It’s been an unusual first quarter of the season in baseball. We’ve had the Cubs jump out to arguably the hottest start by any team in baseball history. We’ve had the continued Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper debate, as well as legitimate consideration that either Clayton Kershaw or Jake Arrieta is, right now, the most dominant pitcher in major league history.
Below I will take a look at the individual and team awards through the first quarter of the season, starting with the league’s most valuable players and ending with my updated prediction for the 2016 World Series.
AL MVP: Manny Machado, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles.
There isn’t a clearcut Most Valuable Player in the junior circuit, so I went with the best player on the team with the best record. Manny Machado, who has split between third and short this season, has 12 home runs, 26 RBIs and a .308/.367/.610 slash line. Just 23 years old, he’s emerged as the third-best player in baseball behind the obvious two of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
Apologies to: Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners; Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals.
The best player in baseball, Bryce Harper is well on his way to winning his second straight MVP award, at the ripe old age of 23. Harper has cooled off a little at the plate, but he’s still slugged 12 home runs, swiped seven bases and driven in 30 runs. With a ridiculous 48 walks, he’s been on base more than anybody in the game. Harper still hasn’t come close to approaching his ceiling as a professional hitter.
Apologies to: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs; Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox.
It’s Chris Sale and then everybody else in the American League. The Chicago White Sox ace, probably the best pitcher in the sport without a Cy Young award, has won all nine starts while posting a minuscule 1.58 earned run average. His 5.1 hits allowed per nine innings would be the lowest single-season mark in MLB history, and his 0.717 WHIP would be second-lowest.
Apologies to: Danny Salazar, SP, Cleveland Indians; Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers.
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. Clayton Kershaw might be the best pitcher in baseball history, when judging by a pitcher’s six-year peak. And this season, he’s having probably his most dominant stretch ever. He’s struck out 88 hitters and walked four, which would obliterate the single-season strikeout-to-walk record. His FIP, which shows a pitcher’s ability to prevent home runs and walks and collect strikeouts, is better than any pitcher in any season in history. So is his 0.700 WHIP. He’s thrown two shutouts. He’s 6-1. He’s basically the closest thing to a perfect pitcher there ever has been, meaning Jake Arrieta and his otherworldly 1.29 ERA aren’t enough to record his second straight Cy Young.
Apologies to: Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs; Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets.
AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers.
The 21-year-old Nomar Mazara, the youngest player in the major leagues, is the runaway choice for the American League Rookie of the Year. He’s batted .304 with six home runs, 16 RBIs and no errors in the field.
Apologies to: Byung Ho Park, 1B, Minnesota Twins.
NL Rookie of the Year: Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies.
There’s a lot more competition for the NL Rookie of the Year, and Rockies shortstop Trevor Story just edges out Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz for the rookie hardware. Story has cooled off from his insane start, where he hit six home runs in his first four games, but he’s still collected 12 home runs plus a league-leading 104 total bases. His solid defenses gives him the edge over all-around weapon Aledmys Diaz, who has already recorded 10 errors in the middle of the infield.
Apologies to: Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals.
AL Breakout: Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox.
From fringe starter to 27-game hitting streak. That’s the Jackie Bradley story this season, as the Boston outfielder has become one of the game’s best pure hitters. He’s currently hitting .342 with a league-leading .413 on-base percentage for the highest-scoring offense in the game.
Apologies to: Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers; Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox.
NL Breakout: Odubel Herrera, OF, Philadelphia Phillies.
Odubel Herrera was a pleasant surprise for the Phillies in 2015, as the Rule 5 pick batted .297 with eight home runs and 16 stolen bases in 147 games. But in 2016, he’s turned into one of the best hitters in the game, with a .335 batting average and an insane .445 on-base percentage. He recorded 28 walks all of last season. He’s already collected 31 in 2016.
Apologies to: Daniel Murphy, 2B, Washington Nationals; Drew Pomeranz, SP, San Diego Padres.
AL Disappointment: Dallas Keuchel, SP, Houston Astros.
The surprising American League Cy Young winner in 2015 has been a complete disaster so far in 2016. Keuchel has won just two games with a 5.92 earned run average. He leads the AL in hits and earned runs allowed with just four quality starts.
Apologies to: David Price, SP, Boston Red Sox; Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics.
NL Disappointment: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets.
It’s been the year of the disappointing big-name pitcher, with Matt Harvey as the worst of the bunch in the National League. Harvey can’t stop giving up hits, allowing 65 in just 48.1 innings, which has led to a 3-6 record and awful 5.77 earned run average. A free agent after the season, Harvey has been so brutal that the Mets have reportedly discussed skipping his turn in the rotation.
Apologies to: Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks; Jake Peavy, SP, San Francisco Giants.
AL Manager: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles seem to overachiever every season, despite a very mediocre pitching staff, and manager Buck Showalter is the reason why. One of the game’s best managerial minds has led the Orioles to the best record in the American League despite entering the season as a trendy pick to finish last in the division.
Apologies to: Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox.
NL Manager: Pete Mackanin, Philadelphia Phillies.
Passed over as a manager multiple times over the previous decade, Pete Mackanin is making the most of his first opportunity with the team he played for in the late 1970s. Mackanin’s Phillies can’t compete with Maddon’s Cubs, but unlike the Cubs, they weren’t expected to compete in 2016. The Phillies, arguably a bottom-three team in baseball entering the season, would be the top wild-card team if the season ended now thanks to an uncanny ability to win one-run games.
Apologies to: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs.
World Series: San Francisco over Cleveland.
I picked the Giants over the Indians to win the World Series before the start of the season, and I’m going to stick with it. The Cubs are clearly the best team in the sport, but baseball playoffs have shown that it’s virtually impossible to predict the month of October. The Giants have the game’s best manager and an incredibly ability to play their best in the season’s final weeks. They’re the NL West champion at this point. The Indians wouldn’t make the playoffs if the season ended now, but their 22-19 record keeps them well on track to threaten for a wild-card spot, where their top-notch pitching rotation will help them defeat offensive powerhouses like the Boston Red Sox.