2019 MLB Awards Race: MVP, CY Young and Rookie of the Year remain up for grabs


Arturo Pardavila | Wikimedia Commons

Ethan Bherwani

Heading into the home stretch of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, it is the right time to start thinking about projections for the individual major award winners: Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, CY Young and Manager of the Year.

In the National League, things have gotten a lot more interesting in the second half of the season. In the opening half, the run-away candidates were outfielder Christian Yelich and outfielder or first baseman Cody Bellinger. 

Bellinger was batting over .400 well into May, and finished his first half with 27 home runs and 67 runs batted in. Yelich, on the other hand was batting .330, with 30 home runs. Yelich also takes advantage of his speed, stealing 18 bases in the first half of the season. 

Not shockingly, both superstars continued their legendary pace. As of Sept. 20, he has 45 home runs, 110 RBIs, a batting average of .305, on-base-percentage of .407 and an OPS of 1.033. Before suffering a regular season ending injury, Yelich hit 44 home runs, had an OPS of 1.100 and had an on-base-percentage of .383. 

However, there are definite legitimate dark-horse candidates in the National League for MVP. 

Anthony Rendon has been the hottest hitter in the league since the end of the All-Star break. As a result, he now leads the NL in batting average, and runs batted in, while being second in runs with 112. He is third in slugging percentage, behind Bellinger and Yelich. 

Another dark-horse candidate is outfielder Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Marte, does not fit the traditional model of MVP, as before the 2019 season he was a contact-first type hitter. Marte is also very versatile in the field, having started multiple games in the outfield and the infield. 

First baseman Freddie Freeman continues to develop at the age of 30. This year, Freeman has already set career-highs in home runs with 38 and 117 RBIs. Defensively, Freeman has a fielding percentage of .996, a true microcosm of his defensive ability.  

For the CY Young race, despite a masterful first half by Los Angeles Dodgers starter Hyun-Jun Ryu, for the second consecutive season, it will come down to the wire between New York Mets’ ace Jacob DeGrom and Washington National’s ace Max Scherzer. 

After a rough start to the season, DeGrom has carried a sub 2.00 earned run average since the All-Star break. As of Sept. 18, DeGrom leads all Major League starters with 17 starts of at least seven innings pitched. 

Over DeGrom’s last 61 starts, he carries a robust 2.16 ERA. DeGrom’s slider stands out from the rest – sitting at an average velocity of 92.5 mph. Compared to last season, DeGrom has increased his slider usage — 32.5% in 2019 — while also increasing his swing-and-miss rate — 39.4% in 2019. Also, DeGrom’s durability separates him from Scherzer and Ryu, who both were plagued by injuries this season. 

Scherzer has arguably been just as dominant. ontrasted to DeGrom, who has tallied only 19 wins in his last 61 starts, the Washington Nationals have won 11 of Scherzer’s last 15 starts. 

There are many dark-horse candidates for the National League CY Young, but all of them tail DeGrom and Scherzer. 

Rookie Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves tallied an ERA of 2.41 in his first 23 career starts. At the young age of 22, Soroka has walked 39 batters, while striking out 130, a true testament to his ability to control his pitches. 

Soroka has survived and thrived off his sinker — 92 mph-slider 83 mph — combination. Soroka has been able to generate a lot of groundballs with his sinker, due to his lanky frame.  

In the American League, five-tool centerfielder Mike Trout looks to add another MVP award to an already impeccable resume. Leading the American League with 45 home runs and slugging percentage — .645 — at the time of his season-ending injury, Trout had only played in 134 games. 

Houston Astros second baseman, Alex Bregman, lags behind Trout in OBP, OPS and stolen bases. 

For the American League CY Young award, starting pitcher Justin Verlander has carried himself through another dominant season. 

Verlander, who started his career as a flamethrower, has changed his archetype as he has aged, something several pitchers have struggled to do. Verlander leads Major League Baseball in walks and hits per inning pitched, at .782, meaning that hitters have an extremely difficult time getting on base against him. Interestingly enough, Verlander has held his opponents to an OPS of .571. 

For reference, Orioles “slugger” Chris Davis, who hit 51 home runs six seasons ago, holds a putrid OPS of .570. Verlander continues his battle for his second CY Young as the season closes. 

The dark-horse candidate for American League CY Young is Verlander’s teammate, Gerrit Cole. 

Cole has been a strikeout artist all year, taking advantage of his ability to throw 100 mph. This directly sets up his breaking pitchers — slider, cutter and curveball.  Since May, Cole has carried a robust ERA of 1.97, while striking out 181 batters in 118.6 innings pitched. 

Cole leads the MLB with 17 games with 10 or more strikeouts and, not surprisingly, leads the MLB in strikeouts by a wide margin. He will most likely finish in the top two in ERA and WAR. In his contract year, Cole will look to receive a mid to long term deal, with a value comparable to that of Verlander or National League counterpart Clayton Kershaw. 

The National League Rookie of the Year award will undoubtedly go to either Mets first baseman Peter Alonso or San Diego Padres’ shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. 

It seems silly, but it was unsure as to whether Alonso would even make the Mets’ opening day roster. Since then, Alonso has racked up an impressive, league-leading 49 home runs, shattering Cody Bellinger’s rookie record of 39. Alonso has also hit 79 extra base hits, another rookie record. 

Tatis is looking to finish his rookie year with an average over .300, over 30 home runs and over 20 stolen bases. 

Overall, Tatis is probably the better baseball player, but Alonso’s strength and ability to square-up the baseball — average exit velocity of 90.5 mph and hard-hit percentage of 41.5 — demonstrate an elite ability to hit that has been unprecedented to this point.

In the American League, the runaway choice is Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe. As of Sept. 18, Lowe leads American League rookies in doubles and runs batted in. 

Lowe has also demonstrated an ability to come through in the clutch, as nine of his 15 home runs have either tied a game or given the Rays the lead. 

His competition was believed to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who has massively fallen short of expectations this year, but Lowe has faced no real competitors this season.

In the National League, the Manager of the Year Award is very tight. Nationals manager Davey Martinez turned his team around after a dreadful 19-31 start to the season. The Nationals are also slowly piecing together what was a dreadful bullpen, sporting an ERA of 4.50 after May. 

His competition is Braves manager Brian Snitker, who is leading a roster mixed with youth and veterans to a National League East title. 

For American League Manager of the Year, the leading candidate is Rocco Baldelli of the Minnesota Twins. Baldelli is leading a Twins team that is on pace to win over 100 games, and has already set the record for the most home runs by a single franchise in a single season.