MLB Awards Race – Week of August 24

Who are the front-runners for the most significant individual awards?

As the season draws another week closer to its end, let’s take an updated look at the races for MLB’s most prestigious individual awards!

 

Leaders for the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player Award

 

1. Shane Bieber, CLE

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
40.2 5 0 1.000 65 1.11 0.76

 

Bieber continues to dominate the league after throwing six shutout innings against the Pirates on Thursday with 11 strikeouts and 0 walks. The race atop the AL Central is tight between three teams — the Indians, Twins, and White Sox — putting that much more pressure on Bieber to win each of his starts. To this point, he has not disappointed. He faces the division-pacing Twins on Tuesday, which is an incredibly important game not only for the Indians in the standings but for Bieber’s MVP and Cy Young chances. To this point, he is essentially unmatched. If he shuts down the Twins again, it may be impossible for anyone to catch up to him.

 

2. Jose Abreu, CWS

(Last week: NR)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
22 11 28 0 .322 1.035 .429

 

Abreu blasted his way onto the MVP scene this week with a ridiculous hot streak.  Against Tigers and Cubs pitching, Abreu went 16 for 30 with 7 HR, 9 R, and 15 RBI. His White Sox were 6-1 in those games and are two games out from the division-leading Twins. The 2019 AL RBI King hasn’t made any noticeable changes to his approach. His K% and BB% are in-line with his career numbers, as is his launch angle. Most likely, since this current pace is ridiculous and nothing too noticeable has changed, his numbers will begin to revert back to his career averages. Even if that happens, though, this is a player who has great career numbers and with the shortened season, it is conceivable that Abreu could ride this hot streak all the way to an MVP. It definitely doesn’t hurt that he is hitting the ball incredibly hard and is currently ranked in the 97th percentile on Baseball Savant in HH%.

 

3. Brandon Lowe, TB

(Last week: 3)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
25 9 25 0 .313 1.095 .450

 

Like Abreu, Lowe has experienced a fantastic hot streak that has catapulted him into the MVP conversation. There are names right on his heels, like Nelson Cruz and Kyle Lewis, but for now, I’ll take Lowe. Cruz is, of course, a DH, which has historically hurt players’ MVP chances an insurmountable amount. Lewis has been terrific, but Seattle is 11-19 and showing no signs of putting up a fight in the AL Central. Lowe’s Rays, though, are pacing the AL East and the majority of their offense has come from their young second baseman.

He cooled off quite a bit last week, having gone 4 for 19 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, and 6 R against Yankee and Blue Jay pitching. He is still a Statcast darling with terrific xStats, but he will need to get hot again to keep up with the MVP race.

 

Leaders for the 2020 American League Cy Young Award

 

1. Shane Bieber, CLE

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
40.2 5 0 1.000 65 1.11 0.76

 

If Bieber takes home the MVP, I think there is little doubt he will win the Cy Young as well. It is a competitive AL field of pitchers, but Bieber’s numbers and dominance easily stick out as we approach the halfway point of the regular season. Even if Bieber gets edged out for MVP, his odds of winning the Cy Young go up with every outing.

 

2. Lance Lynn, TEX

(Last week: 2)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
39.1 3 0 1.000 42 1.37 0.81

 

Lynn pitched well this week, earning a no-decision against the Padres. He once again issued no walks and gave the Texas bullpen a breather by pitching seven full innings. Lynn’s strikeout numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, but his ERA and WHIP are in Bieber territory. One slip-up from the Indians’ ace and Lynn will be right there in the conversation for being the deserving Cy Young winner. For now, though, Bieber is far ahead. Lynn has a tall order this week, as he takes on both Oakland and the Dodgers.

 

3. Gerrit Cole, NYY

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
36.0 4 0 1.000 44 2.75 0.89

 

Here comes Cole! Dylan Bundy pitched poorly against a poor-offensive team in the Giants, while Gerrit Cole pitched a great game against the division rival Rays. So, in this short season with incredibly small sample sizes, Cole leapfrogs Bundy and looks like the third in line for the AL Cy Young as it currently stands. Although he is not striking out batters at nearly the clip he was last year, Cole is still dominating. With still half of the season to go, I like Cole’s odds of climbing this leaderboard and finishing at least second when all is said and done.

Kenta Maeda was a tough omission here, especially after his last start.

 

Leaders for the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Award

 

1. Kyle Lewis, SEA

(Last week: 1)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
24 7 19 2 .368 1.041 .442

 

Lewis continues to lead the AL ROY leader board after another terrific week in the books for the young Mariners outfielder. He went 8 for 16 with 2 HR. Lewis also continues to make improvements on his K% (22.4%), which is now about league-average, and his BB%, which is outstanding (14.4%). He’s been solid in the field and has given Mariners fans a reason to tune into games. Luis Robert is still hanging around, and will all season, but if Lewis continues to perform the way he has recently and to start the season, he will win this award. I would like to see him start hitting the ball a little harder (35.4% HH rate), but otherwise, there is not a whole lot to critique here.

 

2. Luis Robert, CWS

(Last week: 2)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
15 7 17 4 .265 .862 .356

 

The White Sox phenom missed a couple of games this week with a hand injury and went 4 for 18: All 4 hits were HR. There’s no question he has lost quite a bit of ground to Lewis in the ROY race, but we certainly are not done yet. If there is a lesson to learn from Robert’s teammate Jose Abreu, it is that just one great week can drastically increase your chances at an individual award during this wild and abbreviated season.

What is perhaps the most concerning about Robert’s 2020 ROY chances are his strikeouts. Over the weekend, he struck out 7 times in 11 at-bats. Granted, he also hit 2 HR in that series, but the strikeouts are going to continue to limit his ability to get on base and make an even greater impact for his team. To put into perspective just how bad the swing-and-miss has been for Robert during his rookie campaign, his Whiff% is 47.7%. The MLB average is 24.4%. I said last week that he could win the ROY Award even with striking out a gargantuan amount, and I stick by that, but some improvement will probably be needed for him to take home the award.

 

3. Randy Dobnak, MIN

(Last week: 3)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
30.1 5 1 .833 16 1.78 1.02

 

I really wanted to put Indians’ reliever James Karinchak here and if I’m being 100% honest, I’m sure he will be here before the end of the season, but Dobnak just won’t stop winning games for the Twins. Yes, the win statistic is outdated and for dinosaurs. No one questions that winning baseball games is what is most important when playing … a baseball game. But pitchers can be, and quite often are, the reason a team wins a game and yet they are not credited with the “win” because of how finicky that statistic can be. I don’t need to go any further than that, but please understand that I understand how silly the win stat can be. Anyway, regardless of his W-L% (which is outstanding), Dobnak continues to step up for the Twins. It may all come crashing down — he doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses, his xERA is 4.17, he doesn’t go deep into games very often, etc. But, for now, Dobnak has put forward quite the body of work and I can’t justify not having him third on this list for the second week in a row.

 

Leaders for the 2020 National League Most Valuable Player Award

 

1. Fernando Tatis Jr, SD

(Last week: 1)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
29 12 29 6 .314 1.073 .442

 

Tatis Jr. did not slow down this week, going 10 for 28 with 3 homers, 8 RBI, and a SB. He continues to take the league by storm and his Padres have caught fire. They’re 7-3 in their last 10 games and are six games above .500. With a playoff berth looking more likely by the day, whether you agree with it or not, that is going to help Tatis Jr.’s MVP chances. Mookie Betts will be right there with him all season, but don’t be surprised if the voters go for Tatis Jr. even if Betts ends up with a slight advantage in most stats just because of how much he and his Padres have surprised. Sometimes, that is just how the cookie crumbles. For now, though, Betts does not have the advantage and Tatis Jr. is padding his lead in the hunt for the NL MVP.

 

2. Mookie Betts, LAD

(Last week: 2)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
25 11 24 5 .300 1.032 .426

 

One of the greatest mistakes in Red Sox history continues to look worse as the 27-year-old Betts wreaks havoc on NL West and AL West pitching while his former team is probably in a locked room somewhere with Commissioner Manfred pleading for him to institute a slaughter rule. During this small sample of a season, Betts’ BB% is down and his K% is up (though they’re both better than league average), both somewhat slightly, but he has otherwise been terrific. Betts only went 6 for 24 this week, though he smashed 3 HR and swiped three bags. If anyone will be able to keep up with Tatis Jr.’s complete body of stats, it will be Betts. He has been as advertised — terrific in the field, a monster at the plate, and his Dodgers are 22-8.

 

3. Mike Yastrzemski, SF

(Last week: NR)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
28 7 23 1 .309 1.074 .379

 

Yes, really! Yastrzemski started the season hot and has yet to really cool down. His Giants are hovering around .500 and above both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks in the standings, probably a surprise to most this late into the abbreviated season. He is outperforming his xStats in a bit of an alarming way. His xwOBA and xBA are .379 and .248 respectively, but his actual wOBA and actual BA are .435 and .309. Even if things do begin to regress for Yastrzemski, he is clearly a better player than most expected. A huge reason for this potential breakout is his ability to take a walk. He went from below average in 2019 (7.8 BB%) to well-above average with a 17.3% BB%. As a matter of fact, only one player in all of baseball has more total BB than Yastrzemski’s 23 (Carlos Santana, 28). This patience at the plate has him striking out less and putting more effective balls in play. Yaz 2.0 isn’t quite the original, but he is turning out to be a fine player.

This race is far from over, despite the lead the first two names seem to have. With studs like Trevor Story, Bryce Harper, and as one commenter last week pointed out, Juan Soto, all smoking the ball … things may get crowded up at the top pretty soon.

 

Leaders for the 2020 National League Cy Young Award

 

1. Yu Darvish, CHC

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
37.0 5 1 .833 44 1.70 0.92

 

After a monster week, Yu Darvish leads the race for the NL Cy Young. Darvish faced the White Sox and Cardinals. He went 2-0, threw 13.0 IP, gave up just 2 ER and 2 BB, and struck out 17. His two starts before those were arguably better and if it wasn’t for a 4.0 IP, 3 ER clunker to start the season, then Darvish would be right up there with Shane Bieber in terms of how great of a pitching season they are having. Darvish was not ranked last week because at that point in time, Sonny Gray, Max Fried, and Aaron Nola‘s numbers across the board were just more substantial and simply better. In Darvish’s case, though, this wasn’t simply one great and fluky week. This is an amazing pitcher who is putting it all together and looking better than he has perhaps ever looked.

 

2. Sonny Gray, CIN

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
36.2 4 1 .800 51 2.21 0.98

 

Sonny Gray continues to dominate for the Reds and compete for the NL Cy Young. He had another quality start this week, this time against the Cardinals. He did walk four, though, and earned a no-decision. Gray’s consistency has been terrific but I’d like to see him pitch seven or more innings (he hasn’t yet this season). If he continues to just go six innings each time, not that pitching six innings, especially nowadays, is “bad,” I do worry that Darvish will maintain his lead over him and players like Trevor Bauer, Max Fried, and Aaron Nola might ultimately pass him. With that said, he’s generating swings and misses, hitters are having a terrible time trying to square him up, and his full-season of excellence last year suggests that this is just who he is now.

 

3. Trevor Bauer

(Last week: NR)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
26.1 3 0 1.000 41 0.68 0.57

 

With peripherals like the ones that Trevor Bauer has put forward through his first four starts of the season, it may seem ridiculous that he isn’t the easy number one choice for NL Cy Young. While I do believe that Bauer is a terrific pitcher and his peripherals are indeed amazing to this point, it is worth at least acknowledging that in his just four starts this season, he has faced the Tigers twice, the struggling Brewers, and the Royals. Bauer is not in control of who is on the schedule, and if it was that easy to simply dominate those teams like Bauer has, then everyone would do it. So, I am not trying to take anything away from him here. I do think, however, that he needs to face and dominate some higher quality opponents before he passes Gray, let alone Darvish, in the race for NL Cy Young.

 

Leaders for the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year Award

 

1. Jake Cronenworth, SD

(Last week: 3)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
13 3 12 1 .347 1.036 .433

 

Jake Cronenworth leads all NL rookies in R, RBI, and OPS (minimum of 10 AB). The late-blossoming, multi-tooled rookie has been a critical contributor to the Padres recent hot streak and ascension up the standings. Riding an eight-game hitting streak, I don’t expect playing time to be an issue for Cronenworth going forward. He just has to keep Ty France and Jorge Mateo on the bench, which shouldn’t be an issue considering how versatile and hot he has been. Without there being an injury, I don’t expect him to bat any higher than sixth in the lineup, so the runs might be limited going forward. However, he should produce enough RBI and overall numbers to remain one of the favorites in the hunt for ROY.

 

2. Dustin May, LAD

(Last week: 1)

 

IP W L % K ERA WHIP
29.0 1 1 .500 20 2.79 1.17

 

Dustin May could end up taking the NL ROY. However, not only will he need to outperform the field but to do so he will probably need to start going deeper into outings and maintain his spot in the rotation when Alex Wood returns to the Dodgers, while also holding off Tony Gonsolin who has looked terrific. It is not impossible for the consensus top 100 prospect to do so, but he hasn’t overwhelmingly impressed despite the terrific peripherals. May has not gone deep into games, rarely strikes anyone out, and has given up a homer in four straight outings. He is a great talent and has an incredible team around him to keep him on track for the ROY. For now, however, I have Cronenworth above him.

 

3. Alec Bohm, PHI

(Last week: NR)

 

R HR RBI SB AVG OPS wOBA
6 1 4 0 .344 .993 .429

 

Alec Bohm was not on the Phillies on Opening Day, so he has a little bit of ground to make up to catch up to the two names above him. However, of the three names on this list, Bohm is probably the most talented. He has started his MLB career much like most people expected — he’s walking a lot (17.9%), not striking out much (15.4%), and batting for a solid average (.344 is of course more than “solid,” but expect that to obviously come down). Now that he is up, playing time will not be an issue. I expect him to continue his solid production and be a top contender for the NL ROY all season.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Pete Ball

Pete Ball is a graduate of Emmanuel College and a die-hard Red Sox fan. In addition to his work at Pitcher List, he co-hosts the Fantasy Baseball "Pitch Count Podcast." Follow him at @PeteBBaseball

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