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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2018 – Third Quarter

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We’re in mid-August and entering the home stretch of the Major League Baseball season. By the time you read this, teams will have roughly 40 games left until playoff time. It looks like there are some foregone conclusions, but also a few hard-fought races – particularly for some of the squads battling it out for the wild card bids.

The races for MLB’s individual awards are in a similar state. Some of these seem to be all but over, while others feature players going head-to-head with extraordinary performances. Take a look and see what kind of movement we’re dealing with here.

This is Clubhouse Leaders.

AL Rookie of the Year

Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (Midseason: Gleybar Torres, New York Yankees)

Andujar hasn’t had the flashy stretches that some other AL rookies have had this season. However, he has consistently put up strong numbers while manning the hot corner for a team that is on pace to win over 90 games. He’s leading all league rookies in runs scored while sitting second in homers. He’s also batting over .290 and slugging over .500. He has been defensively inconsistent, but has held his own. He just ekes out Torres, who might well retake the lead over the season’s final quarter. It’s a two-man race for now, though Oakland reliever Lou Trivino has been excellent and L.A.’s Shohei Ohtani could still leap back into the conversation if he returns to the mound.

(Also noteworthy: Torres; Trivino; Ohtani; Joey Wendle, Tampa)

NL Rookie of the Year

Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (Midseason: Soto)

Making this pick at midseason was maybe the biggest reach of the bunch, simply because Soto hadn’t played that many games to that point. The subsequent 40 games proved me prescient – Soto is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons by a teenager in baseball history. As things stand, he’s put up a .300/.400/.500 slash line thus far, with an OPS approaching 1.000. He’s among the rookie leaders in every category that matters despite playing in barely 80 games. Even if he hits a wall and regresses, he probably has this locked down. There are a couple of other notables – Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna foremost among them – but it’s Soto’s award to lose.

(Also noteworthy: Acuna; Dereck Rodriguez, San Francisco; Jesse Winker, Cincinnati; Jack Flaherty, St. Louis)

AL Cy Young Award

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (Midseason: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros)

I struggled against my inherent homerism in this category, but it’s tough to argue against Sale’s performance to this point. He’s got an ERA under two, a WHIP of 0.85 and well over 200 strikeouts – all league-leading totals. The only thing that has impacted his dominance was a brief trip to the disabled list, but he’s still made over 20 starts. By any measure you care to use, he has been exceptional. There are some other pitchers having outstanding seasons who could make a case with strong finishes – Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber from Cleveland, Verlander and Gerrit Cole from Houston – but as things stand right now, you can’t give this award to anyone but Sale.

(Also noteworthy: Bauer; Kluber; Verlander; Cole; Luis Severino, New York; Blake Snell, Tampa; Craig Morton, Houston)

NL Cy Young Award

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (Midseason: Scherzer)

Picking the best pitcher in the NL isn’t an easy task this season, but I’ve been riding with Scherzer all season and I have no intention of stepping away now. He certainly warrants my confidence – he’s leading the league in all manner of categories. Wins, strikeouts, WHIP, batting average against – Scherzer tops the list in all of them. And yet, there’s an argument that Jacob deGrom of the Mets is having as good a season. DeGrom’s ERA is a full half-run better than Scherzer; it’s all that’s keeping Scherzer from a pitching Triple Crown. But the anemic Mets offense has left deGrom with a sub-.500 record. All the peripherals in the world aren’t going to hold off another Scherzer Cy Young.

(Also noteworthy: deGrom; Aaron Nola, Philadelphia; Zack Greinke, Arizona; Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta)

AL MVP

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (Midseason: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels)

This is another homer pick that has the added bonus of being correct. Betts is having a season for the ages. He’s got a legitimate shot at a batting title – his average has been sitting around .350. He’s got an OBP well over .400 and a slugging percentage approaching .700. He’s walking almost as much as he strikes out, he’s leading the league in runs scored and he’s stolen 23 bases in 26 attempts. It is a phenomenal year. And it has to be, because Mike Trout is RIGHT BEHIND him. Trout’s got his own .300/.400/.500 line; he’s the league leader in walks and has outhomered Betts by three. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez and Boston’s J.D. Martinez are also having ungodly seasons. For now, it’s Betts, but any one of these guys could get hot and catch him.

(Also noteworthy: Trout; Ramirez; Martinez; Francisco Lindor, Cleveland; Aaron Judge, New York; Alex Bregman, Houston)

NL MVP

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (Midseason: Freeman)

I have no idea why I’ve decided that Freddie Freeman is my ride-or-die NL MVP candidate, but here we are. He’s got the numbers – he’s the NL’s only .300/.400/.500 guy and is among the OPS leaders. He’s in the top-10 in just about everything, making him a great candidate in a year where no player has put up a truly dominant season. However, there are a couple of players who are closing in fast – Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals has surged into the conversation with a massive power outburst and Chicago’s Javy Baez has shown the potential to move from “Most Exciting Player” to “Most Valuable Player.” Meanwhile, Nolan Arenado is once again underrated thanks to playing his home games in Colorado. I’m going with Freeman, but it could be any one of half-a-dozen.

(Also noteworthy: Carpenter; Baez; Arenado; Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati; Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee; Nick Markakis, Atlanta)

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