Back on August 20th, we shared our bold predictions for the final quarter of the 2017 Major League season. We thought we had a pretty good handle on precisely how things would unfold, but that was before everything went sideways. Who knew that Cleveland would rattle off 22 wins in a row, or that the Dodgers would come crashing back to earth? Who would have guessed that the Twins would storm into the playoffs a year after losing 103 games, or that some kid named Rhys would hit ten homers in his first 17 games in the bigs? It’s the sort of stuff you’d sound crazy predicting.
We’ve taken all of those unlikely scenarios into account and have come up with new picks for the MLB awards races, plus brand-new odds and props for the postseason. We have the downlow on which squads will mix it up first in a bench-clearing brawl, which manager will get turfed first, and which team will win it all in October. Let’s play ball!
AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARDS
AL Rookie of the Year
- Aaron Judge (Yankees): 1/9
- Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox): 25/1
- Trey Mancini (Orioles): 30/1
- Yuli Gurriel (Astros): 40/1
- FIELD: 250/1
Many journalists wrote off Aaron Judge in late August after the 6’7” slugger set a new Major League record by whiffing in 37 consecutive games. They said he had a hole in his swing. They said he hit the rookie wall. They said pitchers had finally figured him out. Turns out they were all wrong. Judge has returned with a vengeance since his well-documented slump and has been hitting .310 with 14 homeruns and 30 RBIs in the month of September. Along the way he’s set a pair of records for most home runs and walks by a rookie. Those two stats perfectly demonstrate why Judge is one of the most feared hitters in Baseball. Forget about the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Judge could be the AL MVP. (Ooh, foreshadowing!)
AL Cy Young
- Corey Kluber (Indians): 11/9
- Chris Sale (Red Sox): 3/2
- Luis Severino (Yankees): 25/1
- Justin Verlander (astros): 30/1
- FIELD: 12/1
Luis Severino is having a career year and Justin Verlander has gotten a new lease on life in Houston, but the AL Cy Young is ultimately a two-horse race between Red Sox ace Chris Sale and indomitable Indians pitcher Corey Kluber. Sale recently became the first AL pitcher with 300 strikeouts since the turn of the millennium and is likely to finish the season with a 17-8 record and a 2.90 ERA. Kluber, meanwhile, is 18-4 with a league-leading 2.27 ERA and was an integral part of Cleveland’s 22-game winning streak. It’s nearly too close to call, but we’re giving the nod to Kluber thanks to his lower ERA and the fact that he has one more win in four fewer starts. Nonsensical as it is, voters still value that number in the win column.
- Jose Altuve (Astros): 11/9
- Mike Trout (Angels): 2/1
- Aaron Judge (Yankees): 7/1
- FIELD: 10/1
Jose Altuve may be small, but his numbers aren’t. The 5’6” second baseman has led the AL in batting (basically) since Opening Day and recently became the first player since Ichiro Suzuki to rack up 200 hits in four consecutive seasons. He’s hitting .347 with 24 home runs, 81 RBIs, and 32 stolen bases and is tops in the AL in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a statistic that is proving more and more influential every year.
If any player has a chance of catching Altuve, it’s Mike Trout, whose speed and defensive ability continue to make him stand head and shoulders above his peers (especially the 5’6” ones). The two-time MVP isn’t exactly a slouch at the plate either (understantement of the century). Trout leads the league in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and OPS, and is fifth in WAR (a cumulative metric) despite missing six weeks of the season.
It seemed unimaginable that Aaron Judge would be on our MVP shortlist a month ago in the midst of his struggles, but “All Rise” has risen to the occasion during the final month of the season. He’s entering October with 51 homers and 112 RBIs and ranks in the top three in the AL in total bases, walks, intentional walks, offensive win percentage, slugging percentage, on base percentage, OPS, and WAR. In fact, by the time you finish reading this paragraph, he’ll probably have hit three more moonshots.
AL Manager of the Year
- Paul Molitor (Twins): 2/3
- Terry Francona (Indians): 3/1
- A.J. Hinch (Astros): 20/1
- John Farrell (Red Sox): 25/1
- FIELD: 15/1
Paul Molitor just missed winning AL Manager of the Year honors in 2015, but he won’t come up short this season. The third-year skipper has the Twins back in the playoffs after losing 103 games last year. It’s the greatest comeback story since Lazarus, and it won’t go unnoticed by voters.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t tip our cap at Terry Francona as well. Tito has managed to keep his club focused after last year’s devastating World Series collapse and was at the helm for their remarkable 22-game winning streak. His even-keel manner makes him the perfect man for Cleveland’s spirited young lineup.
NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARDS
NL Rookie of the Year
- Cody Bellinger (Dodgers): 1/3
- Josh Bell (Pirates): 10/1
- Paul DeJong (Cardinals): 12/1
- Rhys Hoskins (Phillies): 24/1
- FIELD: 25/1
We could go on and on about Josh Bell’s steady production or the fact that Rhys Hoskins hit 18 homers in his first 34 games, but we all know that the NL Rookie of the Year award belongs to Cody Bellinger. The fresh-faced phenom recently established the NL single-season mark for home runs by a rookie with his 39th round-tripper of the season. That’s not just good, it’s downright historic. The only other players to hit more homers in their age 21-season (or younger) are Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews. We’re not suggesting Bellinger is Hall of Fame bound (not yet, anyhow) but he’s certainly on his way to a great career. The Scottsdale native hit .269 with 25 doubles, three triples and 96 RBIs in his debut season and was a major reason the Dodgers cut through the competition like a knife through warm butter earlier this year.
NL Cy Young
- Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2/1
- Max Scherzer (Nationals): 5/2
- Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): 4/1
- Gio Gonzalez (Nationals): 10/1
- FIELD: 10/1
Clayton Kershaw is living proof that you can’t keep a good man down. The three-time Cy Young winner has come back better than ever after missing four weeks in the middle of the season with a lower back strain. He presently leads the league in wins and ERA and recently topped the 200-strikeout mark for the seventh time in his career. Kershaw hasn’t been as dominant in 2017 as in years past, but voters will likely be swayed by the fact that he’s the best pitcher on the best team in the NL.
Kershaw’s stiffest competition comes from not one, not two, but three Washington Nationals. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez have all posted sub 3.00 ERAs and have at least 14 wins and 186 strikeouts each. We haven’t seen this kind of a 1-2-3 punch since the early 1990s when the Braves blitzed the NL with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Washington’s trio isn’t likely to win any individual postseason awards, but they could win plenty of games in October.
- Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 7/3
- Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks): 3/1
- Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins): 6/1
- Charlie Blackmon (Rockies): 9/1
- FIELD: 4/1
Nolan Arenado was our preseason pick for NL MVP, and he hasn’t let us down one bit. The Rockies third baseman is hitting .309 with 43 home runs and a league-leading 129 RBIs while providing Gold Glove-quality defense at the hot corner.
Arenado’s teammate, Charlie Blackmon, hasn’t been half bad either. The hard-hitting leadoff man currently ranks first in the NL in batting average, hits, total bases, triples, runs scored, runs created, and offensive WAR, and he has a pretty badass beard to boot. He’d rank higher on our list were it not for the fact that his production falls off a cliff when he leaves the friendly confines of Coors Field.
MVP voters generally favor players on winning teams, but Stanton’s numbers are simply too good to overlook. Cruz’s 59 taters are the most by a National Leaguer since 2001 and he presently leads the Senior Circuit in slugging percentage and adjusted OPS. The Marlins haven’t been particularly good with him, but they’d be completely unwatchable without.
NL Manager of the Year
- Torey Lovullo (Diamondbacks): 2/1
- Bud Black (Rockies): 3/1
- Craig Counsell (Brewers): 6/1
- Dusty Baker (Nationals): 12/1
- FIELD: 5/1
Cody Bellinger is our pick for NL Rookie of the Year, but Torey Lovullo has been nearly as good in his own first season. The neophyte manager has guided the D-Backs to a 92-67 record and second-place in the NL West behind the Dodgers. It was quite a turnaround for the club as they finished 69-93 last season and missed the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
Bud Black also deserves a little love for the outstanding job he’s done in Colorado. The Rockies have been one of the Major’s best road teams all season and are headed back to the playoffs after an eight-year drought.
2017 World Series Odds
- Cleveland Indians: 7/2
- L.A. Dodgers: 4/1
- Houston Astros: 7/1
- Washington Nationals: 9/1
- Boston Red Sox: 10/1
- Chicago Cubs: 12/1
- New York Yankees: 15/1
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 20/1
- Colorado Rockies: 25/1
- Minnesota Twins: 45/1
- Milwaukee Brewers: 80/1
The World Series is generally won by the team that gets hottest when the weather starts to cool, and no team has been better over the past month than the Indians. The Tribe recently went 27-1 and led the league in virtually every offensive and defensive category during that span. The last time a team put together a run like that, Chester A. Arthur was in the Oval Office and kids still worked in factories.
The Indians’ dream season could put them on a collision course with the Dodgers, another team that knows a thing or two about breaking records. L.A. compiled the best 50-game stretch in Major League history earlier this summer and reached 90 wins before September. Mind you, they’ve cooled off considerably since then, going 11-16 in September. They’ll need to regain some of their mojo once the playoffs begin.
Most Likely World Series Match-Ups
- Indians vs. Dodgers: 3/1
- Indians vs. Nationals: 4/1
- Astros vs. Dodgers: 9/2
- Astros vs. Nationals: 7/1
- Red Sox vs. Dodgers: 8/1
- Red Sox vs. Nationals: 20/1
- Yankees vs. Dodgers: 25/1
- Yankees vs. Diamondbacks: 50/1
- FIELD: 49/1
The Dodgers were virtually unbeatable before the All-Star break (61-29), and the Indians were virtually unbeatable after it (52-19). Fans across America are clamoring for a World Series between the two, and the good news is that it’s the most likely scenario. The Nationals are the best bet to be party-crashers. Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez will be a nightmare in a seven-game series, and Bryce Harper is finally back after an extended stay on the DL.
Next Manger Fired
- Terry Collins (Mets): 1/4
- Brian Snitker (Braves): 12/1
- Mike Matheny (Cardinals): 20/1
- Clint Hurdle (Pirates): 25/1
- FIELD: 25/1
Terry Collins could be joining Brad Ausmus in the unemployment line very soon. The embattled Mets skipper has been on the hot seat all season long and will almost certainly get the axe in the next few days. It isn’t entirely his fault that the Mets underachieved and finished 26.5 games behind the NL East-leading Nats, but it’s far easier to get rid of one man than 25. Good luck, Terry, and don’t let the door hit you on way out.
Next Bench Clearing Brawl
- Nationals vs. Cubs: 4/1
- Astros vs. Boston: 6/1
- Yankees vs. Twins: 10/1
- Rockies vs. Diamondbacks: 15/1
- Yankees vs. Red Sox: 20/1
- FIELD: 9/11
It’s unlikely the Red Sox and Yankees will face one another in the 2017 playoffs, but if they do, it’s a guarantee that sparks will fly. There’s so much simmering tension behind the two clubs that all it will take is a single brushback pitch or a glance at an Apple Watch for the dugouts to clear.
Don’t sleep on Bryce Harper and the Nats. The fiery outfielder was involved in the nastiest fight of the year when he slugged Giants’ hurler Hunter Strickland in late May. Harper hasn’t been able get his aggression out at the plate for the past month and might be ready to explode once the postseason begins.