With the regular season ending this weekend, ballots for the four major BBWAA Awards — MVP, Cy Young, Rookie and Manager — must be submitted before the playoffs begin. What a player or a manager accomplishes after Sunday might matter in future MLB lore, but not for these MLB awards.
So, here’s a look at who I would select for each award in each league. Full disclosure: I do have a vote this year for an American League category but will not be revealing which category until winners are announced in November.
I’ve voted for one BBWAA award each season for years, and I think the 2023 races may be the easiest to handicap in my career. There’s a clear-cut choice in most instances, except NL Manager of the Year.
Here’s my choice for each award:
AL Rookie of the Year
Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles infielder
The Orioles haven’t had a Rookie of the Year winner since closer Gregg Olson in 1989. That 33-year drought is the longest in the American League. And, early this season, it looked like it would stretch to at least 34. Henderson, 22, was the AL ROY favorite to begin 2023, but he slumped out of the gate, batting .181 with a .659 OPS in March/April and .213 with a .740 OPS in May. He continued to draw walks and get on base, however, and the Orioles kept penciling him in the lineup.
The patience paid off. Henderson slashed .320/.354/.994 in June and has rolled his way to a 6.1 bWAR, fifth highest in the AL among all players and third among position players. With his offense and rocket arm at third base and shortstop, Henderson has outpaced other candidates, including Boston first baseman Triston Casas, Texas third baseman Josh Jung, Houston catcher Yainer Diaz and Cleveland pitcher Tanner Bibee, among others.
AL Manager of the Year
Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles
Hyde probably should have won this last year when his club improved 31 wins over 2022, but his team didn’t make the playoffs and Terry Francona’s young Cleveland Guardians squad did. For an encore, the Orioles are looking at another 20-win improvement and 100 victories or more for the first time since 1980. Hyde’s even-keel demeanor and day-at-a-time attitude hasn’t changed since he took over a 115-loss team heading into 2019. His club hasn’t had a losing month all season and hasn’t been swept in a multi-game series since May 2022.
Hyde should be a runaway winner, however, both Texas’ Bruce Bochy and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash deserve serious consideration based on how their clubs have played all year. But it’d be tough not to go with Hyde and the biggest surprise in baseball here.
AL Cy Young
Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees RHP
There’s just not much to see here. Cole leads AL qualifiers in innings pitched (200), ERA (2.75) and WHIP (1.015) and is right there in strikeouts and wins. He should be the unanimous selection. There have been some other excellent performances – Minnesota’s Sonny Gray, Toronto’s Kevin Gausman, Baltimore’s Kyle Bradish, Houston’s Framber Valdez and Seattle’s Luis Castillo and George Kirby – but that should be a battle for second.
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels DH/RHP
There has been a case made recently that maybe voters should look beyond Ohtani and to a player who was more “valuable” to a contending team. True, the Angels again didn’t make the playoffs with Ohtani (and Mike Trout). And Ohtani hasn’t played since Sept. 3 due to a season-ending elbow injury. The criticism ends there.
He hit .304 with 44 homers, 20 stolen bases and an OPS of 1.066. And he was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts, striking out 167 batters in 132 innings while allowing 85 hits. Ohtani shouldn’t win simply because he is a two-way player. It’s because he is exceptional as a hitter and pitcher. An MVP case can be made for someone like Texas shortstop Corey Seager if it must be given to someone on a contender. But why do that since Ohtani is clearly the most valuable in baseball?
NL Rookie of the Year
Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder
The San Diego Padres have the longest Rookie of the Year drought in the majors, dating back to 1987 and catcher Benito Santiago. Incredibly, though, the Diamondbacks have never had an NL ROY winner in their history, which began in 1998. That ends this year in a big way. Carroll, 23, was one of the two favorites heading into the season (along with St. Louis Cardinals’ Jordan Walker) and quickly separated himself with a monster April in which Carroll hit four homers, stole 10 bases and posted a .910 OPS.
Carroll’s season has been both steady and impressive, posting an .800 OPS or higher in every month this year, a difficult task for a rookie. So are 25 homers and 51 stolen bases. No one appears close, though New York Mets starter Kodai Senga would have a case in another year.
NL Manager of the Year
Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks
You can go several different ways here. Lovullo is my call because the Diamondbacks have gone from 110 losses in 2021 to 88 losses in 2022 to a likely playoff spot in 2023. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2017, Lovullo’s first year managing the Diamondbacks and the only time he won NL Manager of the Year. Most prognosticators had Arizona in fourth in the NL West to start the year.
Other possibilities include Chicago’s David Ross, Miami’s Skip Schumaker and Cincinnati’s David Bell as well as perennial candidate Brian Snitker in Atlanta and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts, who gets penalized for having a great roster but had to weather constant injuries in LA. Regardless, Lovullo gets my call.
NL Cy Young
Blake Snell, San Diego Padres LHP
Snell won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays. That was the only time he ever garnered Cy Young votes. That obviously changes this year when Snell should become the seventh pitcher to ever win the award in both leagues.
A pending free agent, Snell doesn’t pitch deep into games and walks way too many batters – he’ll lead the league this season and would become the third Cy winner to lead the majors in free passes. Yet, no one hits Snell. He’s allowed 115 hits in his first 180 innings and his 5.8 hits per game is baseball’s lowest this year – as is his 2.25 ERA in 32 starts. San Francisco’s Logan Webb is in the conversation along with New York’s Senga, Chicago’s Justin Steele and others.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves outfielder
Quick admission: Mookie Betts is one of my favorite players to watch. I love his all-around game and the way he approaches each moment on the field. I think, somehow, he is a bit underrated, despite the accolades he has received. Yet, there’s no way I’d put him atop my NL MVP ballot this year – or his teammate Freddie Freeman or Atlanta’s Matt Olson, though all have had great seasons and, in another year, easily could have won the honor.
But Acuña, 25, is the standard bearer for the power-speed combination that is so heavily pursued in the game. He became the fifth member of the 40-homer, 40-steal club this year. He also became MLB’s first member of the 30-60 club and 40-70 club. What he’s done this year is historic. Period. What a tremendous season, one that may not be duplicated for years (the last 40-40 was Washington’s Alfonso Soriano in 2006).
Dan Connolly is an MLB Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.