Somehow we’re already over 1/3 of the way through the MLB season, as it feels like just yesterday we were embarking on what was sure to be a breakout season for both the Nationals & Reds.
There’s still a ton of time between now and the postseason, but it’s never too early to acknowledge some early stellar (& not so stellar) performances so far in the 2019 season. These awards races could all be flipped upside down in the next month, but for now, here are my too-soon awards picks 60-games in.
All stats as of 6/6/19, via Baseball Reference
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA (.294/.463/.598 with 15 HRs & 7 steals)
The past few years, Mike Trout has been penalized for not being better than Mike Trout. What I mean by that is, his greatness is so accepted that he has to truly out-do himself to win MVP, despite continually being the AL’s best player.
Trout has three seasons with 10+ WAR and only won MVP once in those seasons. Trout currently leads the AL in OBP by over 40 points and is 2nd in OPS (just behind the 3-true-outcomes king, Joey Gallo). He’s the most feared hitter in baseball & plays a premium position. Like most years, the other thing Trout will fight to win this award aside from boredom of his own greatness, is playing for a bad team, as the Halos look like they won’t sniff the playoffs this year.
NL MVP: Cody Bellinger, LAD (.370/.456/.721 with 20 HRs & 7 steals)
An all-LA early MVP sweep. Last year’s NL MVP, Christian Yelich, has been absolutely insane this year (.320/.433/.716) and is somehow being out-slashed by Bellinger.
The NL race looks like it’ll come down to the wire between Bellinger & Yelich, as a good/bad week by one or the other can easily flip their ranking. Anthony Rendon has been great for the Nats, however he’s already spent some time on the IL and his team isn’t looking quite like a contender, which unfortunately in the same way it’ll hurt Trout, will hurt him in final voting.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, HOU (9-2, 2.27 ERA)
Verlander is 2nd in the AL in ERA, 1st in IP (87.1) and 3rd in K’s (103). Right now the veteran has the most complete case to win what would surprisingly be only his 2nd Cy Young Award (albeit with six top-five finishes).
One guy to watch out for a third of the way through the season though? Lucas Giolito, this year’s best example of a post-hype prospect breakout. He’s currently 4th in the AL in ERA with a 10.4 K/9 rate and a FIP nearly a run lower than Verlander’s, suggesting that he’s pitching as well as his stats say he is.
NL Cy Young: Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD (9-1, 1.35)
Make no mistake, Max Scherzer has been incredible per usual for the Nats. An absolute bulldog, he’s leading baseball in strikeouts & FIP, nearly half a run better than the guy in 2nd.
However, that guy in 2nd is Ryu, who’s been absolutely masterful for a team that has desperately needed him to step up. He’s already nearly matched his IP total from last year, and is leading the NL in ERA by almost a full run.
The biggest holdup with Ryu winning this award over the course of a full season will be durability; he hasn’t topped 150 innings since 2014 and has had a litany of injuries over the course of his career.
Right now though, you just can’t pick against him. In 80 innings, Ryu has given out five free passes. FIVE. That’s fewer than Trevor Bauer has given up in just his last three starts. I’m not confident that Ryu carries this performance all the way into September, but wow he’s been fun so far this year.
AL Manager of the Year: Rocco Baldelli, MIN (40-20)
Trying to pick the best manager in the league is a little dubious, as a lot of the time it just comes down to whose players managed to have the best years as a whole (hell, Ned Yost won a World Series hitting 20 against a 16 while playing blackjack and getting dealt an ace) but Baldelli’s job in Minnesota can’t be discounted.
A first-year manager, he’s taken a team built up of some young talent & gun-for-hire vets and mashed them together to a massive lead in the AL Central. If the Twins keep up the pace and take the Central, he will likely be the easy AL winner.
NL Manager of the Year: Gabe Kapler, PHI (35-27)
NL MOTY is a bit tougher. Sure, the Dodgers are tearing it up, but Dave Roberts has been at the helm for multiple division crowns, what makes this one special? Same goes for Joe Maddon, who won a World Series a couple years ago (and I’m against giving the Cubs any hardware whatsoever as long as they’re employing Addison Russell).
That leaves Kapler, and it’s easy to say “how hard is it to win when your team spends a ton of money?” but Kapler has had to blend a lot of new personalities in a short amount of time (in a notoriously hostile sports city) to take the Phillies to first place. Just making sure Arrieta & Harper don’t kill each other deserves an award.
By Kyle Bandujo