Back in mid February we shared our bold predictions for the 2017 Major League season. We had high hopes for what would transpire over the next 2,430 games, but even we’ve been surprised by some developments. Who knew that Aaron Judge would hit the rookie wall, Cody Bellinger would hit everything in sight, and that the Mets would hit the skids? Now that Major League Baseball has reached the three-quarter mark, it’s time to adjust our picks ever so slightly.
We’ve studied endless hours of game tape, dissected WARs, and adjusted earned run averages until we went cross-eyed to come up with new and improved odds for the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Reliever of the Year awards in the American League and National League. May the best men win!
AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARDS ODDS
- Jose Altuve (Astros): 2/1
- Mike Trout (Angels) 5/2
- Chris Sale (Red Sox): 5/1
- FIELD: 11/3
Jose Altuve is proof that good things come in small packages. The 5’6” second baseman is closing in on his third batting title in four years with a larger-than-life .363 average. His 18 homers, 65 RBIs, and lights-out defense are also big reasons why the Astros are first in the American League and 12.5 games above the Angels in the AL West.
Ironically, the only thing working against Altuve is the sensational play of his teammates. George Springer is having a career year and could potentially steal some of his votes. If he does, Mike Trout will likely benefit most. The two-time MVP is batting .341 and is posting the best on-base and slugging percentages of his career. Even after missing six weeks, he’s still top-ten in WAR among batters and quickly chasing down those ahead of him. Look for this one to come down to the wire.
AL CY YOUNG AWARD
- Chris Sale (Red Sox): 2/3
- Corey Kluber (Indians): 4/1
- Luis Severino (Yankees): 9/1
- FIELD: 9/1
We said back in February that Chris Sale would win his first Cy Young award this season, and we feel better than ever about our prediction. The 6’6” lefty is leading the league in wins, strikeouts, ERA, WAR, and innings pitched. In fact, the only thing that Sale hasn’t done this season is mow the outfield grass.
If Sale falters (which seems unlikely), Kluber will be there to pounce. The two-time All-Star ranks just behind Sale in ERA and strikeouts, and has Cleveland poised to win the AL Central for the second consecutive year.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- Aaron Judge (Yankees): 3/2
- Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox): 7/3
- Trey Mancini (Orioles): 4/1
- FIELD: 9/1
Two months ago, Aaron Judge was the prohibitive favorite to win the AL MVP, but now it’s not even a certainty he’ll win Rookie of the Year. The 6’7” slugger recently set a new Major League record by whiffing in 33 consecutive games (and counting), and he’s been “hitting” just .167 with five home runs and 38 strikeouts in his last 84 at bats. The Yankees are working hard to correct a mechanical issue with his swing, and Judge insists his slump will soon be a thing of the past.
The biggest threat to Judge (aside from Major League curveballs) is Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox rookie has been hitting .419 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in August and recently became the first Boston player in 97 years to rack up nine RBIs in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. A Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is always good for baseball, and the MLB will look to milk this competition right down to the final out of the season.
AL RELIEVER OF THE YEAR
- Craig Kimbrel (Red Sox): 2/3
- Alex Colome (Rays): 9/1
- Roberto Osuna (Blue Jays): 9/1
- FIELD: 4/1
Craig Kimbrel is as close to a sure thing as you’ll find in the American League. The Red Sox have given him the ball in the ninth inning on 33 occasions and he’s responded with 28 saves and five wins. His 1.44 ERA is so small you need reading glasses to see it, and his 1.4 walks-per-nine are a career best. Were it not for Sale, Kimbrel would be in the discussion for the CY Young a la Eric Gagne in 2003.
Alex Colome and Roberto Osuna merit some consideration with their high save totals, but both closers have been less dominant for less successful teams. This is Kimbrel’s award to lose, and losing is one thing he simply doesn’t do.
NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARDS
- Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 7/3
- Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks): 3/1
- Bryce Harper (Nationals): 6/1
- FIELD: 7/3
Our preseason pick for NL MVP, Nolan Arenado has lived up to all of our expectations. The third sacker was the first player to reach 100 RBIs this season and currently ranks in the top ten in the NL in doubles, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, WAR, and runs created. That kind of overall production should be just enough to give him the edge over Goldschmidt and the recently injured Harper, even accounting for the friendly hitter confines of Coors Field.
This pick could go sideways if Arenado hits a cold streak and Giancarlo Stanton continues bashing baseballs like they owe him money. The Marlins right fielder has smashed 23 home runs over a 35-game span, and his power surge has become one of the biggest storylines in baseball.
NL CY YOUNG AWARD
- Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 3/2
- Max Scherzer (Nationals): 7/3
- Alex Wood (Dodgers): 9/1
- FIELD: 4/1
We predicted back in February that Clayton Kershaw would win his fourth Cy Young Award, and we’re sticking to our guns. Despite missing the past 3.5 weeks with a lower back strain, the peerless southpaw still leads the NL in wins and ERA, and is fourth in strikeouts. Kershaw should be back in the lineup within the next two weeks and will pick up right where he left off as the Dodgers continue their historic pace.
Kershaw’s main competition for the award is Max Scherzer. The two-time Cy Young Award-winner leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, and the Nats are running away their division (just not to the same extent as the Dodgers).
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- Cody Bellinger (Dodgers): 1/4
- Paul DeJong (Cardinals) 15/1
- Josh Bell (Pirates): 20/1
- FIELD: 10/1
Cody Bellinger has put on so many miraculous displays this season that it wouldn’t surprise us to see him walking on water the next time the Dodgers are around McCovey Cove. The Scottsdale native leads all National League rookies in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS, and is second in hits and walks. Just imagine how much more impressive his numbers would be if he had been called up before April 25th.
Paul DeJong and Josh Bell deserve credit for their fast starts as well, but Bellinger’s star shines brightest among this trio.
NL RELIEVER OF THE YEAR
- Kenley Jansen (Dodgers): 9/11
- Greg Holland (Rockies): 3/1
- Corey Knebel (Brewers): 9/1
- FIELD: 9/1
Surprise, surprise! Another Dodger is our odds-on favorite to pick up some hardware. Kenley Jansen has racked up 32 saves in 33 opportunities to go along with a miniscule 1.20 ERA. The 6’5” flamethrower is also first in the NL in games finished and has struck out 80 batters in just 52.1 innings pitched. When the Dodgers hand him the ball, they know they’re just a few minutes away from another locker room celebration.
As good as Jansen has been, it’s also worth keeping an eye on Holland during the final quarter of the season. The three-time All-Star leads the league in saves and should have plenty of opportunities to enhance that total as the Rockies continue to push for the Wild Card.