The All-Star Game is right around the corner, along with the Home Run Derby and the Futures Game (if you're into that kind of thing, which you should be dangummit). Because we're right around the mid-point of the season, it's a natural opportunity to use what's happened thus far to tell you what will happen when it's all said and done. Yep, it's time to crown an MVP and dole out some other accolades. Because this is Beyond the Box Score and we love to shove our calculators into your old-timey game and ruin everything, Steven Martano (who's handling the NL side) and I will approach this from two angles:
We'll first determine who deserves the award from a statistical perspective using advanced metrics and rest-of-season projections. Then, we'll determine who's more likely to actually get the award. (We all know that Mike Trout should have three MVP awards by now.) Feel free to sound off in the comments just how wrong my selections are.
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
To determine who the MVP is, we must first decide what "Most Valuable Player" means. One interpretation is that the MVP is simply the best player, period. Another is that the award goes to the player who is the most important to the success of his club. For instance, Mike Trout, in addition to being one of the best players in baseball, is one of two or three valuable offensive players on the Angels. The Angels would be a much worse team without him.
I'm giving the award to Josh Donaldson. Donaldson, who swatted his 21st homer of the season yesterday, has been as good as anyone could have dreamed of in Toronto. Putting his powerful bat into the homer-happy Rogers Centre was undoubtedly going to produce some fireworks, and he's also been amazing on defense as usual. There seems to be nothing he can't do. He's racked up 4.7 fWAR already, and the projections are in agreement that he'll tack on 2.8 more. The man is a living highlight reel. Sorry, Oakland fans.
(This is a purely arbitrary pick, by the way. The pack is so tight in the AL at the moment.)
Likely Winner: Too close to call. Yeah, I know, it's a cop out. But seriously, it could be Trout, it could be Donaldson, it could be Jason Kipnis. We'll see. One thing to look out for, however, is that the projections are far less bullish on the rest of the season for Kipnis than they are for Trout or Donaldson.
AL Cy Young Award: Chris Sale
Sale has been nothing short of filthy this year. He holds a dominating lead in K/9 in the AL with his 11.78 mark. He's in the top 10 in BB/9 at 1.76. He leads in FIP. He leads in xFIP. He leads in SIERA. He leads in WHIP. What more could you want? Sale has been flat-out insane. His recent historic streak of double-digit strikeout games is the cherry on top. His 10 games of 10 or more strikeouts is matched by only Pedro Martinez. He's the best pitcher in the AL, plain and simple.
Likely Winner: Sale. Hopefully Sale's presence on a losing team (which doesn't help in his quest to pile up precious wins) doesn't hinder people in seeing how ridiculously awesome he is. If wins are an issue, however, look for the also-great Dallas Kuechel to swoop in here.
AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa?
Correa is already second among rookie AL position players in fWAR at 1.5, just a tick behind the cooling Devon Travis. He's also accomplished the feat in 27 games. If Correa keeps hitting and fielding like a young Alex Rodriguez, the award is his to keep. He sports a 143 wRC+ and his .259 ISO leads all AL shortstops by a country mile. Heck, he's a pretty good contender to take home a Silver Slugger award if he keeps this up.
On the other hand, it wouldn't be a shock to see the 20-year old falter as pitchers adjust to him. That would certainly not be the end of Carlos Correa for all time, but if that comes to pass fellow Astro Lance McCullers Jr. could rise to the top of the pack. So could Minnesota's Trevor May or perhaps even Miguel Sano.
Likely Winner: Billy Burns. Burns has been pretty fun to watch, and I'm kind of anticipating some regression in Correa's performance. If he stumbles and the strikeout-happy Astros fall back to Earth (and the Twins fall with them), the speedy Burns could run away with the award. I'm so sorry. I had to.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez
If you don't think Alex Rodriguez deserves this award, you're a filthy pinko communist. Well, not exactly. But it's kind of hard to find someone more deserving than A-Rod. At age 900, after a year and a half furlough from professional baseball, Rodriguez ranks an astounding sixth in the American League in wOBA of .389. He's notched his 3,000th hit, his 2,000th RBI, and could possibly score his 2,000th run. He's flirting with a .300 batting average (boo! hiss! batting average on Beyond the Box Score!) and a .400 OBP (ahhh, much better). Naturally those numbers didn't put him on the All-Star team, because baseball reasons.
You can disagree with what A-Rod may or may not stand for. But you can't deny that what he's doing is very close to the absolute best case scenario in terms of performance. We're witnessing something very special.
Likely Winner: Uhmmm... Ubaldo Jimenez? One of the other reasons that A-Rod should win in a landslide is that there's so few other notable contenders. Ubaldo is having a nice little resurgence, but he does this every now and then before slipping back into awfulness. There's Mark Lowe out in the Mariners bullpen having himself a good season out of nowhere, perhaps? Maybe Kris Medlen has a good comeback with the Royals, if he can make it to The Show without breaking? Clay Buchholz might be good again? All of this pales in comparison to A-Rod, but I doubt that anybody has the cajones to actually give the man what he's earned.
Sigh. Anyways, Steven Martano will have the NL half of this tomorrow. Y'all best read it.
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Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He won the American Rookie of the Year award in 1994, when he was born. He also covers the Yankees and their Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, at Pinstripe Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.