With the first half of the 2014 MLB season in the books, it’s now time to honor those deserving recognition.
Nearly every major awards race is a close one and will most likely be determined by September performances. The standout showings up to this point garner attention on these lists—as well as possible inclusion in the All-Star starting lineups.
NL MVP: OF Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
This was the toughest call. Not because there weren’t enough players that fit the mold of MVP status, but because so many of the good players were on mediocre teams. That can easily change from now until the early fall.
Don’t expect the Marlins to hang around in the playoff hunt for long. That said, Stanton is a major reason why they were above .500 for a majority of the season’s first three months. Rejuvenating an offense that missed his presence for part of 2013, Stanton possesses outstanding power numbers (21 homers, 61 RBI, .585 slugging) to go along with consistency at the plate (.313 batting average, .412 on-base percentage).
AL MVP: OF Mike Trout, Angels
After two years of near misses, this may be the year Trout gets his MVP—and we’ll stop hearing all the whining from sabermetricians. With Miguel Cabrera not playing the role of Superman—as he seemingly did in 2012 and 2013—the trophy is there for the taking.
Trout leads all AL players in wins above replacement (WAR) with 5.0. His home runs, runs batted in and batting average rank among the top 10 in the league. Most importantly, his team is much improved. A playoff spot caused by Trout’s stellar play will be all he needs.
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
This selection is interchangeable among three pitchers right now: Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Wainwright all merit serious consideration. As of Friday, the choice is for the Cardinals’ ace—who leads his league in ERA (1.89) and wins with a WHIP of 0.95.
Cueto may have been the pick a few days ago, but his loss on Wednesday to San Diego brought his ERA higher than Wainwright. He still has exemplary numbers in strikeouts (130) and WHIP (0.87). If Kershaw has a month similar to the one he produced in June, things will be very interesting as the season progresses.
It’s a race that is very much up for grabs, but right now Wainwright is the leader.
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Hernandez and Masahiro Tanaka match each other in the ERA category (2.10). However, King Felix has a lower WHIP (0.92), a lower batting average against (.206) and more strikeouts. His 10 victories are just shy of the Japanese sensation. But as Hernandez knows all too well from his Cy Young Award in 2010, wins aren’t of the utmost important (13-12 record that year).
Even his two defeats this season have been impressive. The first came on April 21, when he two earned runs in seven innings. Then, on June 13, he was the unfortunate loser against Texas after going 8.1 innings and giving up four hits, one walk and one run.
Tim Howard only trails Felix Hernandez for most losses while only allowing 2 or fewer
— Neal Kendrick (@neal_kendrick) July 1, 2014
NL Rookie of the Year: SS Chris Owings, Diamondbacks
Billy Hamilton may be trying to literally run away with this award thanks to 35 steals, but the more viable contender resides in Arizona. Hamilton has performed well over the past three weeks. But it’s simply a sign that he’s on a hot streak—not a sign that he’s adjusted to big league pitching and can get on base regularly.
Owings has been on the disabled list for a week with a sore shoulder. How he performs upon his return will dictate this race going forward. As far as the first half of the year is concerned, he outshined the rest of the NL rookie class. Owings has hit .277 overall with six homers and 21 RBI. His best production came last month, with a .317 mark and 12 runs driven in for June. His biggest challengers for the remainder of the year will be Hamilton and Pirates phenom Gregory Polanco.
AL Rookie of the Year: 1B Jose Abreu, White Sox
Once again, Tanaka comes up short here as well. Abreu wins this toss-up with his 26 home runs (on pace to break Mark McGwire’s rookie record), 67 RBI (on pace to collect 139) and .624 slugging average. All of this despite missing two weeks of the season with an ankle injury.
With an outstanding April and a stellar June, Abreu earned AL Rookie of the Month honors in each of those months. In addition to his power numbers, Abreu has shown improvement in his on-base percentage and OPS.
NL Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, Brewers
It was easy to assume that after a hot April, the surprising Brewers would eventually fade away. But thanks to Roenicke and company, that has not been the case. In fact, this team has maintained its stellar play to the point of having the top record in the NL. A 90-season seems almost guaranteed. A playoff spot is likely. Roenicke deserves a great deal of praise, especially since many wouldn’t be able to identify him even if he walked the streets of Milwaukee.
AL Manager of the Year: John Gibbons, Blue Jays
Aside from the bats, Toronto doesn’t look very imposing on paper. Take Mark Beuhrle away from the rotation, and it’s mediocre at best. The bullpen, as it stands, is sub-par, the 13th best in the AL in terms of ERA. But that hasn’t stopped Gibbons from guiding the Jays into first place on May 21—and keeping them there. In his seventh season with Toronto, his highest final win total was 87. Chances are he tops that in 2014.
NL All-Star Projected Starting Lineup
1. Carlos Gomez, Brewers (CF)
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (LF)
3. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (SS)
4. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (DH)
5. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks (1B)
6. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (RF)
7. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers (3B)
8. Chase Utley, Phillies (2B)
9. Yadier Molina, Cardinals (C)
Starting Pitcher: Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Breakdown: Speed at the top, power in the middle and experience at the bottom. Mike Matheny can’t go wrong with this lineup with several pieces that are interchangeable. Puig could go higher, but it’s best to keep him lower in the order with this being his first All-Star Game. And when you have 21 home runs (as Stanton does), that’s ideal for a cleanup hitter.
AL All-Star Projected Starting Lineup
1. Mike Trout, Angels (CF)
2. Robinson Cano, Mariners (2B)
3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (RF)
4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (1B)
5. Nelson Cruz, Orioles (DH)
6. Josh Donaldson, A’s (3B)
7. Yoenis Cespedes, A’s (LF)
8. Derek Jeter, Yankees (SS)
9. Derek Norris, A’s (C)
Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Breakdown: Mike Trout is the closest thing to a leadoff hitter, so he’ll get the nod up top by John Ferrell. Bautista, Cabrera and Cruz compose a mash unit that no National League pitcher would want to face. Jeter will get a fond farewell during introductions and at least one at-bat before the Target Field crowd. Leading in voting, but unable to participate, will be the Orioles’ Matt Wieters—likely to be replaced by Norris.