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Awards predictions: Experts make their picks

Poll weighs opinions of MLB.com reporters, MLB Network analysts
MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

With the 2018 regular season nearly upon us, it's a great time to take an expert poll on who will win this year's individual awards. With so many exciting candidates in each category, how these awards races eventually shape up will be fascinating to follow.

We polled more than 50 experts from the MLB.com and MLB Network universe, using the traditional Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards as our framework. These can also give us a sense of who the contenders will be for the Esurance MLB Awards, which do not take league designation into account.

With the 2018 regular season nearly upon us, it's a great time to take an expert poll on who will win this year's individual awards. With so many exciting candidates in each category, how these awards races eventually shape up will be fascinating to follow.

We polled more than 50 experts from the MLB.com and MLB Network universe, using the traditional Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards as our framework. These can also give us a sense of who the contenders will be for the Esurance MLB Awards, which do not take league designation into account.

Here are the results:

American League Most Valuable Player Award
1. Mike Trout, CF, Angels: Trout being the favorite to win the AL MVP Award is not news, but it is remarkable how consistently excellent the 26-year-old has been. In his first five full seasons in the Majors, Trout led the AL in WAR (FanGraphs) each year, which had previously never been done. Last season, a left thumb injury limited Trout to 114 games, and he still managed a 6.9 fWAR, third in the AL. With two AL MVP Awards to his name already, Trout is primed for a third in eight seasons.

Video: Trout projected to be almost 'super' next season

2. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros: Correa bounced back in a big way in 2017, raising his OPS to a career-high .941 after it fell to .811 in '16. The '15 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner hit 24 homers and earned his first All-Star selection while helping lead Houston to a World Series title. As his trajectory continues upward, the AL MVP Award is next on the checklist.

3. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles: Machado finished in the top five in AL MVP Award voting in 2015 and '16, but he got off to a slow start last season. Could '18 be the year he collects the hardware? Machado came back from last year's All-Star break hot, and in the second half, he posted a .290/.326/.500 slash line with 15 homers. If he puts an entire season like that together, watch out.

Also receiving votes: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees; Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians; Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Yankees; Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

AL Cy Young Award
1. Chris Sale, LHP, Red Sox: It's incredible to think Sale hasn't yet won a Cy Young Award over his eight-season career, which features a 2.98 ERA and a 5.1 strikeouts-per-walk ratio (best all time, minimum 1,000 innings). But that could all change if he's as dominant over an entire season as he was over the first half of the 2017 campaign, when he posted a 2.75 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 12.5 K/9 innings. He looked like a lock for last year's AL Cy Young until he faded a little down the stretch while Corey Kluber ran roughshod over the league down the stretch (0.84 ERA in September).

Video: MLB Tonight guys discuss Chris Sale heading into 2018

2. Corey Kluber, RHP, Indians: Kluber is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner after posting a 2.25 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 11.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 2017. As the Tribe eyes a return to the World Series after falling short last October, Kluber will be at the forefront of Cleveland's quest.

3. Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros: Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and AL MVP Award winner, was overpowering for Houston down the stretch in '17, helping the Astros win their first World Series following a late-August trade from the Tigers. He posted a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and was named the AL Championship Series MVP against the Yankees.

Also receiving votes: David Price, LHP, Red Sox; Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees; Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles; Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Astros; James Paxton, LHP, Mariners

AL Rookie of the Year Award
1. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Angels: Ohtani's is perhaps the most intriguing storyline entering the 2018 season. Will his legendary two-way performance in Japan translate to the MLB level, making him the best two-way player since Babe Ruth? Based on his subpar Spring Training performance (.107 batting average at the plate, 27.00 ERA on the mound) it's clear the transition won't be seamless, but our panel clearly believes in his upside.

Video: Expectations for Ohtani's first season in 2018

2. A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics: Oakland's No. 1 prospect and the 32nd-ranked overall prospect per MLB Pipeline opened Cactus League play with 10 straight scoreless innings. The 6-foot-7 left-hander has a 97-mph fastball and devastating slider, moving up quickly through the A's farm system. With Oakland's thin rotation depth, the 22-year-old will likely make his big league debut soon.

3. Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox: The White Sox acquired Jimenez in the trade that sent Jose Quintana to Chicago, and baseball's No. 4 prospect was so impressive in Spring Training (4-for-7 with two homers), manager Rick Renteria compared his first camp to Ken Griffey Jr.'s.

Also receiving votes: Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers; Miguel Andujar, 3B, Yankees; Gleyber Torres, INF, Yankees;  Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

AL Manager of the Year Award
1. Aaron Boone, Yankees: In his first season at the helm of the Bronx Bombers, who are coming off an ALCS appearance and fell one game shy of the World Series, Boone has a loaded lineup that now includes Stanton in addition to Judge and Gary Sanchez. But navigating the waters of the AL East, which New York hasn't won since 2012, is never an easy task.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Boone on first foray in managing

2. Paul Molitor, Twins: Molitor guided Minnesota to its first postseason berth since 2010 with a Wild Card Game appearance last year. The club added to its roster in the offseason, acquiring starters Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi, as well as slugger Logan Morrison.

3. Mike Scioscia, Angels: With excitement abound in Los Angeles after the arrival of Ohtani and considering they have the best all-around player in Trout, Scioscia could very well lead the Angels to their first postseason appearance since 2014, and second since '09.

Also receiving votes: Alex Cora, Red Sox; John Gibbons, Blue Jays; Terry Francona, Indians; Buck Showalter, Orioles; AJ Hinch, Astros; Rick Renteria, White Sox; Scott Servais, Mariners

National League Most Valuable Player Award
1. Bryce Harper, RF, Nationals: Harper has been so good for so long, it's hard to remember he's only 25 and already has one NL MVP Award on his shelf. With 150 homers and a .902 OPS through six seasons, Harper enters 2018 -- a contract year -- with the potential to have his best season yet.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Harper has lofty goals

2. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Votto is a perennial NL MVP Award candidate, though he's only won the award once, in 2010. Votto finished runner-up to Stanton in MVP voting last season, leading the NL with a 168 OPS+, partly a result of his meticulous eye at the plate (134 walks, 83 strikeouts).

3. Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs: Bryant has already won an NL Rookie of the Year Award (2015) and an NL MVP Award ('16) in successive seasons. He had another great season last year, posting a 143 OPS+. With the Cubs eyeing a return to the World Series, he will again be key in the middle of Chicago's lineup.

Also receiving votes: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies; Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs; Tommy Pham, OF, Cardinals; Willson Contreras, C, Cubs

NL Cy Young Award
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers: Kershaw remains this generation's greatest starting pitcher, and he looks to become the fifth pitcher to ever win four Cy Young Awards. Hampered by back issues in each of the past two seasons, he has nevertheless finished in the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting every year since 2011, including a runner-up finish in '17.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Kershaw on expectations for 2018

2. Max Scherzer, RHP, Nationals: Scherzer has only gotten better with age: The 33-year-old right-hander has dominated the NL since joining Washington in 2015, winning back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards. He also eyes his fourth career Cy Young Award, having won one in the AL with the Tigers in '13.

3. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets: Syndergaard has been lighting up the radar gun to the tune of 101 mph this spring and looks great following recovery from a torn lat. At 25 and with his electric stuff, a 2018 NL Cy Young Award could be just the first of several.

Also receiving votes: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals; Yu Darvish, RHP, Cubs; Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Cubs

NL Rookie of the Year Award
1. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Braves: Acuna, the No. 2 prospect in baseball behind Ohtani, is as exciting a young player as they come. At 20 years old, he moved from Class A Advanced to Triple-A last year, posting a .344/.393/.548 slash line with nine homers and 11 steals in 54 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. He then hit .432 with four homers in Grapefruit League play this spring. He'll begin the year in the minors, but don't expect him to be there for long if his current form continutes.

 Video: Andruw Jones on working with prospect Ronald Acuna

2. Lewis Brinson, CF, Marlins: Brinson, the Marlins' No. 1 prospect and No. 27 overall, is one of the franchise's centerpieces as Miami rebuilds. He has shown this spring why his future is considered bright, hitting .328 with two homers, one off Strasburg to lead off a game.

3. Ryan McMahon, INF, Rockies: McMahon was seen for a time as Colorado's starting first baseman heading into the 2018 season, but with the return of Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Desmond will likely see the lion's share of time at first. Still, McMahon is knocking on the door, hitting .328 with two homers this spring as he pushes for a roster spot.

Also receiving votes: Scott Kingery, 2B, Phillies; Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers; Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals

NL Manager of the Year Award
1. Mickey Callaway, Mets: Injuries derailed the Mets in 2017 after two consecutive postseason appearances, but with a healthy starting rotation heading into '18, Callaway has a potential playoff team on his hands in his first year at the helm.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Callaway on first year with Mets

2. Craig Counsell, Brewers: Last season, Counsell led Milwaukee to its best record (86-76) since 2011. Under his leadership and with new outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, the Brewers could reach the postseason for the first time since that '11 campaign.

3. Dave Martinez, Nationals: Could Martinez be the manager to get Washington past the NL Division Series? In his first year with the Nats, he'll have one of the best 1-2 punches in the game in Scherzer and Strasburg, as well as a potent offense anchored by Harper.

Also receiving votes: Gabe Kapler, Phillies; Bruce Bochy, Giants; Bud Black, Rockies; Mike Matheny, Cardinals; Torey Lovullo, D-backs

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.