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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2017 – Third Quarter

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We’re well into August and the MLB season is about to make that final push through season’s end and on into October.

We’re 120 games in at this point; it’s pretty safe to say that the larger picture has mostly come into focus, though there are still plenty of teams with a shot at moving forward into the postseason. As for individual performances, the sample size is big enough for us to make some fairly well-informed judgment.

Obviously, slumps and hot streaks can still happen; we’ve got six weeks left. But unless certain guys get spectacularly hot or cold, the individual awards look to have largely sorted themselves out as well. Some big names, some underrated guys, some players we’ve been hearing about all year and one or two we haven’t.

If the season ended today, these guys look like your winners.

AL Rookie of the Year

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (Midseason: Judge)

This race has essentially been over since the beginning of May. Judge’s second half hasn’t been nearly as productive as his first half, but considering we’d never really seen a start like that before, that shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s still sitting at or near the top of the leaderboard in homers, runs scored, RBI slugging and OPS. Not just a ROY candidate, he’s got a legitimate (albeit fading) case as the league MVP. Oh, Boston’s Andrew Benintendi is having a pretty darned good rookie campaign, but Judge could shut it down tomorrow and win the award in a walk.

(Also noteworthy: Benintendi; Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles.)

NL Rookie of the Year

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (Midseason: Bellinger)

In almost any other year, Cody Bellinger would be the biggest story in baseball. The rookie slugger is behind only Giancarlo Stanton in home runs; his other power numbers rank among the league leaders as well. All this despite starting the season well after Opening Day. He’s certainly been making up for lost time. The other contenders for the honor have largely fallen off, though Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell is having a decent year and Colorado is seeing continued success from its rookie starting pitchers. Still, Bellinger’s got it sewn up.

(Also noteworthy: Bell; Antonio Senzatela, Colorado Rockies; Kyle Freeland, Colorado Rockies.)

AL Cy Young Award

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (Midseason: Sale)

It’s always nice when the homer pick is also the right one. Sale has been nothing short of dominant all season long. He’s well on his way to winning a pitching Triple Crown (leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts), plus a miniscule WHIP and the most innings in the league. He’s a no-brainer of a pick here. Some talented pitchers are having really good years – Cleveland’s Cory Kluber and Seattle’s James Paxton have both been excellent, but both also lost time to injury. Though to be truthful, even regaining those lost starts wouldn’t be enough to catch Sale. His Cy to lose.

(Also noteworthy: Kluber; Paxton; Luis Severino, New York Yankees; Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins.)

NL Cy Young Award

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (Midseason: Scherzer)

Scherzer has gotten a tiny bit of separation from his closest rival – L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw – thanks to Kershaw’s injury woes. Not that Scherzer doesn’t warrant the attention on his own merits; he leads the league in both strikeouts and WHIP to go with a dozen wins and a sub-2.50 ERA. He’s certainly the current favorite. But if Kershaw comes back and has a Kershavian September, it’s a whole new ballgame. There are a couple of other pitchers having really strong seasons, but the reality is that it’s these two and then everybody else.

(Also noteworthy: Kershaw; Jacob deGrom, New York Mets; Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks; Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals.)

AL MVP

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Midseason: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees)

It definitely looked like we were heading toward the first ROY/MVP combo since Ichiro back in 2001, thanks to Aaron Judge’s monster season. But then Jose Altuve decided to bat .500 in July and put himself firmly at the top of the heap. He’s leading the league in hits and running away with another batting title. He’s tops in OBP, second in steals and one of the leaders of a contending Astros team. There are a handful of other down-ballot possibilities, including Chris Sale and a couple of Altuve’s teammates. Altuve’s biggest competition might be three-quarters of a season from Mike Trout.

(Also noteworthy: Judge; Sale; Trout; George Springer, Houston Astros; Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners; Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians.)

NL MVP

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (Midseason: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks)

This is probably the most wishful-thinking pick of the bunch. The Reds are going nowhere this season and voters like their MVPs to be winners. But Votto’s season has been quietly exceptional. Amongst the many big bats out there, he leads the NL in OPS on the strength of an OBP approaching .450. He leads the league in walks and is among the leaders in homers, batting average, slugging and RBI. Goldschmidt’s year remains impressive, while Bryce Harper might well make a massive push if he stays healthy. But for now, let’s give Votto his due.

(Also noteworthy: Goldschmidt; Harper; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies; Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers.)

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