Full MLB Award Predictions at the 3-Quarter Mark of the 2014 Season
The 2014 Major League Baseball season has reached the final turn. As the 30 clubs make their way down the stretch toward the end of the line, individual players are wrapping up impressive campaigns that soon enough could result in an after-season award.
Yes, it's time again to check in with an update of the 10 prominent individual award races as the final quarter of the season plays out. Back around the All-Star break a month ago, when the season was a little more than halfway through, we took a look at the battles for the very same awards.
Another quarter of the year has gone a long way toward clarifying where things stand in each league in the chases for Manager of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner and MVP. Also included? A batch of honorable mentions for all five categories.
Even though there isn't much time left in 2014, a lot still can change between now and the end of the season. That last turn sometimes can be a doozy.
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
Sorry to be boring at the beginning, but this pick hasn't changed since the first-quarter awards back in mid-May. It's not likely to the rest of the way, either.
Bob Melvin continues to expertly guide the Oakland Athletics, who have had the best record in baseball all to their selves since June 18. A two-time winner of this award already, Melvin pushes all the right buttons, giving his players the best opportunities to succeed and exploiting matchups against opponents. Right now, no bench boss is better.
Plenty of other skippers, like Baltimore Orioles tactician Buck Showalter and Seattle Mariners first-year man Lloyd McClendon, deserve their props, but they're stuck in the honorable mention department.
Choice at All-Star Break: Melvin
Honorable Mentions: Showalter, Baltimore Orioles; McClendon, Seattle Mariners; John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays; Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals; Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are right there with the Milwaukee Brewers—just 1.5 games back in the NL Central—and currently occupy the top wild-card position. It hasn't been easy, though.
Manager Clint Hurdle has had to endure losing top starters Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano for long stretches, as well as the more recent rib injury to reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen. He's also deftly handled a deep bullpen once again, including a smooth closer transition from Jason Grilli to Mark Melancon.
The latest puzzle? Getting the defensively challenged Pedro Alvarez to buy into shifting from third to first base, about which Hurdle told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "He's working his backside off to find a level of comfort and say, 'OK. I'm ready to go over there in a major league game.'"
Certainly, Ron Roenicke of the Brewers has just as much of a claim to this honor, but his club has remained relatively healthy. Consistency counts, but so, too, does overcoming obstacles and ushering a team through tough times, which Hurdle continues to do.
Choice at All-Star Break: Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds
Honorable Mentions: Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers; Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers; Price, Cincinnati Reds; Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Albert Pujols is the bigger name, and he has the whole 500-home-run-club thing in his corner this year, too, but Melky Cabrera deserves this one.
Not only is Cabrera putting together a great bounce-back season, he's also putting together a great season—period. After a poor and injury-plagued 2013, the 30-year-old switch-hitter is triple-slashing .316/.371/.477. Those first two numbers are way ahead of Pujols' .273 average and .326 OBP, and Cabrera's .477 slugging is—surprise!—exactly the same.
While Derek Jeter deserves a shoutout in the honorable mentions for having a solid goodbye season after missing almost all of last year, anything more would be giving in to sentiment.
Choice at All-Star Break: Cabrera
Honorable Mentions: Pujols, Los Angeles Angels; Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees; Jeter, New York Yankees; Chris Young, Seattle Mariners
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
As much as Cabrera has a strong grip on the AL version of this award, Johnny Cueto has a full-on stranglehold on the NL honor.
Cueto, who made just 11 starts a year ago due to three separate disabled-list stints, has done this comeback thing right by putting together one of the best, most consistent campaigns by any pitcher around.
The 28-year-old ranks in the top four in the majors in innings (179.2), ERA (2.05) and WHIP (0.91), and his batting average against of .182 is numero uno.
Choice at All-Star Break: Cueto
Honorable Mentions: Casey McGehee, Miami Marlins; Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants; Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers; Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
If Cueto is running away with the NL Comeback Player of the Year, then Jose Abreu is lapping the field in the AL Rookie of the Year race, especially after the New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka went down with an elbow injury.
The 27-year-old former star of Cuba's Serie Nacional hasn't been just the top rookie in the AL—and the NL, for that matter—he's also one been one of the very best players in all of baseball, rookie or otherwise.
Abreu's .971 OPS leads the AL, and his 31 homers and 86 RBI are both the highest totals in the sport. What's more, Abreu actually has been getting better as his first MLB season progresses: After hitting .292 in the first half, he's up to .333 since the break.
Choice at All-Star Break: Abreu
Honorable Mentions: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals; Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays; Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays; George Springer, Houston Astros; Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox; Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays; Roenis Elias, Seattle Mariners; Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels; Dellin Betances, New York Yankees; Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
At this rate, Billy Hamilton isn't likely to be caught in the NL ROY race. (Not that the speedster would be caught in any race.)
The 23-year-old switch-hitter could benefit from a bit more patience at the plate, especially for a leadoff hitter (4.2 BB% and .299 OBP). But Hamilton has shown more pop than expected with six homers and 43 RBI, while playing better defense than anticipated and also displaying that ludicrous speed (44 SB).
With a shoulder injury sending the New York Mets' red-hot right-hander Jacob deGrom to the DL, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, Hamilton's chief competition going forward is Gregory Polanco. Thing is, the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder has lots of ground to make up after debuting in mid-June.
Choice at All-Star Break: Hamilton
Honorable Mentions: Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates; deGrom, New York Mets; Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals; Chase Anderson, Arizona Diamondbacks; Jesse Hahn, San Diego Padres; Tommy La Stella, Atlanta Braves; David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Several AL arms are in the middle of award-worthy seasons—just check out the HMs below—but a second Cy Young is the King's to lose.
Felix Hernandez, 28, is having a year for the ages, driven by his record streak of 16 straight starts in which he's hurled at least seven innings without giving up more than two runs. His 194 strikeouts are second-most around, and his 1.95 ERA and 0.86 WHIP are both tops in the Junior Circuit.
"I'm running out of words for Felix," McClendon said via Greg Johns of MLB.com after Hernandez's most recent outing on Monday.
Choice at All-Star Break: Hernandez
Honorable Mentions: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians; David Price, Detroit Tigers; Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox; Jon Lester, Oakland Athletics; Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers; Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers; Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels; Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics; Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics; Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
What's most amazing about Clayton Kershaw's 2014 effort is that he's already the NL front-runner for the Cy Young Award despite missing six weeks with a back injury that threatened to derail his season, let alone any hopes of defending his title.
Even with all that lost time, though, the 26-year-old's performance simply has been too overwhelming to ignore. Kershaw owns the best marks in baseball in ERA (1.78) and WHIP (0.86), and his 10.8 strikeout-per-nine rate and 8.6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio are No. 1 in the Senior Circuit.
As Mike Bauman of MLB.com wrote after Kershaw beat the Brewers on Sunday by twirling eight innings of one-run ball:
The last time that the Los Angeles Dodgers lost a game that Clayton Kershaw started was in May. That was May of this year, but still.
There may be no absolutely sure things in baseball, but Kershaw comes as close to that category as anybody can.
In the 13 starts since his last loss, Kershaw is 11-0 and the Dodgers are 13-0. Over that same period of time, Kershaw has an earned run average of 1.16.
Take out Kershaw's second-to-last loss—remember that out-of-nowhere 1.2-inning, seven-run disaster against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 17?—and the southpaw would have surrendered just 20 earned runs in 18 starts.
Choice at All-Star Break: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Honorable Mentions: Cueto, Cincinnati Reds; Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals; Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers; Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies, Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
AL MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout missed out on MVP awards the past two years for two reasons: One was Miguel Cabrera, the other was the Los Angeles Angels.
That's likely to change in 2014, as B/R's own Scott Miller wrote in July:
Trout this summer is doing what to mere mortals would be the impossible: Following two seasons in which he finished second in MVP voting to the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera despite ranking arguably as the game’s best overall player, he is even better in 2014.
With the Angels finally catching the momentum of his vapor trail...this should be the season that Trout wins the first of what should be multiple MVP awards.
While the just-turned 23-year-old phenom would have been a justifiable selection over Cabrera in 2012 or 2013, it's not as if the Detroit Tigers star was exactly undeserving either time. What didn't help Trout, however, was his very own team, as the Angels came up short of a division crown in '12 and were out of it entirely last year.
For better or worse, both player and team performance count when it comes to the MVP in many corners, including this one.
That won't be an issue for Trout this time around. Not only is he having another ridiculous season, ranking in the top five in baseball in runs (81), doubles (33), homers (27), RBI (85) and OPS (.960), but the Angels have the second-best record right now.
That's in large part, of course, because of Trout, who should probably start clearing some space on the shelf next to where he keeps his MVP hardware from this year's All-Star Game.
Choice at All-Star Break: Trout
Honorable Mentions: Hernandez, Seattle Mariners; Cabrera, Detroit Tigers; Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners; Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers; Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays; Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles; Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics; Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles; Abreu, Chicago White Sox; Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
This is the toughest choice of all, by far. There are several potential picks for this award, and not one player is running away with it at the moment, especially now that McCutchen—the reigning MVP and the pick in this space last time—is on the shelf with a serious rib injury.
In fact, although he is a pitcher and one who missed a handful of starts, a case could be made that Kershaw is deserving of the honor. Ultimately, his early-season injury winds up costing him.
Instead, the honor goes to Giancarlo Stanton—for now. The 24-year-old finally has stayed healthy and is having a monster year, leading the NL with 82 RBI and sitting in a tie for the MLB lead with 31 home runs. Stanton has done that while also batting .291, scoring 76 runs and stealing a career-high 10 bases, too.
No, the Marlins aren't in first place, nor are they even in a playoff position at the moment, but they're at least relevant at 3.5 games out of a wild-card spot. That's enough to merit MVP consideration here.
The fact that they're even that close after losing Jose Fernandez to season-ending Tommy John surgery in May is a testament to just how fantastic—and valuable—Stanton has been in what is shaping up to be the best year of his career. So far.
Choice at All-Star Break: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Honorable Mentions: Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates; Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers; Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers; Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers; Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds; Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants; Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals; Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11
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