MLB

MLB Awards Week: Predictions and everything you need to know about MVP, Cy Young and more

With the World Series in our rearview mirror — though the champion Astros are surely still reveling in their victory — the 2022 season is all but done, with one final piece left: awards!

The winners of MLB’s four major end-of-season awards — Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player — will be announced starting at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network each day this week.

Unlike last year, when none of the MVP candidates reached the postseason, five of this year’s six finalists made the playoffs — with last year’s AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani, once again left out of October. Of the six, just one appeared in the Fall Classic (and won) — Yordan Alvarez. The AL’s MVP race is, unsurprisingly, led by none other than Aaron Judge, while the NL’s race features two teammates — Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado — vying for the honors.

And the fun doesn’t stop there, as there’s lots to be excited about in the other races, too. At 39 years old, Justin Verlander could secure the third Cy Young of his career on Wednesday, while on the other hand, Sandy Alcantara could make Marlins franchise history if he wins the Cy Young in the NL.

We have everything you need to know for awards week — previewing each award in addition to our ESPN MLB experts’ predictions for who should take home the hardware. Be sure to check back throughout the week as this page is updated with results and analysis as each award is handed out.

National League Rookie of the Year

Finalists:

  • Brendan Donovan, UT, St. Louis Cardinals

  • Michael Harris II, CF, Atlanta Braves

  • Spencer Strider, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Experts’ picks: Harris (8 votes), Strider (5)

What to know: The Braves took off in June when they called up Harris from Double-A to play center field and moved Strider from the bullpen to the rotation — and the pair proved to be one of the great rookie tandems in recent memory. Indeed, they’re likely to finish 1-2 in the balloting, and only three teammates have done that since ranked voting began in 1980: Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman of the Braves in 2011, Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith of the Cubs in 1989, and Alvin Davis and Mark Langston of the Mariners in 1984.

Though he played just 43 games above High-A, the Braves knew Harris could handle the defensive chores, but his offense was what surprised when his power took off in the majors. He hit .297/.337/.514 with 19 home runs, adding 20 steals in 22 attempts for a superlative all-around season. Harris’ 5.3 bWAR made him just the 34th rookie position player with 5.0 WAR since the divisional era began in 1969 — and with 114 games played, he had the fewest games of any player on the list.

Strider was a dominant force with his upper-90s fastball and wipeout slider, striking out 202 batters in just 131 2/3 innings, making him the 10th rookie since 1969 with 200 strikeouts and the first since Yu Darvish in 2012. Along the way, he held batters to a .180 average and finished 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA.

Donovan wasn’t viewed as a top prospect entering 2022, but he came up in late April and had a terrific season as a utility player, starting at six different positions while hitting .281/.394/.379 and winning a Gold Glove. Among players with at least 400 plate appearances, he finished seventh in the majors in on-base percentage.

Our expert predictions give the nod to Harris, and historical precedent does usually favor the position player over the pitcher in a close race. No matter who wins, Braves fans should enjoy the pair for a long time: Harris signed what could end up as a 10-year extension while Strider signed what could be a seven-year extension. — David Schoenfield

ROY must-reads: 10 rookies about to take this year’s postseason by storm

American League Rookie of the Year

Finalists:

  • Steven Kwan, LF, Cleveland Guardians

  • Julio Rodriguez, CF, Seattle Mariners

  • Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles

Experts’ picks: Rodriguez (12 votes), Rutschman (1)

What to know: The American League field was so deep that postseason hero Jeremy Pena of the Astros couldn’t even crack the final three. Rodriguez (6.2), Kwan (5.5) and Rutschman (5.2) each topped 5.0 WAR, making this just the second time since Jackie Robinson won the first Rookie of the Year in 1947 that three position players from the same league reached that mark (joining the AL trio of Mark McGwire, Kevin Seitzer and Devon White in 1987).

Rodriguez is the overwhelming favorite, which is no knock on the seasons from Kwan and Rutschman. Rodriguez hit .284/.345/.509 with 28 home runs and 25 stolen bases, making him just the third rookie to go 25/25, joining Mike Trout and Chris Young. Beyond the numbers, Rodriguez also showcased the “it” factor with a high-energy, enthusiastic style of play, reminiscent of another former young Mariners center fielder (who did not win Rookie of the Year).

Rutschman might have had a better chance to win if he hadn’t suffered a triceps strain in spring training, which delayed his debut until May 21 — not coincidentally, right about when the Orioles started to go on their surprising run. He hit .254/.362/.445 with 13 home runs and excellent defense and leadership. His superb approach at the plate (65 walks, 86 strikeouts) is a huge plus and should allow for improved offense in the future. Indeed, both he and Rodriguez have MVP-level ceilings.

Kwan gained attention when he went 5-for-5 in the third game of the season and, really, never stopped hitting, finishing at .298 and winning a Gold Glove in left field. Kwan and Rutschman were teammates at Oregon State — and, yes, the Beavers won the College World Series with them in 2018. — Schoenfield

ROY must-reads: How Julio Rodriguez became the Mariners’ $470 million man

National League Manager of the Year

Finalists:

  • Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Buck Showalter, New York Mets

  • Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves

Experts’ picks: Showalter (6 votes), Snitker (5), Roberts (1), Philadelphia Phillies’ Rob Thomson (1)

What to know: This looks like a toss-up, especially given that Roberts’ Dodgers won 111 games — most in the National League since 1906 — and he rates as third favorite on the board. It was the fourth time Roberts has won at least 104 games, although his one Manager of the Year award came in 2016, when the Dodgers won just 91 games.

He probably won’t win this year, because as dominant as the Dodgers were in the regular season (remember, voting is done before the playoffs), the Mets and Braves perhaps had more compelling storylines. Showalter took over a Mets team coming off a 77-85 season and guided it to 101 wins and its first playoff trip since 2016. He brought some professionalism to a team that needed it, cleaned up the defense and the little things, and had all that success even though Jacob deGrom didn’t start a game until August. Snitker, who won this award in 2018, guided the Braves to their fifth straight division title — rallying from 10.5 games down on June 1 and sweeping the Mets the final week of the season to wrap up the division. — Schoenfield

MOY must-reads: ‘The golden age of Dodger baseball’? L.A. sets franchise wins record — again — but has just one ring

American League Manager of the Year

Finalists:

  • Terry Francona, Cleveland Guardians

  • Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles

  • Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners

Experts’ picks: Hyde (6 votes), Francona (6), Houston Astros’ Dusty Baker (1)

What to know: Baker, of course, finished as the real manager of the year after ending his personal World Series drought in his 25th season as a manager, but he’s not even a finalist. This is a two-man race between Hyde and Francona, as the Orioles and Guardians were perhaps the two biggest surprises of 2022.

In his fourth season with the Orioles, Hyde’s team improved from 52 wins to 83, one of the biggest single-season improvements in history, staying in the playoff race until late in the season. Wins over expectation is usually a guiding principle in this award, and that should help Hyde. Francona’s advantage is the Guardians did make the playoffs, winning the AL Central with a 92-70 record — a 12-game improvement, impressive for a team that had both the youngest lineup and the youngest pitching staff in the majors. Francona’s ability to work with young players continues to be an impressive strength and could win him his third MOY award. — Schoenfield

MOY must-reads:

How the Guardians turned the AL Central race into a one-team sprint

How the Orioles — yes, the Baltimore Orioles — became the hottest team in MLB

National League Cy Young

Finalists:

  • Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Miami Marlins

  • Max Fried, LHP, Atlanta Braves

  • Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Experts’ picks: Alcantara (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

What to know: This looks like a possible unanimous victory for Alcantara. He went 14-9 with a 2.28 ERA and led the majors with 228 2/3 innings and six complete games. No, those last two numbers wouldn’t stand out even a decade ago, but that was the most innings by a starter since David Price in 2016 and 23 innings more than any other pitcher in 2022. Alcantara went at least eight innings in 14 of his 32 starts, and his 8.0 bWAR gave him a sizable lead over Aaron Nola’s 6.0, the second-highest total among NL pitchers.

Urias did end up leading the NL with a 2.16 ERA, but he pitched just 175 innings in 31 starts — a good example of how many more innings Alcantara delivered than even a Cy Young finalist like Urias. Alcantara’s season is also even more impressive since 23 of those 32 starts came against .500-or-better teams. Fried, by comparison, made 17 of his 30 starts against winning teams, while Urias made 16 of 31 — although he was an impressive 11-3 with a 1.45 ERA in those 16 games. Still, this one is all Alcantara, who will become the first Marlins pitcher to win a Cy Young Award (Kevin Brown finished second in 1996). — Schoenfield

Cy Young must-reads: How Julio Urias became the Dodgers’ ace — and maybe their closer

American League Cy Young

Finalists:

  • Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox

  • Alek Manoah, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

  • Justin Verlander, RHP, Houston Astros

Experts’ picks: Verlander (12 votes), Cease (1)

What to know: This is what you call a comeback season. After blowing out his elbow one start into 2020 and undergoing Tommy John surgery, Verlander returned at age 39 after missing two seasons and went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, leading the AL in wins and ERA. You lead the league in those two categories and you’re the heavy favorite to win the Cy Young Award, but Verlander also led the majors in lowest batting average allowed (.186), lowest OBP allowed (.227) and lowest slugging percentage allowed (.270).

Cease (14-8, 2.20 ERA, 227 strikeouts) and Manoah (16-7, 2.24 ERA, 196 2/3 innings) are certainly two of the up-and-coming young starters in the game. Indeed, there are arguments to be made for both. Cease led AL pitchers with 6.4 bWAR, although Verlander and Manoah weren’t far behind at 5.9 (and non-finalist Shohei Ohtani was at 6.2). Manoah pitched 21 more innings than Verlander, which is important, and did it pitching in the league’s toughest division (and had a 1.90 ERA in division games). Still, this looks like Verlander’s year and his third Cy Young Award, after wins in 2011 and 2019 (and three runner-up finishes in between). — Schoenfield

Cy Young must-reads:

The fall of the starting pitcher — and one young ace who signifies hope for the future

From Tommy John to Cy Young form at 39? Inside Justin Verlander’s unprecedented return to dominance

National League MVP

Finalists:

  • Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

  • Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

  • Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres

Experts’ picks: Goldschmidt (6 votes), Machado (4), Arenado (3)

What to know: Goldschmidt had been the heavy favorite after hitting .404/.471/.817 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in May and remaining hot … at least until September, when he finally slumped, hitting .245 with two home runs. By then, however, the Cardinals were cruising to a division title and the Goldschmidt MVP storyline seemed etched in stone. But as our expert picks suggest, maybe it isn’t such a sure thing. Arenado (7.9) actually topped Goldschmidt (7.8) in bWAR, although the difference there is insignificant. Machado (7.4), meanwhile, led in FanGraphs WAR over Arenado’s 7.3 and Goldschmidt’s 7.1.

Goldschmidt was the best hitter in the NL, finishing at .317/.404/.578 with 35 home runs and 115 RBIs, so support for Arenado and Machado centers around the value their defense brings and those WAR totals that ended up pretty even. Goldschmidt led the NL in win probability added (Machado was second) while Arenado wasn’t in the top 10, but some of the other clutch numbers favor Arenado: He had a .988 OPS in high-leverage situations (Goldschmidt was at .895) and .864 in “late and close” situations (Goldschmidt was at .789).

MVP voters have certainly focused on a player’s WAR more and more over the past decade, so that should make this a split vote, but in a close race, it usually seems to go to the best hitter and that’s Goldschmidt. He has had two runner-up MVP finishes and one third place, but at 34 years old, I think he finally wins. — Schoenfield

MVP must-reads:

How this year’s top two NL MVP candidates, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, are feeding off each other

‘It’s my prime, baby’: Why Manny Machado is the best he’s ever been at age 30

American League MVP

Finalists:

  • Yordan Alvarez, DH/LF, Houston Astros

  • Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees

  • Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels

Experts’ picks: Judge (12 votes), Ohtani (1)

What to know: You might have heard about this one. Ohtani went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts as a pitcher. As mentioned above, his 6.2 pitching bWAR was second in the AL and he’ll probably finish fourth in the Cy Young voting. As a hitter, he hit .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs, good enough for the fifth-highest OPS in the AL. So you have a top-five pitcher and a top-five hitter. That is a superhero season.

And somehow not epic enough. Judge’s season was also historic: 62 home runs, 131 RBIs, 133 runs, .425 OBP, .686 slugging. He led the AL in all those categories, most in dominant fashion, doing it in a season when offense was at its lowest levels since 2015. It was the best offensive season since peak Barry Bonds, and if you don’t want to include Bonds, you have to go back to Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams in the 1950s. Judge finished with 10.6 bWAR compared to Ohtani’s pitching-plus-hitting total of 9.6. Of course, the way WAR is constructed, it gives Ohtani a positional penalty, since he was a DH. Maybe you can argue that isn’t fair, since Ohtani obviously plays another position — pitcher.

Still, we can add up the numbers and leave position out of this: Ohtani produced an estimated 31 runs more than an average hitter and saved 40 runs compared to an average pitcher, for a combined total of 71 runs; Judge produced an estimated 80 runs more than average hitter. That’s how good he was at the plate: Better than the combined value of Ohtani the pitcher and Ohtani the hitter. And that’s why Judge’s MVP award will be a deserving honor. — Schoenfield

MVP must-reads:

The road to 62: How Aaron Judge made home run history in 2022

Aaron Judge vs. Shohei Ohtani: How to compare two radically different MVP contenders

‘This guy, he’s different’: What it’s like to watch Yordan Alvarez up close

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