CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Who doesn’t love awards? There are still around 80 games left in the season, but it is too much fun to look ahead and take a guess.
Some picks were easy, some were surprising.
AL Rookie of the Year – Aaron Judge OF, Yankees
Spoiler alert: you might see Judge’s name again on this list.
The 6-foot-7 slugger made the Home Run Derby crown the first piece of hardware on his Major League mantle recently, but it surely won’t be his last. Judge currently leads all of baseball in home runs (30), on-base percentage (.448), slugging (.691), wOBA (.466), wRC+ (197) and fWAR (5.5).
It’s one thing to lead all rookies, but leading baseball at the halfway point all but cements Judge as the Rookie of the Year. Ben Gamel and Bradley Zimmer would have to morph into superstars to even make it a close race.
In the running: Ben Gamel OF, Mariners; Bradley Zimmer OF, Indians
End of the year prediction: Judge
NL Rookie of the Year – Cody Bellinger 1B/OF, Dodgers
When you hit 25 home runs in your first 70 career games, that makes it pretty tough for anyone to catch up, and it would take a complete collapse for anyone to catch him. The All-Star nod will also sway votes, regardless of his finish.
In the running: Manny Pina C, Brewers
End of the year prediction: Bellinger
AL Reliever of the Year – Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
Maybe the tightest race at the moment, purely because of the quality of players involved. Everyone knows closers get all the glory, something we’ve explored, but Kimbrel has been the cream of this crop regardless.
Indians and Astros hybrid relievers, Andrew Miller and Chris Devenski, will make things close on Kimbrel all year, but independent of saves, Kimbrel still leads in ERA (1.19), FIP (0.78) and xFIP (1.23). The Boston closer also carries a 50.8 K%.
In the running: Andrew Miller, Indians; Chris Devenski, Astros
End of the year prediction: Miller
The class is stacked, but Miller could win the award based on the fact that Kimbrel will almost assuredly pick up losses by pitching in the 9th, and voters still take the stat into account for some reason.
The narrative on non-closers is also changing, and if it doesn’t happen this year, there will be overcompensation for the devaluation of those pitchers. It will be because of Miller.
NL Reliever of the Year – Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
Jansen on the other hand is in a league of his own currently as far as National League relievers go, and has been for a while. He leads the NL in FIP by quite a bit at 1.05, compared to Andrew Chafin in second place, as well as WAR. He is second in ERA and xFIP.
In the running: Corey Knebel, Brewers; Felipe Rivero, Pirates
End of the year prediction: Jansen
AL Cy Young – Chris Sale, Red Sox
Had Corey Kluber not missed a month of the season, the mid-season award may in his hands, but at the same time, he would not be in this race if his back remained unchecked.
You can play the what-if game plenty with these two, but as of now, Sale is the runaway-best pitcher in all of baseball. His 2.09 FIP leads all of baseball, with Kluber right behind at 2.43, and the lefty’s WAR is tops in the game at 5.3.
He also leads in strikeouts and K%.
In the running: Corey Kluber, Indians; Chris Archer, Rays
End of the year prediction: Sale
This will obviously come down to who has the better second half, but as of now, Sale has a lead that Kluber may not be able to make up unless the former misses some time. Kluber should have won the award in 2016, though
NL Cy Young – Max Scherzer, Nationals
In the running: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Zack Grienke, Diamondbacks
They may not have been as good as Sale and Kluber, but the race is closer between Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Grienke is hot on their tails.
For now, Scherzer is the NL leader in ERA (2.10) and FIP (2.61), while Kershaw is second in both categories but leads in xFIP (2.75), a stat similar to FIP, but penalizes pitchers less for home runs.
End of the year prediction: Scherzer
The race will persist for the entire season, but a bout of voter fatigue tilts the scale to the Nationals ace.
AL MVP – Judge
See above. Judge is so far ahead in so many categories that it will be tough to catch him. If the slugger produces 75% of what he did in the first half, he would finish 45 home runs. On a first place team, you can book it.
In the running: Jose Altuve, Astros; Mookie Betts, Red Sox; Jose Ramirez, Indians
End of the year prediction: Judge
NL MVP – Bryce Harper, National
This race is close, as well. Votto may be the most valuable candidate, but he will most likely not win the award on the current Reds, though we have seen similar things happen recently with Mike Trout and Alex Rodriguez.
Harper leads a loaded group in OBP, but nothing else. He plays on a first-place team and leads the best player on another great team, Paul Goldschmidt, in wOBA and wRC+.
In the running: Joey Votto, Reds; Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks; Anthony Rendon, Nationals
End of the year prediction: Harper
The main threat to Harper’s his second MVP award may be his teammate, Rendon, who was somehow omitted from the All-Star team. Rendon leads the NL in WAR, and is the only of this cluster who has a positive defensive rating.
Rendon could make a run, but could also detract from Harper’s worth at the end of the day, opening the door for Goldschmidt, or even Votto, should he widen the gap.