Thankfully, the Major League Baseball end-of-season awards are exactly that — end-of-season awards. The voting panels don’t need to make their minds up just yet, and in some of these closer races (there are a lot of neck-and-neck ones), we have plenty of time to allow them to marinate.
Still, the favorites for the awards are starting to formulate. At the informal halfway mark, here are the leaders for the league Most Valuable Player Awards, Cy Young Awards, Rookie of the Year Awards, Manager of the Year Awards, and Comeback Player Awards.
American League Comeback Player of the Year Award:
Cleveland Indians All-Star Michael Brantley has been limited to just 101 games over the last two years, but now with health on his side, the Tribe are seeing the production from Brantley that merited a nomination for AL MVP back in 2014. With 84 games under his belt in 2018, Brantley is slashing .308/.355/.493 with 12 home runs, 56 RBIs, and only 31 strikeouts, leading Cleveland (a team with two MVP contenders) in batting average.
It’s been a long time coming for the left fielder, but Brantley is back and should be commended for it.
National League Comeback Player of the Year Award:
The resurgence of Matt Kemp — an MVP runner-up with the Dodgers all the way back in 2011 — in his second stint with Los Angeles has been nothing short of miraculous. The reinvented outfielder earned an All-Star Game appearance after trade rumors swirled from the winter meetings on, and in 2018, he’s hitting .310/.352/.522 with 15 home runs, 60 runs driven in, and an OPS+ of 135, his highest in seven seasons.
After everyone wrote Kemp off, he’s been the buoy keeping the Dodgers from completely sinking this season.
American League Manager of the Year Award:
When the Seattle Mariners lost star second baseman Robinson Cano to an 80-game suspension, the hopes and dreams of the Mariners’ first postseason appearance in 17 years basically died. Until Scott Servais revived it all, of course. The third-year bench boss has the M’s sitting firm in an AL Wild Card spot at 58-39 despite the absence of Cano, the demise of once-ace Felix Hernandez, and other factors that would otherwise destroy a team.It's officially the halfway point of the 2018 @MLB season, and @TomDorsa gives out his first-half awards.Click To Tweet
Seattle is on pace for their most wins in a season since their historic 2001 campaign under Servais, which makes the Mariners skipper the easy choice.
National League Manager of the Year Award:
Despite the growing pains and head-scratching moments from Gabe Kapler and the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this season, it’s hard to ignore the impact the first-year manager has had on a Phils team currently leading the NL East division. Kapler is never afraid to try new things, and the approach has seemingly worked; Philly is 53-42 and looks to be playing postseason baseball for the first time since the 2011 season.
Accounting for a completely new system and a very young team, Kapler has done a tremendous job in 2018.
American League Rookie of the Year Award:
As if the New York Yankees needed any more revolutionary talent, infielder Gleyber Torres has been Rookie of the Year caliber since first arriving in the Bronx this season. The 21-year-old All-Star has hit .294/.350/.555 with 15 home runs, 42 RBIs, and a 140 OPS+ in his first 63 major-league games, all while filling perhaps the lone void on the diamond for the Yanks; second base, where he’s started 60 out of his 63 games.
Though Shohei Ohtani might have more raw value by virtue of hitting and pitching, the injuries and rest days have rendered his rookie season to a state of being behind that of Torres. Gleyber has been putting it all together, looking to become the second Yankee in a row to win the AL ROY Award.
National League Rookie of the Year Award:
Though 2018 has been maybe the most disappointing season in Washington Nationals history, the 19-year-old phenom by the name of Juan Soto is all the reason fans in the nation’s capitol need to stay upbeat about the future of the franchise. The sensational youngster has slashed .301/.411/.517 with nine long balls, 28 RBIs, 33 walks, and a 145 OPS+ in 2018, smashing any and all doubts of a lack of major-league readiness.
Soto is trailed pretty closely by the two runners-up, but has done enough to win in my mind.
American League Cy Young Award:
Chris Sale has a tendency to fall apart statistically as the season progresses, but has been exceptional to this point and has put his name in its rightful place atop the list of contenders for the AL Cy Young Award. Sale, who started his third straight MLB All-Star Game for the AL on Tuesday night, sits at 10-4 with league-bests in ERA (2.23), FIP (2.17), strikeouts (188), and K/9 (13.1). Currently at 5.6 bWAR, the Boston Red Sox ace is on pace for a career high in the that metric.
The lanky, towering left-hander has been bested by absolutely no AL pitcher, even with the likes of Severino and Verlander close behind.
National League Cy Young Award:
Jacob deGrom has a 1.68 ERA, 228 ERA+, 2.32 FIP, 0.973 WHIP, and 6.0 bWAR, but has been the victim of otherworldly bad luck. He’s at 5-4 on the year because, well, the New York Mets refuse to score when he’s on the hill. If the voters can look past his unimpressive record and see that he has been historically dominant for an awful ballclub, then he’s a shoo-in for the NL Cy Young.
The former Rookie of the Year could be adding to his hardware collection if he keeps this up.
American League MVP Award:
This one goes against everything that I want to tell myself: Mike Trout is having a historic season and might have more single-season WAR than anyone since Barry Bonds (the greatest hitter alive) has had, but Mookie Betts leads Trout — and, well, all of baseball — in practically everything else. The Red Sox superstar is slashing .359/.448/.691 with 23 home runs, 51 RBIs, more walks than strikeouts (46 to 42), and leads MLB in OPS (1.139) and OPS+ (200). I guess 6.3 bWAR isn’t bad with fewer than 100 games played, right?
The thing is, defense might be his most valuable attribute, and he has been outstanding in the Boston outfield in 2018 with six defensive runs saved, a .994 fielding percentage, and a 7.0 ultimate zone rating this season. It really isn’t fair to have to decide between these two generational talents, but Betts has the upper hand over Trout at this juncture.
National League MVP Award:
Go ahead and cite the Coors Field effect, I don’t care. Nolan Arenado has been the most valuable player in the National League this year, as the Colorado Rockies third baseman is hitting .312/.395/.586 with 23 homers, 68 RBIs, and a (PARK ADJUSTED) 145 OPS+. His defense has been lagging behind the normal Arenado standards (only two DRS, only 4.2 UZR), but still, Arenado is the main reason as to why the Rockies sit just two games back of the Dodgers for the NL West lead.
I’m a big proponent of giving the MVP to historically great pitchers, but Arenado has been better than ever in 2018.