Sometimes it's fun, in the middle of the never-ending baseball season, to imagine what Major League Baseball might be like if the schedule was structured like the National Football League. Instead of the Cleveland Guardians taking an overnight flight to play in Boston on Marathon Monday, what if these MLB teams had a week to prepare? And would every team only use one starting pitcher? The possibilities are truly endless.

We'll never see that thought experiment come to life, since even the COVID season of 2020 was still almost four times the length of the football season. But now that each team has played between 14 and 18 games, we do have a statistical sample size for MLB that's almost exactly what NFL awards are decided on each and every year. So how different would the baseball record books look if the season was only 17 games long? Judging by who would win these awards… quite a lot!

AL Rookie of the Year – Evan Carter

Texas Rangers left fielder Evan Carter (32) hits a home run during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we're not starting off on the craziest of notes, considering the Texas Rangers' Evan Carter was one of the three main favorites for the award coming into the season. It's a feather in Carter's cap that he's already shot back to the top of this list, though, because he wasn't hitting at all for the first week and a half of the season.

Still just 21 years old, it's both stunning that the World Series champion Carter is still a rookie and incredible how much he's managed to blend in given such little time. He's giving ESPN interviews midgame, he's smacking clutch home runs, playing Gold Glove outfield defense, you name it. There will be surprises later on this list, rest assured, but Carter could hardly be considered one of them.

NL Rookie of the Year – Shota Imanaga

If the baseball season indeed ended today, Shota Imanaga would be the first and only qualified rookie pitcher to put up a 0.00 ERA. Of course, he's got 29 more starts to make assuming full health, so there's a fair amount of time to give up those first big league runs still.

Imanaga's fastball has mystified MLB hitters thus far, with an elite ability to ride through the zone with very little vertical drop. That almost makes the ball look like it rises, and it's a big reason why hitters are only batting .075 with zero extra-base hits against that fastball so far. If Imanaga keeps this up, we'll soon be wondering why Yoshinobu Yamamoto got $273 million more than his World Baseball Classic teammate to pitch in the same league.

AL Cy Young – Reid Detmers

Told you the surprises were coming soon! This looks like a true breakout season thus far for the 24-year-old Detmers, who has a 1.04 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and leads MLB with a 1.46 WHIP in his 17.1 innings pitched. And when he's taken the mound, he's done nothing but win–3-0 in his three starts in 2024.

Is it crazy to expect Detmers to be in contention for the Cy Young when the season is actually winding down? Possibly so, but the pure stuff is undeniable. Detmers generates more whiffs than 94% of MLB pitchers and is striking out more batters than 96% of his counterparts. And if the Angels could use Detmers like a quarterback and start him every game, they might well be playoff contenders for the first time since Mike Trout was barely at the legal drinking age.

NL Cy Young – Freddy Peralta

We could have easily just recycled Imanaga here, but when the sample size is this small, it's most likely voters would rely on strikeouts over ERA as the deciding factor. Peralta is tied for third in the NL with 26 strikeouts but has made one less start than the other three names he's competing with. He leads MLB with a 13.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio and the NL with a 0.679 WHIP.

At 28, many in the baseball talk scene speculated that this could be the year Freddy Peralta really put it all together and became one of MLB's best pitchers. So far, he's living up to that billing and then some. Plus, the Brewers look like contenders now and his Cy Young campaign would get a lot of credibility if Peralta ended up throwing some huge innings in September.

AL MVP – Tyler O'Neill

Boston Red Sox outfielder Tyler O'Neill (17) hits a home run during the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium.
Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Just as everyone predicted, the man who the St. Louis Cardinals deemed to be their fifth-most important outfielder is now the best hitter in baseball. Tyler O'Neill leads MLB with a 1.203 OPS, is tied for the lead in homers with seven, and has a 97th-percentile barrel rate through 14 games played thus far.

Perhaps it's fitting that O'Neill wins this award because he's also probably the number one MLB player who could suit up in pads and a helmet tomorrow and have nobody question his presence. But clearly, the man loves baseball and is dying to get back to his 2021 level where he finished eighth in NL MVP voting. In a football-length baseball season, he's settling for eighth no more.

NL MVP – Mookie Betts

Very, very serious consideration was given here to Marcell Ozuna, who leads all of baseball with 21 RBI and is tied with O'Neill in home runs. But while Ozuna is playing no position at all, Mookie Betts is having an MVP-caliber offensive season while playing the most important position on the diamond for the first time in the majors in his 11th season.

And it's fitting that Betts finds his way into this article because he's proving he can do everything on a baseball field. He's an elite-level bowler, a standout golfer, and can still dunk a basketball at 5-foot-9. So regardless of whether a baseball season was the length of a football season or it just turned into professional football altogether, Mookie Betts would still be among the very best at it. If anyone on this list does take home their assigned award after 145 more games, it just might be Mookie.