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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2018 – Final Picks

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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2018 – Final Picks (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

So we’re pulling the trigger just a little early for our final MLB Award picks. There are still a handful of games left to be played as this goes to print, but the truth is that none of the races are so close that the final picks are likely to change.

(Feel free to point this out to me after one of the contenders goes off and hits half-a-dozen homers or whatever and makes me look foolish.)

It has been a remarkable year in Major League Baseball, with all of the requisite ups and downs that come with the longest regular season in American professional sports. Through it all, there have been a few players who have outshined the rest. Some have been steady all season, while others have ridden periodic, meteoric hot streaks to gaudy final numbers. All have earned their spots in this conversation, but there can only be one winner of these trophies.

Here they are: 2018’s final Clubhouse Leaders.

AL Rookie of the Year

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Third Quarter – Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees)

It’s not the season with which we were teased in the first couple of months, but there’s no denying that Shohei Ohtani has put together a remarkable rookie season. Injury kept him from the mound after 10 starts – he wound up with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 51 innings – but he still managed over 300 plate appearances with an OPS easily clearing .900. He was top-five among rookies in home runs and RBI despite missing significant time. Andujar still might win – he’s been a huge part of a very good Yankees team, batting nearly .300, slugging over .500 and leading all rookies in RBI – but Ohtani’s a hell of a player … and a hell of a story.

(Also noteworthy: Andujar; Daniel Palka, Chicago; Joey Wendle, Tampa; Brad Keller, Kansas City.)

NL Rookie of the Year

Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves (Third Quarter – Juan Soto, Washington Nationals)

This could be one that bites me as far as going early is concerned. This is a tight race – so tight that I’m still not sure I like my own pick – and closing out hot could make the difference. Still, as things stand, it’s got to be Acuna, who has been one of MLB’s hottest hitters since the All-Star Game. He’s going to be just the 10th player ever with at least 25 homers and 15 steals in his rookie season. He has eight leadoff homeruns – a franchise record. And his team made the playoffs. Soto put up one hell of a fight – he’s one of the best 19-year-olds in MLB history, rarified air. He’s a few hits away from slashing .300/.400/.500, and yet ... Acuna probably wins easily.

(Also noteworthy: Acuna; Jack Flaherty, St. Louis; Walker Buehler, Los Angeles; Derrick Rodriguez, San Francisco.)

AL Cy Young

Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays (Third Quarter – Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox)

While it can be argued that Chris Sale was as dominant a pitcher as there was in the American League this year, he simply wasn’t on the mound enough to earn this award. Happily, there’s Blake Snell, who has had an absolutely brilliant campaign of his own. He’s managed a sub-two ERA, a sub-one WHIP and well over 200 strikeouts. He’s one of just two – Cleveland’s Corey Kluber is the other – to win at least 20 games this year. Snell measures up regardless of your choice of criteria – traditional, sabermetric or both. There are a handful of other pitchers who have had excellent seasons and might garner some down-ballot support, but Snell ultimately outshines them all.

(Also noteworthy: Sale; Kluber; Justin Verlander, Houston; Trevor Bauer, Cleveland; Gerrit Cole, Houston; Luis Severino, New York.)

NL Cy Young

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (Third Quarter – Scherzer)

Hey look! It’s someone I haven’t changed my mind about! Scherzer has put the finishing touches on an utterly dominant season, one where he led the NL in both strikeouts and WHIP while being top-three in wins and ERA. He’s continuing a run of excellence that somehow manages to feel underappreciated. And speaking of underappreciated – New York’s Jacob deGrom is having one of the weirdest seasons in recent memory. He leads the majors in ERA by a solid margin. He’s second in the NL in strikeouts and sports a sub-one WHIP. And he has nine wins in 31 starts, thanks to his terrible team. He won’t win, but there might be a surprising amount of support. Still, it’s Scherzer.

(Also noteworthy: deGrom; Aaron Nola, Philadelphia; Kyle Freeland, Colorado; Patrick Corbin, Arizona; Zack Greinke, Arizona.)

AL MVP

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (Third Quarter – Betts)

Two holdovers in a row! This one has the added benefit of being a homer pick, so that’s fun, although the truth is that Mookie Betts has had a legitimately MVP-worthy campaign. He’s going to win the batting title going away and he’s leading the league in slugging. I’m also going to refer to him as a 30-30 player (30 homers, 30 steals) even though he hasn’t actually done it as of press time. He leads the league in runs scored and walks almost as often as he strikes out and plays excellent defense. And even with all that, it’s a close race thanks to L.A.’s Mike Trout, who in a ho-hum year by his standards is nipping at Mookie’s heels. He’s top-10 in everything. Oh, and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez already is 30-30 and crossed the century mark in runs, RBI and walks. A great race, but one Betts wins.

(Also noteworthy: Trout; Ramirez; J.D. Martinez, Boston; Alex Bregman, Houston; Francisco Lindor, Cleveland; Matt Chapman, Oakland.)

NL MVP

Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (Third Quarter – Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves)

I did it. I walked away from Freddie Freeman. He’s still a great player who had a great season, but the argument simply isn’t there anymore. Instead, I went with Yelich, who has quietly put together an outstanding campaign in Milwaukee. He’s going to win a batting title. He has over 30 homers and over 20 steals. He’s the league leader in OPS and second in runs scored and top-five or 10 in just about every other offensive category. Plus he’s one of the best outfield defenders in the league. You could make a case for Chicago’s Javy Baez for sure – he has been one of baseball’s most exciting players all season. And Yelich’s outfield teammate Lorenzo Cain deserves a spot at the table as well, among a handful of others. All that being said, Yelich’s was pretty clearly the best season.

(Also noteworthy: Freeman; Baez; Cain; Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona; Nolan Arenado, Colorado; Trevor Story, Colorado.)

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