As we inch closer to October, it’s apparent that this year, not unlike every other MLB season, will conclude with a flourish.
Whether you’re a fan of one of baseball’s elite, the few teams vying for a spot in the big dance, or a supporter of a lesser club, the final two months of this 2018 season should entertain—except for the Orioles fans, of course.
Yes, with J.D. Martinez smacking balls all over the diamond, Jose Ramirez quietly becoming one of the games biggest stars, and Jacob deGrom posting downright unreasonable numbers, the penultimate weeks provide baseball fans an opportunity to sit back and savor greatness. What better way to recognize the best of the best than by breaking down each individual award race, even if the calendar still reads August?
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
Sure, it was tempting to give this one to Alex Cora, the man who’s brought the fire to a Boston team so desperately needing it, but the fact is that the Sox were always expected to be good. Even if Cora has made the biggest impact, he isn’t likely to receive much support from the voters.
Instead, Bob Melvin is the easy choice. Not only has he breathed new life into an Athletics team expecting to dwell in the cellar, but since the 16th of June, they’ve posted a record of 34-12, good for best in baseball in that span. From an expected last place finish to a legitimate contender? That’s certainly deserving of this award.
NL Manager of the Year: Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers
I know, I know. The Dodgers are coming off of a 104-win season that saw them come oh-so-close to their first championship in 30 years, but alas, it did not come to pass. After an intense World Series hangover and a disabled list occupied by more All-Stars than the Mets would know what to do with, Roberts had righted the ship, and Los Angeles stands atop the competitive National League West. Just like last season with Arizona’s Torey Lovullo, the best manager in the senior circuit hails from the NL West.
AL Rookie of the Year: Miguel Andujar, INF, New York Yankees
It’s truly amazing to remember how at one point in this season, Shohei Ohtani, the two-way phenom whose skills were supposedly unmatched by anyone this side of 1930, was considered the hands-down favorite for Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, constant injuries have rendered that a near impossibility.
Instead, the race for the best rookie award revolves around the New York Yankees, and more specifically, their infield. Top prospect Gleyber Torres is considered by many across the land to be the superior player, but Andujar’s .296 batting average and rookie-leading 57 RBIs dwarf Torres’ numbers.
NL Rookie of the Year: Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
In what is essentially a three horse race between Soto, Marlins infielder Brian Anderson, and Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader, I’m taking the teenager from Washington. Anderson and Bader, who both broke in much earlier in the year than Soto did, have both been rock solid during their short respective times in the majors, but Soto has that X-factor that you don’t always see from a player of his age. The youngster leads all rookies with 2.5 Wins Above Replacement, despite the fact that he’s appeared in only 72 games since his debut.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
At the time of writing, Sale has reclaimed the American League strikeout crown, after punching out 12 batters in only five innings of work, while lowering his ERA to a staggering 1.97. Some names still stand out on Sale’s tail, most notably Astros ace Justin Verlander, but should Sale continue on his current trajectory, it’s hard to see him relinquishing his claim to the prestigious award. He’s as safe a bet as any to break through and take home the hardware.
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
DeGrom has been incredible this year, certainly much better than his win-loss record would indicate, as he stands at 6-7 on the year. He has Scherzer beat in Earned Run Average by a longshot, and his figure of 1.77 stands a full half run above the Nats aces’ mark of 2.28, but even still, Scherzer will win it.
While it isn’t right to punish a pitcher for his team’s performance, I firmly believe that the voters will, and let’s be real, it isn’t some huge injustice for a player to the caliber of Scherzer to win his third consecutive Cy Young Award. After all, he seems to be getting even better, at 34-years-old.
AL Most Valuable Player: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox
Ah, yes. In what is perhaps the best award race in baseball, we get a little bit of everything. Martinez may end up winning the Triple Crown, Ramirez may become just the fifth member of the 40-homer, 40-stolen bases club, and Mike Trout is clearly the best player in the world, when healthy.
Still, it would be hard to give the trophy to anyone other than Mookie Betts, whose numbers—.351 Batting average, .669 Slugging percentage, 7.8 WAR—are rivaled by just about none. In addition to his statistical dominance, the Tennessee kid is the best player on the best team in baseball, and everyone loves a good story.
NL Most Valuable Player: Nolan Arenado, INF, Colorado Rockies
We’ve reached a point in this game where we come to expect a certain level of production from our favorite web-gem machine, Nolan Arenado. It’s been great as a means to spread visibility, to notify the public of one of the games best and brightest, but it’s also desensitized us, the hardcore fans, to the excellence he beams.
In what has been perhaps a weak National League MVP race—though not if Matt Carpenter has anything to say about it—the Rockies stellar baseball sprayer stands among the very best in just about every relevant batting statistic. He’s second in homers, third in On-Base Percentage, and second in Slugging and WAR. This may just be the year Arenado finally wins the MVP.