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Clubhouse Leaders: MLB Awards Edition 2022 – Home Stretch

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Welcome back to Clubhouse Leaders!

You might have noticed that I’ve moved away from the usual quarterly format. I’d love to say that this is because there’s some sort of value added by shifting attention away from seemingly arbitrary milestones to something a little more exciting – in this case, the season’s final month, where big moves can ultimately be made – but the truth is that I’ve just late putting this together.

No matter – we can still talk about who looks to be in the best shape as we enter the last stretch where MLB players can make their cases, statistical and otherwise, to take home the game’s most significant individual hardware.

There’s not the same level of change from midseason to this point as there was from the season’s onset to the All-Star break – all six leaders changed – but there are a couple of shifts. Still, many of these players had already made it very clear that they were the favorites for these awards and not a lot has happened to disabuse them (or us) of that notion.

On to Clubhouse Leaders!

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AL Rookie of the Year

Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (Midseason: Rodriguez)

The Mariners just inked this guy to a massive contract extension, locking him up for the next decade-plus. And if his performance in his rookie campaign is any indicator, it might well wind up looking like a bargain when all is said and done. We’re talking about a kid who has already locked in a 20 homer/20 steal season even as he flirts with an .800 OPS. He’s not perfect – he strikes out a ton and relies a bit too much on his natural athleticism – but if those are your complaints, well … you don’t have much to complain about. There are those pushing Baltimore’s Adley Rutchsman as a dark horse, and for good reason – he’s put up solid numbers and all the Orioles have done is win since he was called up – but he’s 30 games behind in terms of production and I don’t think he can make up that ground. Barring injury, J-Rod cruises to this win.

(Also noteworthy: Rutschman; Jeremy Pena, Houston Astros; Bobby Witt, Kansas City Royals; Brock Burke, Texas Rangers; George Kirby, Seattle Mariners)

NL Rookie of the Year

Michael Harris, Atlanta Braves (Midseason: Harris)

This one almost flipped, though the trophy would’ve remained in Atlanta. Harris is at or near the top in just about every offensive category among qualified NL rookies – homers, steals, hits, slash stats … it’s all top-tier. Plus, he’s been a surprisingly steadying presence in the field as well. The parts all add up to a pretty easy win. However, he also shares a uniform with Spencer Strider, who has been having an outstanding season on the mound. Strider started off in the pen, but quickly became a rotation mainstay. His ratio numbers are excellent – a sub-3 ERA, a WHIP just over one – and he’s striking out something like 13 batters per nine innings. Meanwhile, in most other years, someone like Brendan Donovan of the Cardinals would garner more attention – he leads his fellow NL rookies in both batting average and OBP – but his lack of power leaves him just a bit behind. I like Harris, but keep an eye on Strider.

(Also noteworthy: Strider; Donovan; Nolan Gorman, St. Louis Cardinals; Jake McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks)

AL Cy Young Award

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros (Midseason: Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays)

Hey look – Justin Verlander is back on top! I allowed myself to be swayed by the excellence of Shane McClanahan, but these past few weeks have shown me the error of my ways. Verlander’s 16 wins lead the league, as does his sub-2 ERA. He’s also striking out a guy an inning and sitting at or near the top of the leaderboards in stats like WHIP and BAA. All this, by the way, as a 39-year-old dude who spent the previous two years recovering from injury. None of this is to downplay McClanahan’s work, by the way – he’s very close to Verlander in just about everything, just with fewer wins and more strikeouts. He's been exceptional, but I think anything close is going to swing in favor of the better narrative, and Verlander is a hell of a story. Chicago’s Dylan Cease is having a fantastic year as well, but he’s almost certainly going to wind up as an afterthought in this hotly-contested race. Of course, anything can happen in the stretch run, but for now, it’s awfully tough to imagine anyone other than Verlander taking this one home.

(Also noteworthy: McClanahan; Cease; Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees; Alex Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays; Framber Valdez, Houston Astros)

NL Cy Young Award

Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins (Midseason: Alcantara)

Despite the fact that this pick is carrying over from midseason, it might be the one in which I feel least confident. Look, there’s no arguing that Alcantara has been great this season; he’s sitting among the league’s best in just about every pitching category. And he’s leading the league in innings pitched, which isn’t nothing. However, there are a couple of others having years that are just as impressive. Maybe the strangest is L.A.’s Tony Gonselin, who has ridden his smoke-and-mirrors stuff to a gaudy 16 wins in just 23 starts, even as he leads the league in ERA and WHIP. He doesn’t go deep and he doesn’t strike a ton of guys out, but he helps his team win. Gonselin’s not alone in that Dodgers rotation, either – both Julio Arias and Tyler Anderson are having campaigns that will likely snag them some down-ballot consideration. There are a few others as well; the NL is packed with guys having excellent seasons. Perhaps more than any other of these races, this one will come down to who gets it done over the final month.

(Also noteworthy: Gonselin; Arias; Anderson; Max Fried, Atlanta Braves; Carlos Rodon, San Francisco Giants; Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers)

AL MVP

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (Midseason: Judge)

Yes, I know. *sigh* I would love to be able to slide someone else into this slot, but the truth is that Judge has a real shot at cracking 60 homers or more, and if the dude does that, there’s no way he doesn’t get MVP. He’s got a batting average hovering around .300 while sitting second in OBP and tops in slugging. Oh, and he’s leading the AL in RBI, runs and walks. It pains my little homer heart to say it, but Judge is in the driver’s seat. Sure, Shohei Ohtani continues the Tungsten Arm O’Doyle tour – double digit wins, a sub-3 ERA and in the top five in Ks as a pitcher; kicking around the bottom of the top 10 in homers, OPS and RBI (plus he’s got six triples!) – but Judge’s year has enough historic potential to push Ohtani’s now-standard top-20/top-15 pitcher/hitter status aside. Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez is having a relatively quiet brilliant season – he’s all over the leaderboard while also sporting a walk-to-strikeout ratio hovering around an unheard of one-to-one. Oh, and as to the aforementioned homer heart – Boston’s Rafael Devers is having a hell of a year, albeit one unlikely to garner him more than a handful of votes.

(Also noteworthy: Ohtani; Ramirez; Devers; Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros; Vladimir Guerrero, Toronto Blue Jays; Alex Bregman, Houston Astros)

NL MVP

Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals (Midseason: Goldschmidt)

So there are a lot of good hitters having good seasons in the National League this year. None of it matters, because Paul Goldschmidt is having one for the ages. We’re talking about a guy who has a very real shot at winning both the traditional Triple Crown AND the slash-stat Triple Crown. He’s got the slash crown in hand, leading in batting average, OBP and slugging. As for the more traditional numbers, he’s leading in RBI and sitting second in homers alongside the aforementioned batting average lead. There’s no one else to give it to. Goldschmidt’s teammate Nolan Arenado is having a phenomenal year, his name all over the league’s leaderboards even as he plays elite defense. Doesn’t matter. Freddie Freeman is having a dominant season in L.A.; his power output is down, but he’s hitting the ball as well as ever. Doesn’t matter. Also in L.A., Trea Turner is batting well over .300 and is on the verge of a 20/20 season. Doesn’t matter. Assuming Goldschmidt maintains even a modicum of this level of production, the MVP is his to lose.

(Also noteworthy: Arenado; Freeman; Turner; Pete Alonso, New York Mets; Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves; Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers; Manny Machado, San Diego Padres)

Last modified on Saturday, 27 August 2022 13:03

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