The All-Star game has come and gone, and with the 2019 MLB season over 50 percent complete, it is time to hand out midseason awards to some of the best and brightest in baseball.
From breakout stars to rookie sensations and the most consistent superstars in the game continuing to perform at the highest level, this season has been full of some spectacular performances.
But let’s take some time to acknowledge the individual seasons that have really stood out:
National League MVP: Cody Bellinger
How incredible is it that Christian Yelich could very well be the first player in MLB history to club 50 homers, steal 30 bases and have an OPS over 1.100… and still lose the MVP award? It is most certainly possible, because that is just how good Cody Bellinger has been for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Entering the All-Star break, Bellinger ranked second in fWAR at 5.7, trailing only the “WARlord” himself, Mike Trout. He also ranks second (again, to Trout) with a 184 wRC+.
Bellinger is one homer (30) behind Yelich (31) for the MLB lead, and he ranks second in all of baseball with 71 RBIs. He also ranks second in batting average and wOBA, consistently proving to be one of the most dangerous bats in the game.
But the element that gives Bellinger the slight edge over Yelich thus far is his tremendous improvement as a defensive outfielder. He ranks second in Defensive Runs Saved (just one behind Padres catcher Austin Hedges) while also leading the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).
Oakland Athletics centerfielder Ramon Laureano dazzled baseball fans everywhere with his tremendous arm strength early in the season, and yet Bellinger has shown that running on him is practically an automatic out. He has the highest “ARM” rating according to FanGraphs, while also tying Laureano for the most runs saved thanks to a strong throw.
Take a look at Bellinger throwing out multiple runners in the same game in a contest against the Mets at the end of May:
From hitting towering home runs to gunning down runners at the plate, Bellinger has been the most complete player in the National League, and deserves such recognition.
American League MVP: Mike Trout
Seriously, just take some time to consider Mike Trout’s greatness. He has already racked up over 70.0 career fWAR, which is higher than recent Hall of Fame inductees like Craig Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero. He has five seasons with at least 9.3 fWAR and has won the AL MVP twice. And yet, this 2019 campaign is shaping up to be his best yet.
Trout once again leads the bigs in fWAR at the All-Star break, but he also leads all players in wRC+ and OBP while leading the American League in homers (28) and RBIs (67) and ranking second in runs scored. In fact, he has been so dominant that his 6.2 fWAR is 2.4 points better than Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, his nearest AL competitor in that category.
In the six games leading up to the All-Star break, Trout proved why he is still the best player in baseball. Trout lost a dear friend when teammate Tyler Skaggs was found dead on July 1 for reasons that are still unknown. Skaggs’ loss was a gut-wrenching blow to the Angels organization and to Major League Baseball as a whole.
Some things are bigger than baseball, but Trout responded as only he could, slashing .348/.467/1.130 with six homers over the course of those six games, including two multi-homer games. Then, he honored his friend by wearing Skaggs’ number at the All-Star Game:
For Tyler. pic.twitter.com/ngVPEhWT4n
— MLB (@MLB) July 10, 2019
Even in the most heartbreaking circumstances, Trout has reminded baseball fans that he really is a generational talent, and as personable and dedicated off of the field as he is in between the white lines.
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
At unfathomable as it seems, Max Scherzer’s name was being floated as a potential trade piece just over five weeks ago. With the Washington Nationals looking down and out, it appeared that they may be willing to consider inquiries on their dominant ace.
Yeah, so much for that nonsense. Scherzer won all six of his June starts, posting a 1.00 ERA and 13.6 K/9 while helping to spearhead the Nats to a 20-8 record in June, immediately bringing them back into the playoff chase.
No, Scherzer does not lead the MLB in ERA. That distinction still belongs to Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But he does lead the majors (or the NL) in just about every other major category.
Scherzer ranks tops in strikeouts (181), FIP (2.00) and home runs per nine (0.6) while leading the NL in innings pitched (129 1/3) and K/9 (12.6). Actually, Scherzer’s FIP, HR/9 and K/9 rates would all be career highs, if the season ended today. That really is saying something considering how dominant he has been since 2013.
Not to mention, “Mad Max” is simply a gamer. He broke his nose during batting practice on June 18, then went out and threw seven shutout innings the next night:
He is must-see TV every time he takes the hill, and the totality of his numbers (Scherzer also leads all pitchers in fWAR) makes him the best candidate for the midseason NL Cy Young.
AL Cy Young: Charlie Morton
For years, Charlie Morton was a journeyman starting pitcher in the MLB. Although he occasionally showed flashes of brilliance, injuries and inconsistency seemed to stifle his career.
But Morton may be one of the most underrated offseason additions after breaking out with the Houston Astros last season. Now with the Rays, Morton leads the American League with a 2.32 ERA and a 2.84 FIP. In 19 starts, Morton has a 10-2 record, anchoring Tampa Bay’s rotation despite a nightmarish start for Blake Snell and injuries to Tyler Glasnow.
The 12-year veteran also ranks third among all big-league pitchers (second in the AL) in fWAR, and his 11.3 K/9 is seventh-best among all starting pitchers.
Will Morton to be able to sustain this kind of excellence over the course of the second half? He has never thrown more than 175 innings in a single season, but he had already tossed 112 2/3 frames by the All-Star break.
While that question remains to be seen, Morton has been the best pitcher in the American League.
NL Rookie of the Year: Pete Alonso
Not much has gone right for the New York Mets this season. One decision that has most certainly paid off, however, was making rookie Pete Alonso the starting first baseman on Opening Day.
The winner of the 2019 Home Run Derby during the All-Star break, Alonso is also one of the leading candidates for the NL MVP award, much less Rookie of the Year.
At the break, he ranks eighth in fWAR (3.6), second in homers (30) and third in RBIs (68), and has shown that he can hit for power to all fields. How showcased that power during the Home Run Derby:
On that same note, Alonso has recorded two of the 10 highest exit velocities this season, and he is second only to Christian Yelich in terms of most batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 105 mph.
Things could begin to heat up in the second half thanks to the return and dazzling play of San Diego Padres rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. (who has a 3.0 fWAR in just 55 games). But for now, the award is Alonso’s to lose.
AL Rookie of the Year: Brandon Lowe
If you took a straw poll of MLB writers and executives around the league, probably at least 90 percent of them would have guessed that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would win the AL ROY award.
But while Vladdy Jr.’s hype train has been somewhat derailed by some middling results, Lowe has been one of the best players on a Rays team that is contending in the AL East.
Lowe leads AL rookies in homers, RBIs, batting average and OPS. As Tampa Bay’s primary second baseman, he has recorded four Defensive Runs Saved and has proven to be an above-average fielder. And he ranks third in fWAR, right behind both Alonso and Tatis Jr.
Michael Chavis and Eloy Jimenez could make a run at winning the award in the latter half of the season, but Lowe has been the best all-around rookie in the American League thus far.
NL Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker
Even though the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the National League, what Snitker has done in Atlanta is more impressive. The Braves were 14-15 by the end of April and still three games out of first place in the NL East at the end of May.
Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies had both gotten off to slow starts, while the pitching staff was struggling to give Atlanta a decisive advantage in ball games.
Snitker has been criticized at times for toiling too much with his lineups, but he made a couple of crucial adjustments that have gotten the Braves rolling.
He moved Acuna back into the leadoff spot while sliding Albies back into the No. 8 spot, and both players have really thrived as a result. Acuna is slashing .301/.380/.522 with 14 homers when he leads off, while Albies is slashing .367/.457/.620 from the eight hole.
With the likes of Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley also clubbing at the dish, the Braves went 20-8 in June and now hold a six-game lead at the All-Star break.
Atlanta could use an impact reliever at the back end of the bullpen, but what Snitker has done to build on an outstanding 2018 season is tremendous.
AL Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone
Aaron Boone was constantly under the gun in his first year as manager of the New York Yankees in 2018. He was often criticized for his management of his starting pitchers and the bullpen unit, especially in the final months of the season.
But barring a massive second-half collapse, Boone has this award locked up. The Bronx Bombers have the best record in the AL despite the fact that ace Luis Severino has been out for the whole year with injury and Giancarlo Stanton has played in just nine games. Come to think of it, nearly every Yankees star has had a prolonged stay on the Injured List.
Some of Boone’s moves were obviously necessitated by the injury. Gio Urshela has been a revelation in filling in for Miguel Andujar, but Boone has done a nice job of finding ways to plug him in after the return of Did Gregorious and the continued excellence of D.J. LeMahieu.
Boone stuck with Brett Gardner despite his slow start, and the veteran responded with a solid month of May before getting off to a torrid start in July.
Perhaps most importantly, Boone has been smarter about using his depth in the bullpen and not riding his starters too hard. He has even utilized Chad Green as an opener on seven separate occasions, which has actually galvanized the hard-throwing righty and helped him get his season back on track.
The Yankees could easily have been down and out given the absurd number of injuries that the team suffered early in the season. And yet, they are the best team in the American League.