At about the quarter mark in the 2018 MLB season, it’s time to go over the favorites for this season’s major awards. In case you missed it, yesterday we went over some contenders and pretenders from surprise teams through about 25% of the year. A lot can change over the coming months, but these guys are playing outstanding baseball so far.
MVP: Odubel Herrera, Phillies CF
Former Rule-5 selection Odeubel Herrera has been one of the better players in baseball since his major league debut in 2015, as he’s hit .297, .286, and .281 over his first three seasons. In 2018, Herrera has become a legitimate superstar and leads the National League in batting average. Herrera, who was surprisingly out of the Opening Day lineup, has reached base safely in every game since then—37 times this season, 41 dating back to the end of last season. The Venezuelan outfielder might have a funky approach to the plate, but he’s very comfortable up there and just finds ways to get on base one way or another. The All-Star is also on pace for over 20 home runs this season, and he makes some outstanding plays in center field when he’s locked in.
Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Nationals SP
Right now, the Phillies could also push for the Cy Young winner this season, as Aaron Nola is off to a great start with a 6-1 record and a 1.99 ERA. However, Max Scherzer remains on another level, with a 7-1 record and an absurd 1.69 ERA and 91 strikeouts. Mad Max has at least seven strikeouts in every start this season, including double-digit strikeouts in six starts. He also became the first pitcher in MLB history to have 15 K’s without pitching more than 6.1 innings in a game. If Scherzer stays healthy, he’s the clear favorite for a three-peat as the Cy Young award winner.
Rookie of the Year: Walker Buehler, Dodgers SP
NL Rookie of the Year doesn’t have anyone separating themselves quite yet, but it should happen as the season progresses. Ozzie Albeis is not eligible for the award because he had enough playing time last season that he was a rookie, otherwise he would be the obvious choice. Albeis’ Braves teammate Ronald Acuna is someone to look out for and is in consideration at the quarter point, but Dodgers rookie starting pitcher Walker Buehler has delivered a needed calmness to the team’s rotation. Walker has had a quality start in each of his four outings this season, and his ERA sits at 1.64 with 27 strikeouts in 22.0 innings pitched.
Comeback Player of the Year: Johnny Cueto, Giants SP
The elbow issues are an obvious concern, but Johnny Cueto was off to a major bounce-back season after he had a 4.52 ERA for the Giants in 2017. In his five starts this season, Cueto has been nearly unhittable, going at least six innings in each outing while giving up hit totals of 1, 8, 2, 2, and 3 along with run totals of 0, 1, 0, 0, 2. Cueto’s ERA is 0.84, and he just needs to get healthy and back on the mound. He might not end up playing enough this season if doesn’t return by the All-Star break.
Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker, Braves
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (and maybe even Marlins manager Don Mattingly) are all in consideration for manager of the quarter mark, but Brian Snitker has the Braves sitting atop the NL East with the NL’s best record, which not many people expected. If the Braves keep it up and win the division, he would be an easy selection for Manager of the Year in the National League.
MVP: Mike Trout, Angels CF
It’s amazing that Mike Trout has only two AL MVP awards considering he’s been the best player in the game for a while now, but he’s a great bet to win the award for the third time if he stays healthy. Trout has drawn a league-leading 35 walks and leads the majors in on-base percentage (.448), but he’s still smashed 12 home runs and is currently on pace to set career-hitting-records across the board aside from batting average (which is still at .306). He also still plays Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field for the Angels, who look poised to get back into the playoffs this season.
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Astros SP
Justin Verlander’s teammate Gerrit Cole, who has a whopping 93 strikeouts this season, is also squarely in the mix, but the 35-year-old veteran gets the benefit of being around longer. Verlander has picked up right where he left off after the Astros acquired him last season, with an awesome 1.21 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Verlander has given up less runs (eight) than games started (nine). His masterful eight-inning, 14-striekout performance against the Yankees earlier this season is a big standout early in the year.
Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani, Angels SP/DH
Nothing against the other contenders, but this is the easiest award selection at the quarter point. Shohei Ohtani is doing things that haven’t been done in many decades, and he’s doing it as a rookie. He might be a 23 years old that’s played professionally in Japan, but Ohtani has handled all the pressure and attention wonderfully—even after a worrying spring training. If Ohtani stays healthy, the only argument might be whether or not he should win MVP.
Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Brantley, OF
After appearing in just 90 games last season and 11 games the season before, Michael Brantley has returned with a .328 average through 31 games in 2018. Brantley has also hit five home runs with 27 RBI (16th in the American League), and he’s struck out only ten times. The 20-21 Indians might not be atop the AL Central if it wasn’t for Brantley returning at a high level.
Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia, Angels
You can argue Mike Scioscia’s job isn’t that hard with the best player in baseball and another top-five MVP candidate and AL Rookie of the Year lock, but not many people thought the Angels would be contenders in 2018. Scioscia has done a great job of managing the unique situation with Shohei Ohtani, and it’s certainly worked out so far. First-year managers Alex Cora and Aaron Boone could be considered, but most people expected the Red Sox and Yankees to compete this season.