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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2019

May 15, 2019
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Welcome to another season of Clubhouse Leaders!

Major League Baseball has by far the longest season in all of North American professional sports. MLB teams play 162 games over the course of six months before landing in October and the postseason. That lengthy stretch leaves room for a lot to happen – and a lot of changes.

We’ve hit the one-quarter mark of the 2019 season. Every team has 40 games or more in the rearview. That’s a significant chunk of baseball – enough for us to start looking at who the highest individual achievers for the season might be. Again, there’s a lot of baseball still to be played – 120 games worth, in fact – but we’ve got enough of a sample size to start thinking about which players might be in line to win MLB’s most prestigious individual awards.

AL Rookie of the Year

Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox

I know, I know – homer pick. But the truth is that while I don’t necessarily believe that Chavis will be in this spot come season’s end, it’s tough to argue about his presence here now. Chavis has been the best rookie hitter in the league, with an OPS approaching 1.000. As of press time, his OBP was over .400 and his slugging percentage well over .500; he has hit and hit for power and played an adequate second base. Add it up, and he’s the guy … for now. Tampa Bay infielder Brandon Lowe has also looked good, as have starting pitchers like Seattle’s Yusei Kickuchi and Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull. In truth, though, I’m expecting Toronto wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to wind up topping this list by season’s end, despite some early struggles.

(Also noteworthy: Lowe; Kikuchi; Turnbull; Willians Astudillo, Minnesota)

NL Rookie of the Year

Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres

There are a handful of guys who could have gotten the nod here – including a couple on this Padres team – but I had to go with Paddack, who has been lights out as a starter since the season’s beginning. As of press time, he had an ERA well below two and was averaging better than a strikeout per inning. He’s also been fun to follow as he started a beef with fellow NL ROY contender Pete Alonso, who plays first for the Mets. Paddack’s teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. would have been a fair pick here as well – he’s on pace to go 20/20 for the season. Still, it’s tough to pick against Paddack, though considering his youth, he might wind up getting saddled with an innings cap, which will definitely hurt his chances a little.

(Also noteworthy: Alonso; Tatis Jr.; Mike Soroka, Atlanta; Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles)

AL Cy Young Award

Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

So this pick is a bit of a bummer, as Glasnow just went on the injured list and is likely to be out for at least a month and possibly longer. Obviously, he won’t be in this spot come the midseason edition. However, it’s tough to argue against him being the best pitcher in the AL over the season’s first 40ish games. In eight starts, he put up a 1.86 ERA, striking out 55 in 48 innings and managing a WHIP of 0.91; his record was 6-1. He’ll probably be overtaken by someone like Astros starter Justin Verlander, who leads the league in WHIP and has put forth an ERA of 2.51, all while striking out 68 (third in the AL). Or perhaps one of the to-this-point excellent Minnesota starters – Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi – will keep up the pace (if I had to choose, I’d bet the former). But it is a cumulative recognition, and for the first quarter, the pick is Glasnow.

(Also noteworthy: Verlander; Berrios; Odorizzi; Charlie Morton, Tampa; Gerrit Cole, Houston; Trevor Bauer, Cleveland)

NL Cy Young Award

Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds

There are a handful of choices for this slot that would be just as worthy as Castillo, but the totality of his performance pushed him ever-so-slightly ahead. We’re talking a 1.76 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in nine starts; he has pitched 56 innings and struck out 70. He has been out-and-out dominant. Granted, there are a couple of other pitchers out there whose stat lines are almost as impressive – Chicago’s Jon Lester has a miniscule 1.16 ERA in his first seven starts, while L.A.’s Hyun-Jin Ryu has been nigh-unhittable (his ERA at 1.74 and his WHIP a mind-blowing 0.73). Still, while the likelihood of Castillo maintaining this level of performance is low, there’s no arguing that as of now, he’s been as dominant as anybody. We’ll just have to wait and see if any of the many contenders can push past him at the top of the list.

(Also noteworthy: Lester; Ryu; Zack Greinke, Arizona; Zach Davies, Milwaukee; Caleb Smith, Miami)

AL MVP

George Springer, Houston Astros

It seems as though we’ve been waiting for Springer to make the leap from good to great for a while now, but it looks like that time may have finally arrived. Springer’s first quarter of the season has been exceptional – at press time, he led the AL in homers, hits, runs, RBI and slugging percentage, while sitting near the top in batting average and OBP. He’s the pick. And yet, even with all that, he’s just a hair better than Mike Trout on this list (honestly, I could just set this pick at Trout and leave it until season’s end; as long as he’s healthy, he’s a safe choice). Other non-Trout contenders include the three-true-outcomes icon that is Texas Ranger Joey Gallo and Springer’s Houston teammates Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman, as well as some dark horse candidates. It’s Springer for now, but by season’s end, it’ll probably be Trout.

(Also noteworthy: Trout; Gallo; Brantley; Bregman; Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City; Jorge Polanco, Minnesota; Tim Anderson, Chicago)

NL MVP

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

I’ve equivocated on a lot of these picks, but there’s none of that with this one. Cody Bellinger is an easy pick to make here, even with some worthwhile contenders in the NL. Bellinger’s put up video game numbers; as of press time, he was batting over .400 with an OBP near .500 and a slugging percentage approaching .800. He had 14 homers and led the league in both RBI and runs scored and had as many walks as strikeouts. He’s played great defense and even stolen seven bases. Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich would be lapping the field any other year – 16 homers, similar walk/strikeout numbers, a slash line around .340/.450/.750 – but this time he’s playing catch-up. There are some other good NL seasons underway, but for now, this is (barely) a two-man race. One has to assume that Bellinger comes back to Earth eventually, but for now, he’s winning in a walk.

(Also noteworthy: Yelich; Javier Baez, Chicago; Josh Bell, Pittsburgh; Willson Contreras, Chicago; Nolan Arenado, Colorado)

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