As the NBA and NHL seasons begin to wind down, the MLB season is starting to pick up. While the 162-game schedule is just crossing the first quarter mark, many teams and players are starting to show their true colors. With that being said, I thought this weekend would be a good time to give out some early season awards, and who I think will make the mid-season push to take over those certain crowns.
Biggest Surprise: Houston Astros
Who saw this one coming? I sure as heck didn’t, but here they are, one game back of the best record in baseball. Yes, we’re only 40-or-so games through the regular season, but the Astros have been dominating the competition. Their lineup has put up good numbers so far, as they are in the top-10 in both runs and slugging percentage, but their pitching has been even better. Houston’s staff has been exceptional and is currently in 8th in ERA, 6th in Opponent’s BA, and 4th in WHIP. The Astros have also helped themselves out in their own division, going 18-11, and they also have the fourth best run differential in the league at +25.
Biggest Disappointment: Oakland Athletics
I was struggling with this one because I could have gone with the Miami Marlins because they are currently ten games under and have already fired their manager. But they haven’t been nearly as bad as the Oakland A’s, who have the worst record in the MLB. They’re currently 15 games under .500, and are already 14.5 games back in the division. The Athletics have done a complete 180 from last October, and one of the reasons for that is because of Billy Beane’s “philosophy.” Each and every year, Beane thinks he needs to reinvent the wheel and change his entire team, and it has yet to work out. I guess it was smart to let go of Josh Donaldson and Yeonis Cespedes, and then not re-sign Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester, but hey, Billy Beane has won so much and knows what he is doing.
AL MVP: Nelson Cruz, Mariners
There are plenty of choices here because there are five guys who are hitting over .340, but it is impossible for me to go against Nelson Cruz. He is currently hitting .352, with 17 home runs and 34 RBIs, which are all in the top-5 of the league. Cruz has easily been the best power hitter in the game over the last season and a quarter, and he just might be the best player overall. However, it’s tough for guys to win this award if their team doesn’t make the playoffs. I think the Mariners are going to have to play much better and make that push for him to win, plus it is tough for me to go against Miguel Cabrera in the long run.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Nelson Cruz has been the best player over the first month and a half, but has anyone been hotter than Bryce Harper in the last two weeks? Absolutely not. Harper has single handedly moved the Nationals up in the standings and into first place in the NL East. Throughout the month of May, Harper is hitting .397, smacked 11 home runs, and has driven in 24 runs. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous in just 20 games, and the month still has a week left. Harper has been incredible, but I expect to see a three man race as the season goes on, between him, Adrian Gonzalez, and Paul Goldschmidt.
AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel, Astros
Unless you really follow baseball, I don’t expect you to know Dallas Keuchel. One of the reasons for that is because not many people could name more than one person on the Astros’ roster, other than Jose Altuve. However, Keuchel has been one of the best pitchers in the league since the start of 2014, and continues to dominate. He currently leads the league in ERA, has a WHIP under 1.00, and is undefeated with a 6-0 record. I think those are pretty good numbers for a possible Cy Young nominee. He does have competition right on his heels, with Sonny Gray and Felix Hernandez, but I expect Keuchel to continue his dominance as the season goes on.
NL Cy Young: AJ Burnett, Pirates
The Pirates have underachieved up to this point in the season, but AJ Burnett has been their lone bright spot. Burnett has a 4-1 record, and has the lowest ERA in all of baseball with a 1.37. He has only given up nine earned runs in nine games, which is outstanding to say the least. However, Burnett has always hit a wall at some point in the season, and it’s tough for me to think that it won’t happen again, especially when he is 38 years old. He also has four guys on his tail, who like himself, have sub-2.00 ERAs. I think Burnett will be fine for the next month or so, but once July hits, I think he will begin to take a step back. I fully expect this award to come down to Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, who have better teams, and will have more chances to win games.
AL Rookie Of The Year: Devon Travis, Blue Jays
Considering that there are only six rookies in the AL at this point, I think it comes down to Devon Travis and Nathan Karns. Karns has been good to this point, and is currently 3-2 with Tampa Bay, while posting a 3.71 ERA, but I think Devon Travis has been slightly better. He has a .271 batting average, 7 home runs, and 26 RBIs, and he has given the Blue Jays some help offensively. Unfortunately for Travis, he has just been placed on the 15-Day DL, so I think his campaign may take a minor hit, but it shouldn’t effect him in the long run.
NL Rookie Of The Year: Kris Bryant, Cubs
Joc Pederson may have more home runs than Bryant up to this point, but Bryant has been the better player. Bryant has been smashing the ball since he hit his first career home run in Milwaukee, and he now has 29 RBIs in just 34 games. He has a solid batting average at .282, and he also has a slugging percentage of .401, which is 13th in the league. At this point, I think the Rookie of the Year Award is going to be Bryant’s to lose, as I don’t see anyone overtaking him.
AL Manager Of The Year: AJ Hinch, Astros
Like his stud pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, I don’t expect anyone to know who AJ Hinch is. He had a brief managerial stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2009-10, but got another chance when he signed with the Astros last September. The Astros currently have the second best record in the league, and are showing no signs of slowing down. Hinch has this team playing ridiculously well, and is well-deserving of this honor at this point in the season.
NL Manager Of The Year: Joe Maddon, Cubs
Interesting choice to go to the Cubs in the offseason, but everyone knew it was for the money. However, Maddon is actually showing everyone his managerial skills, as he has the young gun Cubs playing excellent baseball. The Cubs are currently six games over, and are only 2.5 games back of the Cardinals. Sure it’s only 42 games, but if the season ended today, the Cubs would be back in the playoffs. Hats off to Joe Maddon, yet again.
It’s never too early to start handing out awards, and this is where I would land on each so far. I would love to hear some of the feedback and see where everyone else lands on these awards as well!
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Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Thomas Buckley