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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2019 – Midseason

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Midseason AL MVP Clubhouse Leader Mike Trout. Midseason AL MVP Clubhouse Leader Mike Trout. (AP file photo)

While we tend to treat the All-Star Game as the midway point of the MLB season, the reality is that the actual halfway point is right now. As of press time, all major league teams have reached the 80-game mark, leaving us with fully 50% of the 2019 campaign in the books.

And things have definitely changed.

All of the first-quarter picks have fallen by the wayside; there has been a lot of turnover at the top. That said, a couple of players have continued along their paths toward postseason hardware, only to be overtaken by players that managed to somehow find yet another gear, launching them into the stratosphere and making us genuinely question what their ceilings might actually be (looking at you, Mike Trout).

Ladies and gentlemen, your Clubhouse Leaders.

AL Rookie of the Year

Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (First quarter: Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox)

Lowe could easily have been in this spot last time around, but he definitely has cemented his spot with his performance in the 40ish games since. Lowe is the league’s rookie leader in home runs and RBI – he’s currently on pace for 30 homers and 100 RBI, with a slugging percentage well over .500. Michael Chavis has fallen off after a torrid start to his season – his OPS has dropped 200 points in the past six weeks. There are a couple of rookie pitchers having decent years, but for the most part, none have looked like real breakouts. As of right now, it’s an easy call for Lowe.

(Also noteworthy: Chavis; John Means, Baltimore; Spencer Turnbull, Kansas City; Eloy Jimenez, Chicago; Griffin Canning, Los Angeles)

NL Rookie of the Year

Pete Alonso, New York Mets (First quarter: Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres)

This National League crop of rookies is considerably more impressive than the AL. The pick here has to be Alonso, who is having the sort of year that could warrant down-ballot MVP consideration, let alone Rookie of the Year votes. He’s basically lapping the field in homers and RBI; he has basically doubled up his closest competitors in both categories. Heck, as of this moment he’s second in the majors in home runs and in the top-five in RBI. Paddack’s had a great year thus far, but the Padres appear to be managing his workload in a manner that will likely impede his chances. Atlanta’s Mike Soroka has pitched to an ERA of just over two and looks like the real deal.

(Also noteworthy: Paddack; Soroka; Fernando Tatis, San Diego; Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh; Yoan Lopez, Arizona; Christian Walker, Arizona)

AL Cy Young Award

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros (First quarter: Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay)

This was always going to be a new name – Glasnow went down with a significant injury. However, even if he hadn’t Verlander might have usurped him anyway; he’s been that good. He’s been lights out all season, striking out something like 150 with an ERA well below three. He’s also far and away the AL WHIP leader. Verlander is the best among some pretty solid contenders – guys like Tampa Bay’s dynamic duo of Craig Morton and Yonny Chirinos have some pretty impressive numbers of their own, while Chicago’s Lucas Giolito is in the midst of a career turnaround unlike anything we’ve seen in some time. Still, it’s tough to argue against Verlander, who continues to burnish his Hall of Fame resume with elite late-career performances.

(Also noteworthy: Morton; Chirinos; Giolito; Gerrit Cole, Houston; Mike Minor, Texas; Jose Berrios, Minnesota; Chris Sale, Boston)

NL Cy Young Award

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers (First quarter: Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds)

It hasn’t been the flashiest season from Ryu, but the pitcher is quietly having an outstanding year. His ERA is a staggeringly low 1.27. He also leads the league with a WHIP well under one, thanks in no small part to his aversion to free passes – he’s walked just six in 99 innings as of press time, while striking out just shy of a batter an inning. Castillo definitely came back to Earth after a blazing hot start, but he’s still top-five in ERA, top-10 in strikeouts and top-20 in WHIP. Even so, he’s been passed by not just Ryu, but Ryu’s teammate Walker Buehler (2.96 ERA, 100 Ks, 0.88 WHIP) and Washington’s perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer, who leads the league in strikeouts while also sitting near the top in ERA and WHIP. He might be the year-end victor, but for now, it’s Ryu.

(Also noteworthy: Castillo; Buehler; Scherzer; Zack Greinke, Arizona; Mike Soroka, Atlanta; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles; Stephen Strasburg, Washington)


Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (First quarter: George Springer, Houston Astros)

In news that should come as a surprise to exactly no one who pays the slightest attention to baseball, Mike Trout has taken this spot – a spot he would have had in the first quarter if I wasn’t trying to keep things fresh. But Trout did his Trout thing and here we are. He’s at or near the top of every leaderboard that matters, from counting stats like homers, runs and RBI, to slash stats – he leads the AL in both OBP and slugging percentage (although he’s merely top-10 in batting average). Oh, and he’s still an all-world defender and has eight steals. Other contenders – all currently clamoring for a distant second – include Minnesota shortstop Jorge Polanco and Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson; guys like Springer and Texas’s Joey Gallo have seen otherwise elite campaigns undermined by injury. But even if everybody was in peak form, Trout would probably still have this spot – he’s Mike Trout they’re not.

(Also noteworthy: Springer; Polanco; Anderson; Gallo; Michael Brantley, Houston; Gary Sanchez, New York; Carlos Santana, Cleveland; Alex Bregman, Houston; Mookie Betts, Boston)


Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (First quarter: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers)

This one was easily the closest to a holdover, but in the end, the production put forth by Yelich is simply too impressive to deny. He is the leading home run hitter in the major leagues; he’s also MLB’s leader in slugging position. In other important categories – batting average, OBP, RBI, runs scored – he’s ranked no lower than third in the league. And oh yeah – he’s the NL’s best base stealer as well. You can’t question Cody Bellinger’s bona fides – he’s the current batting leader, tops in OBP and in the same neighborhood as Yelich in everything else. This is shaping up to be quite the race going forward. There are some players on the periphery – Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell and perennial contender Freddie Freeman of Atlanta are having great years, as are Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. Mets rookie Pete Alonso is in this group too, as is Arizona second baseman Ketel Marte. But unless one or more of these guys gets incandescent hot, they’re fighting for third place behind the two at the top.

(Also noteworthy: Bellinger; Bell; Freeman; Arenado; Blackmon; Alonso; Marte; Trevor Story, Colorado; Anthony Rendon, Washington; Wilson Contreras, Chicago)


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