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2006 American League Awards Predictions

Source: ESPN AL Most Valuable Player
Travis Hafner
Cleveland Indians
Designated Hitter
Travis Hafner is slowly becoming a premier power-hitter in the American League, and I don?t think many people have noticed it yet.

Hafner belted 33 home runs last season, knocked in 108 runs and batted .305 for the Indians last season. And at the age of 28, he?s only going to get better this season.

Who?s better? Hafner, David Ortiz or Alex Rodriguez? I think that?ll be a popular debate as the season comes to an end. Hafner, however, will have his work cut out for him with Rodriguez and Ortiz nipping at his heels.

Source: ESPN AL Cy Young
Johan Santana
Minnesota Twins
Starting Pitcher
I don?t know how you can place a vote against Johan Santana going into a season. He keeps runners off the bases, he strikes hitters out, and he can pitch a lot of innings.

Santana was the only pitcher last season to have more strikeouts than innings (9.25 K/9). The closest contender was Anaheim?s John Lackey who came in at 8.57 K/9.

Out of 44 eligible pitchers last season, he came in fifth for least amount of pitchers per inning (14.4). That means he doesn?t have too hard to get through an inning. That translates to even more innings.

I believe he?ll return to dominance and win another Cy Young award. If the Twins offense gives him support, he should win at least 18 games. If the Twins offense shocks everyone and kills the ball this year, 21 wins is possible.

Source: ESPN AL Rookie of the Year
Justin Verlander
Detroit Tigers
Starting Pitcher
Jonathan Papelbon? Craig Hansen? Nope. Justin Verlander is my choice for AL Rookie of the Year.

Verlander will be in a rotation that features ?The Gambler? Kenny Rogers, an off-season signing by the Tigers. Though Rogers is a lunatic, I have to admit he?s a pretty good pitcher and Verlander should learn a lot from him.

Verlander actually never threw a pitch in AAA. After 32.2 innings at AA ball, he saw 11.1 innings with the Tigers to end last season. He compiled a 7.15 ERA and walked five, but his minor league success is more of an indication of his future, in my opinion.

He had a strong spring (18.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 16 K), and I expect him to carry that into the regular season.