Yes, yes, I know it's early. Yes, I know we have of the games left in the 2014 MLB regular season. But still, somebody has to predict who will taking home baseball's biggest awards by season's end (and who'd deserve these awards if the season ended today). As an FYI, all the stats you'll see here are through June 30th. Some of the names you'll probably expect, and others might surprise you. But enough babble, let's predict some award winners.
American League Rookie of the Year:
This was probably the easiest decision of all to make. Though both the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu and the Houston Astros' George Springer have impressed the league with raw power, they stand no match for New York Yankees' ace Masahiro Tanaka. While many of the voters believe that Japanese imports should not qualify for the ROY award, Tanaka's nearly immaculate start puts him in a far lead. As of the end of June, Tanaka leads the American League in ERA (2.10) and leads baseball with 11 wins. And perhaps most significantly, he leads all pitchers in baseball in Wins Above Replacement by more than fifty points (4.32). Not to mention, he's tied for fifth most K's in the MLB and lays claim to the AL's second best WHIP (.95). Don't be surprised if you see the Yankees ace elsewhere on this list.
Runner up: Jose Abreu
AL ROY at season's end: Yes
National League Rookie of the Year:
Unlike the American League this year, the National League has not seen a tremendous amount of rookie talent. It really wasn't until mid-June with the promotions of Gregory Polanco and Oscar Taveras that the NL rookie pool was really spiced up. Unfortunately, Taveras only lasted 11 games before being sent down, and as solid as Polanco has looked so far this year, he joined the race a little late to be considered for any awards. And while Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Chris Owings has shown a lot of good play and leads all NL rookies in WAR, he lacks the pizzazz that gives the speedy Billy Hamilton a huge jump in this race. (In addition, Owings recently hit the DL, and the problem looks fairly serious.) Although Hamilton's season began on a bumpy path, since the beginning of June he has played incredibly, with a slugging percentage around .500 for the month. And don't forget his lightning speed (34 stolen bases through June). Go Billy, go!
Runner up: Chris Owings
NL ROY at season's end: Yes
American League Cy Young:
I've already told you everything there is to know about him. Tanaka is a true ace. And nearly single-handedly carrying his team's pitching shouldn't hurt his case for the American League's best pitcher. By year's end, we'll all get to see him join Fernando Valenzuela as the only two pitchers to receive the honor of Cy Young and ROY in the same season ... We should have Tanaka Nation!
Runner Up: Felix Hernandez
AL Cy Young at season's end: Yes
National League Cy Young:
We have come to expect the likes of Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw in this conversation year in and year out ... but Johnny Cueto?! Each pitcher has their own claim. Cueto: 8-5, 1.88 ERA (leads MLB), 122 K's, and 3.5 WAR. Wainwright: 10-4 (tied for NL lead), 2.01 ERA, 105 K's, and 3.6 WAR (leads NL). Kershaw: 9-2, 2.04 ERA, 107 K's, and 3.0 WAR. Honestly, any of these aces would be deserving of the NL Cy Young. However, I think Kershaw's DL stint slightly hurts his chances. And as much as I love Wainwright, I feel Cueto has the upper-hand because of his return from an injury defined 2013 season.
Runner up: Adam Wainwright
NL Cy Young at season's end: I say no. Cueto has been phenomenal, but I don't entirely see him keeping up what he's been doing. My prediction: Wainwright finally captures that elusive Cy Young, narrowly beating out the great Kershaw.
American League Most Valuable Player:
It looks like it's finally gonna happen kids. It took three years, and some controversy, but as looks as though Mike Trout will finally get in front of Miguel Cabrera and take home his first MVP. Trout leads the AL in WAR (5.0) and OPS (1.017), a sabermetrician's dream. Not to mention, baseball traditionalists salivate over his unparalleled five tool production. He's waited too long, let him have it.
Runner up: Josh Donaldson (I know, where did that come from?)
AL MVP at season's end: Yes.
National League Most Valuable Player:
Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jonathan Lucroy. Yes, a motley crew indeed. While Stanton and Tulo have had the more impressive seasons, both of their teams lie below the five hundred line, while Lucroy's bat has helped propel the Brewers to a beautiful first half. And don't forget the catching aspect also helps, as he contributes on all sides of the field. Lucroy sits third in third place in the the NL in WAR, behind who else but Stanton and Tulowitzki. The Brewers catcher is also second in NL batting average (.334), nineteen points behind Tulo, and twenty-one points higher than Stanton. Stanton leads the league with 21 home runs, Tulowitzki has the second most with 18. Stanton does have the advantage in RBI's (60), towering over Tulo's 47 and Lucroy's 42. And let's not forget WAR! Tulo: 5.1, Stanton: 5.0, and Lucroy: 4.2. Just because of the standings, as of today, Lucroy's got it.
Runner up: Troy Tulowitzki
NL MVP at season's end: Nope. Sorry Jonathan. Unfortunately I do not see the Rockies making a playoff run or even reaching .500, a fact that will severely damage Tulo's MVP hopes. However, this Marlins team which had close to zero expectations entering the season sits only four games below .500. My prediction, Stanton leads the league in home runs, RBI's, and WAR, earning him the NL MVP. The Marlins will miss out on the playoffs, but they'll finish the season much better than anyone expected.
Stay tuned my precious readers and see how the predictions unfold! Enjoy the second half of the season!