The Too Early MLB Awards
At the beginning of May I unveiled my “Way Too Early MLB Awards” to show who’s in the pole position for each award at this juncture of the season. Another month is in the books so let’s knock off an adjective and dub this the “Too Early MLB Awards”. Going to mix up the format with the Summer Olympics coming this summer and have a top three for each award in medal order. Sadly, there is no baseball at the London Olympics, so I have to make a connection to bring it back for 2020. Please note this is not a “player of the month” post. This is cumulative from the start of the season until now. The May Player of the Month awards have already been handed out by MLB. Josh Hamilton and Giancarlo Stanton were the top hitters, Chris Sale and Gio Gonzalez were the top pitchers, and Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were the top rookies. Where do they land in my awards?
National League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals
No better place to start than the May NL Rookie of the Month. The 19 year-old phenom has been everything Nationals fans hoped he would be since getting called up. Harper is hitting .288 thus far and has provided some consistency in the middle of the Washington lineup. His .922 OPS leads all MLB rookies. He still has time to track down the two rookies I have ahead of him for the award.
Silver Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
Miley took home top NL rookie honors in April and didn’t slow down very much in May. Miley leads Arizona with six wins and has the best ERA in the rotation at 2.72. Unfortunately for Miley, one player has even better statistics.
Gold Medal: Lance Lynn, Cardinals
Lynnsanity has hit St. Louis with full force. Lynn leads not just rookies, but is tied for the MLB lead with eight winsalong with Cole Hamels and R.A. Dickey. Lynn’s 2.63 ERA is the best among eligible starting rookie pitchers, while holding batters to a paltry .213 batting average over 68.1 innings. Lynn has been the anchor on a pitching staff still missing Chris Carpenter and waiting for Adam Wainwright to be 100%.
Just off the Podium: Yonder Alonso, Padres, Steve Lombardozzi, Nationals, and Kirk Nieuwenheis, Mets
American League Rookie of the Year
Bronze Medal: Ryan Cook, Athletics
Yoenis Cespedes was the big name rookie for Oakland coming into this season. Jarrod Parker was the big get in the Trevor Cahill trade with Arizona in the offseason. But who has outperformed both so far this season in the Bay Area? Ryan Cook. Cook has appeared in 23 games for Oakland and has only given up a run in one appearance for an exquisite 0.75 ERA. He’s the Athletics closer of the future if they decide to deal Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour at the trade deadline.
Silver Medal: Mike Trout, Angels
I think when we reach the end of this season Mike Trout will end up as you 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. For now though, he’ll have to settle for the silver. Trout has been even better than Bryce Harper since they got called up on the same day. Trout leads all rookies in batting average at .315 and stolen bases with nine. He’s second among all rookies in OPS and OBP (behind Harper) and in slugging (behind Will Middlebrooks). More importantly he’s been the spark plug for a languishing Angels team that has surged since his call-up.
Gold Medal: Yu Darvish, Rangers
Darvish keeps his top spot in my rankings, for now. Darvish leads American League rookies in wins (7) and strikeouts (71) while keeping together a solid 3.21 ERA. Darvish’s .230 batting average against has been great, but when you add in his wildness thus far, his WHIP is at a 1.44. With the way Trout has come out of the gate, Darvish’s days on the top of the rookie heap may be numbered.
Just off the Podium: Jesus Montero, Mariners, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Drew Smyly, Tigers
National League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Brandon Beachy, Braves
There is a ton of great pitching in the National League right now as evidenced by the NL leader in ERA being just 3rd in my Cy Young rankings right now. Beachy also leads in adjusted ERA and adjusted pitching wins, plus is 3rd in WHIP and tied for 2nd in WAR among NL pitchers. The pitcher that never pitched a game before getting drafted has adjusted tremendously to the mound.
Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
This will be a controversial pick I’m sure, but how can I not include a player who hasn’t given up a run in 28 innings and has 50 strikeouts this season. Let me repeat that AROLDIS CHAPMAN HAS NOT GIVEN UP A RUN IN 28 INNINGS AND HAS 50 STRIKEOUTS. I didn’t even pitch that well in video games when I was little. He’s done it in a set-up role and now as the closer for Cincinnati. He leads the NL in K/9 ratio, base-out runs saved, and win probability added. Chapman just has jaw-dropping numbers right now.
Gold Medal: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
Another month, another Nationals pitcher atop my rankings. Gonzalez has been arguably the best offseason acquisition in the Majors as he’s adjusted beautifully to the NL. Gonzalez sports a nifty 2.04 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, both numbers 2nd best in the senior circuit. He also his tied for 2nd with teammate Stephen Strasburg in strikeouts, but leads the NL in K/9 ratio. The best case for Gonzalez as NL Cy Young right now is that he leads NL pitchers in WAR at 2.4. Four pitchers are behind him a 2.0 including the aforementioned Beachy who Gonzalez beat head to head on the road on Memorial Day eve. Gonzalez and Strasburg have formed the best current 1-2 pitching punch in MLB.
Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Johan Santana, Mets, R.A. Dickey, Mets, James McDonald, Pirates, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Anibal Sanchez, Marlins and Cole Hamels, Phillies (told you NL pitching was deep)
American League Cy Young
Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox
Is Sale a reliever? Is Sale a starter? I think after his 15-strikeout performance that the White Sox have figured out Sale belongs at the top of the rotation for a long time. Sale currently leads the American League in ERA and adjusted ERA. He’s gotten better it seems with each start since rejoining the rotation going from 5 IP and 3 ER to 5.1 IP and 1 ER to 7 shutout innings to the amazing 15 strikeouts in 7.1 IP against the Rays. He’s even started June off on the right foot with his first career complete game against the Mariners.
Silver Medal: Jake Peavy, White Sox
As good as Chris Sale has been, he hasn’t eclipsed his teammate Jake Peavy. Peavy was in the number one spot after April but slips back to #2 this month. Peavy’s numbers are still great with a 3.05 ERA and 2nd in the AL 0.93 WHIP. He’s also 2nd in WAR and situational wins saved. Peavy is 2nd of course to the guy in the #1 spot right now.
Gold Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers
What’s weird is before I started digging into the numbers I didn’t think Verlander had been all that great. Before his 6/2 start against the Yankees, he led the American League in WHIP, strikeouts, WAR, and complete games. He had his first career one-hitter against the Pirates after losing a no-no in the top of the 9th. Even more impressive he’s gone 6 innings or more in 54 consecutive starts. The man is a workhorse, the best pitcher in the game right now, and my “too early” pick for AL Cy Young.
Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, David Price, Rays, CC Sabathia, Yankees, Jim Johnson, Orioles, CJ Wilson, Angels and Fernando Rodney, Rays
National League MVP
Bronze Medal: Melky Cabrera, Giants
Please don’t spit your drink out at your computer upon reading this. I decided pretty quickly who my #1 is for this award and then there was a cluster of about five to seven players than had a case for second and third. I went with Cabrera for now just because he’s leading the league in batting average, hits, and triples. Plus, he has helped tremendously with an anemic Giants offense scoring 40 runs atop that lineup, good for 2nd best in the NL. It was really tough to not give David Wright this spot or even the next one.
Silver Medal: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
I can’t get blamed for being a biased Braves fan and anti-David Wright if I put Carlos Ruiz second and leave off Michael Bourn right? Chooch has been everything for the Phillies in 2012. He’s had his normal brilliance behind the plate with the pitching staff, but it’s at the plate where Ruiz has shined this season. He’s just behind Cabrera in batting average at .371, while being 4th in OBP, SLG, and OPS. He is the only player in either league to be in the top 6 in both offensive AND defensive WAR. He deserves to start the All-Star Game.
Gold Medal: Joey Votto, Reds
When the season started with Votto’s long, expensive extension people thought it might have been the wrong move. I was ridiculed when I made him the first pick in my jersey draft early this season. Votto has been nothing short of brilliant thus far for the 1st place Reds. Votto is tops in the NL in WAR, OBP, OPS, walks, doubles, and extra-base hits. Matt Kemp’s injuries assured Votto the top spot, but Votto might have taken it anyway.
Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers
American League MVP
Bronze Medal: Adam Jones, Orioles
This was probably the simplest of the awards for me. There are three clear-cut guys for AL MVP right now to me and they sort out nicely. Jones definitely earned his 85.5 million extension from Baltimore and it’s clear that this is his team. Jones has been a dual threat as he has 16 home runs (tied for 5th) and has nine stolen bases (tied for 6th) and should soon become the 1st player in the ALto double digits in both categories. Jones is 2nd in offensive WAR, plus adding his usual Gold Glove defense. Jones has evolved into a complete five-tool player. He’s one of the major reasons the Orioles are the biggest surprise in the AL.
Silver Medal:Paul Konerko, White Sox
If it wasn’t for the guy at #1, Konerko would have a legit chance at his first MVP award. You know what? He still might. Konerko currently is in the lead in batting average and OBP, while runner-up in slugging, OPS, and offensive WAR. He even finished 2nd on this week “MLB Player Poll” in which the question was “Who is the most underrated player in MLB?” One of these days he’ll be on top, probably when he sneaks across 500 home runs without anyone noticing.
Gold Medal: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Was there any doubt who would still be number one? Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better he adds a FOUR HOMER GAME to his resume in May in taking home his 2nd Player of the Month award this season. Let’s just knock out all the categories he leads the American League in for the first-place Rangers and call it a blog post. Ready? Hamilton is 1st in WAR, slugging, OPS, home runs, total bases, runs batted in, extra-base hits, and even sacrifice flies. He’s the best player by far on a first place team, it’s his award to lose.
Just off the Podium: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Jason Kipnis, Indians, Derek Jeter, Yankees, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Mark Trumbo, Angels, David Ortiz, Red Sox and Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
What do you think I missed on? Should I really have had Melky Cabrera top 3 for NL MVP? Or Aroldis Chapman who spent most of the year in middle relief 2nd for a Cy Young? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)