Now we know the contenders, who will win?
The finalists for the major MLB awards were announced on Monday night. By and large, there were no major surprises. But now that we know who the contenders are, who will win?
There are plenty of heated races. We’re not expecting much of a race for either league’s MVP. But that’s not the case in some of the other races. The National League Rookie of the Year figures to be a highly competitive race between two NL East outfielders. The American League Cy Young matches two past winners against a star in the early stages of his career. Any one of the three would be more than deserving.
We’ll know in a matter of days which players and managers won the major MLB awards. These are the men that we expect will claim them.
AL Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani, starting pitcher/designated hitter, Los Angeles Angels
Ohtani holds two significant advantages here. One is the distinct possibility that the two other contenders — New York Yankees teammates Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres — split votes. Secondly, he made a significant impact as both a hitter and a pitcher. We haven’t seen a player impact the game that way since the days of Babe Ruth. Even then it was pretty rare. Ohtani’s drawback is that he did miss a fair amount of time. That could hurt him in the eyes of some voters. But in the end, we expect him to have an edge on the New York teammates.
NL Rookie of the Year: Juan Soto, left fielder, Washington Nationals
If the voting was done after the postseason, we might give Los Angeles Dodgers starter Walker Buehler some more consideration. But this really comes down to Soto and Atlanta Braves outfielder, Ronald Acuna Jr. There’s a credible case to be made for both. But in the end, Soto was just too good. All season, he found himself doing equaling (or surpassing) what guys like Robin Yount, Mickey Mantle, and Ken Griffey Jr. did at his age. Acuna was great in his own right and the fact that his team made the playoffs will help. But in the end, we expect the voters to lean towards Soto.
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
This is another award that might look different if the postseason was a consideration. Alex Cora would be awfully hard to go against. But it’s a regular season award. And despite winning 108 games, we have Cora finishing behind both Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics skipper, Bob Melvin. Ultimately, Melvin overcame significant injuries to his starting rotation and guided the A’s to not only a playoff appearance, but a 97-win season. That’s a solid 10 games better than even the most optimistic preseason projections were even before the injuries. That should win him this award.
National League Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves
Snitker is in what figures to be a very tight race with Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black and Milwaukee Brewers skipper Craig Counsell. We can see this top-three breaking in any order. In the end, Snitker has one edge — and it’s not a small one. Colorado went 87-75 in 2017. Milwaukee was 86-76. Both teams were better in 2018 (the Rockies were 91-72 while the Brewers were 96-67) but were good coming in. The Braves won the NL East at 90-72. Not only did that completely reverse 2017’s 72-90 mark, but it was Atlanta’s first winning season since 2013. We expect that to favor Snitker in the voting.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, starting pitcher, Houston Astros
As good as Corey Kluber was for the Cleveland Indians (215 innings, 20-7, 2.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 222 strikeouts) this really feels like it boils down to Verlander and Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell. Snell (180.2 innings, 21-5, 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 221 strikeouts) was great. But in the end, Verlander (214 innings, 16-9, 2.52 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 290 strikeouts) gets the edge. We just can’t overlook Verlander’s significant advantage in innings pitched. Snell missed some starts and Tampa was generally conservative with him when he was on the hill. That’s not his fault. But we also can’t punish Verlander for being more available.
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, starting pitcher, New York Mets
With all due respect to Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola, this really comes down to deGrom and Max Scherzer. Scherzer and deGrom each posted a 0.91 WHIP. So, this is an issue between Scherzer’s edge in strikeouts (300 to 269) and deGrom’s in ERA (1.70 to 2.53). That’s works in deGrom’s favor. deGrom would probably get to 300 strikeouts in three or four more starts. Scherzer, meanwhile, would need 107.2 scoreless innings — or nearly 12 full games — to get to deGrom’s ERA. Old school fans may not like seeing a 10-9 deGrom win. But they should find a way to accept it. He deserves this one.
AL MVP: Mookie Betts, right fielder, Boston Red Sox
Betts does have solid competition from Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez. Playing for a losing team, Trout really needed to run his stats up to have a chance. Injuries kept that from happening. Ramirez and Betts were MLB’s only 30-30 men. But while Ramirez has a home run edge (39 to 32), his .270/.387/.552 line is well bellow Betts, who hit .346/.438/.640. He also played Gold Glove defense on a 108-win team. A concern was that he might split votes with teammate J.D. Martinez. But given that Martinez didn’t finish in the top-four, that concern is largely negated. This award is Mookie’s to win.
NL MVP: Christian Yelich, right fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
Yelich hit 36 home runs and 110 RBI. Colorado’s Nolan Arenado had 38 homers and drove in 110. Chicago’s Javier Baez hit 34 bombs and had 111 RBI. Looking at that, it’s close race between these three finalists. But Yelich holds two big advantages. One is that his overall slash line (.326/.402/.598) is much better than both Arenado’s (.297/.374/.561) and Baez’s (.290/.326/.554). Two is that Yelich was easily the NL’s most productive player in the second-half of the season. After the break, he hit .367/.449/.770 with 25 home runs and 67 RBI. As good as Arenado and Baez were in 2018, this award belongs to Yelich.