that a fly ball to right will be a dinger. Third (and maybe most importantly), he’ll be playing for a contract as he’s in his free-agent walk year. And finally, at 25 years old, he’s beginning what most algorithms believe is the start of his prime years of performances.

I have Rodríguez as the runner-up as I believe he will improve upon his 32-home run, 37-stolen base season from last year. I was really torn between Soto and Rodríguez. Seager should have another big season and I’ll probably be predicting him for an MVP award in the LCS and/or World Series because that’s when he excels the most. If Lewis can stay healthy for an entire season, he could be a dark horse in this race — he’s that talented.

Cy Young: Pablo López

Second place: Corbin Burnes
Third place: George Kirby
Dark horse: Tarik Skubal



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I was going to go with Gerrit Cole winning back-to-back AL Cy Young awards, but the early season elbow injury took him off the board. I wanted to pivot to Corbin Burnes, but he didn’t finish strong with the Brewers last season and didn’t move the needle for me in spring training either, so I went with López, who struck out 234 and logged a 3.33 FIP in 2023. López has been extremely consistent over the past four years. He finished seventh in the AL Cy Young voting last year and I think he makes the jump to win the award this year. I’ll go with Burnes, who will be pitching for his next contract and has four top-eight finishes in Cy Young voting, as the runner-up. Kirby gets the third-place nod because of his special command (of all his pitches), which makes him a surprise yet legit contender. I’ll take Skubal as my dark-horse pick; I considered Cole Ragans too.

Rookie of the Year: Wyatt Langford

Second place: Jackson Holliday
Third place: Evan Carter
Dark horse: Colt Keith

Langford has flat-out hit everywhere he’s been. In 2022, he hit .356 with 26 home runs as a sophomore at Florida, then batted .373 with 21 home runs as a junior in 2023 before being drafted fourth overall by the Rangers. In the minors last year, he slashed .360/.480/.677 with 10 more home runs and went from rookie ball to A-ball to Double A to Triple A. Then he arrived in spring training this year and hit .365 with six home runs. He hits high velocity, nasty breaking balls, deceptive changeups and everything everywhere in the strike zone. I also considered the Orioles’ Jackson Holliday, another phenom who can flat-out hit, but I don’t think he’ll hit for as much power as Langford in his rookie season. Carter will be in the race, too, as no young player works a count better than he does. My dark horse is Tigers second baseman Colt Keith, who has 20-home run potential this year.



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Comeback Player of the Year: Royce Lewis

Second place: Trevor Story
Third place: Carlos Correa
Dark horse: Carlos Rodón

This is one of the hardest categories to predict. I went with Lewis because if he can stay healthy and play at least 140 games, I believe he will be the Twins’ best player and an MVP candidate, which should be enough to win this award. Story is healthy and I expect at least a 20-home run, 20-stolen base type season from him. Lewis’ teammate Correa could become a candidate too if he can keep his lower half healthy. Rodón is a dark horse but his inconsistent spring training makes it tough to pick him to win this award.



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Manager of the Year: Joe Espada

Second place: Brandon Hyde
Third place: Rocco Baldelli
Dark horse: A.J. Hinch

The Manager of the Year Award is the biggest joke because it rarely goes to the best manager. It typically goes to the manager who wins with a team that’s not expected to win or an inexperienced manager who has early success. The AL is loaded with elite managers including Bruce Bochy, Aaron Boone, Kevin Cash and Alex Cora. I have none of them winning this award though. Instead, I’m going with Espada, a rookie manager who has tremendous communication and strategic capabilities, and I think those will shine through as he guides an Astros team with arguably the best overall talent in the AL. Hyde should get a long look if a lot of the Orioles’ first- and second-year talents play up to potential. Baldelli and Hinch will get serious consideration if the Twins or Tigers win their division or grab a wild-card berth. Hinch is a dark horse because expectations for the Tigers aren’t as high.

Executive of the Year: Mike Elias

Second place: Dana Brown
Third place: Erik Neander
Dark horse: Brian Cashman

Elias’ Orioles landed Burnes from the Brewers without giving up any of their top-seven prospects in the trade and his deft drafting over the years should bear fruit this year. If Jackson Holliday, Colton Cowser, Coby Mayo and Grayson Rodriguez live up to their potential and Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson continue to develop into superstars it will be hard for Elias not to win this award. I also think he’ll trade for another starting pitcher between now and the trade deadline. Astros GM Dana Brown will get consideration because of the Josh Hader signing, Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander is always one to watch because he’s one of the best of this era, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman is in the mix because of the Juan Soto trade and the Marcus Stroman signing.

National League

MVP: Mookie Betts

Second place: Ronald Acuña Jr.
Third place: Corbin Carroll
Dark horse: Austin Riley

I almost picked Acuña to win back-to-back MVP awards but because it’s so difficult, I went with Betts, who has changed positions to shortstop. There is nothing Betts can’t do on the baseball field: He can beat you with his glove, arm, speed, base running, range, power and hit tool. With Betts hitting in front of Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman, opposing pitchers will have to pitch to him, and remember last year he broke the record for most RBIs by a leadoff hitter. Carroll will win an MVP Award at some point in his career, but I just don’t think it will be this year. Riley has strung together three straight seasons with 33 or more homers, not to mention three consecutive top-six finishes in the MVP voting, so he’s always a threat to win.



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Cy Young: Logan Webb

Second place: Spencer Strider
Third place: Zack Wheeler
Dark horse: Freddy Peralta

I just didn’t want to go chalk with Strider because I think he’ll lead the lead in strikeouts and pile up innings, but figure the Braves will pull back his innings come August and September to get him ready for the playoffs. Therefore, I decided to pick Webb, who was the runner-up to Blake Snell in last year’s NL Cy Young voting. Webb posted a 3.16 FIP over 33 starts last season and led the league in innings pitched (216) and walks per nine (1.3). His command and ownership of the lower part of the zone are special. I considered Wheeler and Peralta as well.

Rookie of the Year: Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Second place: Jackson Chourio
Third place: Jackson Merrill
Dark horse: James Wood

The Dodgers spent $325 million on Yamamoto and if he doesn’t at least win Rookie of the Year, it will be a $325 million mistake. I still think the Rookie of the Year rules should change and count years played professionally in Japan (or elsewhere), which would make Yamamoto ineligible for this award. However, under the current rules, Yamamoto has to be considered the front-runner. It will be fascinating to see who finishes second as a couple of Jacksons are going to be in the race: Chourio of the Brewers has the ability to hit 15 to 20 home runs and steal 20 to 30 bases; Merrill of the Padres is learning to play center field on the fly and has one of the loudest bats in the game. Wood and his ridiculous power won’t be on the Nationals for Opening Day but he’ll quickly become a dark-horse candidate if and when they call him up, which probably will be sometime in May.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chris Sale

Second place: Frankie Montas
Third place: Tim Anderson
Dark horse: Kris Bryant

If spring training is any indication, Sale has a legitimate chance to be the NL Comeback Player of the Year this season with the Braves. He looks healthy and his raw stuff is back to an elite level. If he makes 25 to 30 starts, I think he must be considered the favorite in this category. Montas is hoping to pitch like he did for the A’s three years ago before his shoulder problems, Anderson is trying to bounce back from two embarrassing seasons with the White Sox and Bryant is trying to prove to the Rockies that he’s not a complete free-agent bust. I’m rooting for all four of these players to have comeback type seasons.

Manager of the Year: David Bell

Second place: Craig Counsell
Third place: Skip Schumaker
Dark horse: Carlos Mendoza

Dave Roberts of the Dodgers and Brian Snitker of the Braves should win the most games of any manager this year, but because that’s expected neither will end up being a candidate for the award. I predict the Reds will win the NL Central, and if that were to happen, history says in all likelihood Bell would win NL Manager of the Year. The Reds are loaded with players 24 to 27 years old, in the lineup and the rotation, and they have more players primed for breakout seasons than any team in the sport. They’ve also had some early season setbacks such as third baseman Noelvi Marte being suspended for 80 games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, TJ Friedl suffering a wrist fracture and Matt McLain injuring his shoulder. However, I like the Reds’ depth and think they can overcome this early adversity. Sticking in the NL Central, if Counsell can win significantly more games than David Ross did last year for the Cubs, he’ll get serious consideration, but he has to win the division. Schumaker will be in the race if he can find a way to get the Marlins to the postseason (again) and the same can be said of first-year Mets manager Carlos Mendoza.

Executive of the Year: Andrew Friedman

Second place: Mike Hazen
Third place: Nick Krall
Dark horse: Alex Anthopoulos

I know Friedman’s Dodgers spent more than a billion dollars this offseason. However, if your team can acquire two top-of-the-rotation starters (Tyler Glasnow and Yamamoto), the best player in baseball (Ohtani) and a 25-home run bat (Teoscar Hernández), it’s hard not to hand over this award regardless of the checks that had to be written. Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen should be in this conversation after signing Jordan Montgomery and Eduardo Rodriguez to bolster their rotation as well as adding the power bats of Eugenio Suárez and Joc Pederson. Reds president of baseball operations Nick Krall did a great job in building pitching and infield depth to weather injuries. And of course the Braves’ Alex Anthopoulos, who in my opinion put together the best overall team in the sport the past two years, should be given consideration for this award.



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(Top image: Mookie Betts: David Durochik / Diamond Images via Getty Images; Juan Soto: Cliff Welch / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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