Updated Predictions for Every Major MLB Award Entering May
If you are a fan of the unpredictable, baseball in April has been a very, very fun month. With the Washington Nationals playing average baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates in first place and the Toronto Blue Jays making Vegas look quite foolish, little has gone as planned.
As the calender turns to May, we can take a snapshot of the best individual performances in April and how they may or may not impact the 2013 award races. MVPs and Cy Youngs are rarely won in April, but a hot start can be a precursor to a breakout season or award campaign.
With a month of knowledge, storylines and narratives played out and in our baseball conscience, here are updated predictions for every major MLB award entering May.
All statistics are current as of the end of play on April 29, or if you stayed up until nearly dawn on the East Coast watching the Angels vs. A's game, through the morning of April 30.
AL MVP: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Stats: .324/.378/.608, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 17 R, 1.3 WAR
MVPs are rarely won in April, but Cano is making a case that should be remembered when voting is conducted at the end of September.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out recently, Cano's hot start has helped keep the Yankees thriving in the American League East at a time when injuries to Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter have left the Yankees lineup looking like a shell of its former self.
After hitting .130 over the season's first six games, Cano has been on a tear to close the month, sporting a .380 batting average and .747 slugging percentage since play began on April 8.
Not bad for a guy who came into the season with pressure to lead the Yankees, got off to a slow start and made some headlines by switching agents.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Stats: .356/.437/.744, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 18 R, 1.7 WAR
At the age of 20, Bryce Harper isn't just the best young star in baseball. Through one month of the 2013 season, he's making his case for being the best player in baseball, regardless of age.
Not only is Harper putting up ridiculous numbers, but he's also doing it amidst a Nationals team that has dealt with injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, awful production from Adam LaRoche and a pitching staff that hasn't been close to as dominant as it was in 2012.
From the opening at-bat of the season, Harper has hit third and carried Washington.
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Stats: 5 GS, 32.2 IP, 49 K, 10 BB, 1.65 ERA, 1.19 FIP, 1.4 WAR
Dating back to last season, Darvish has now made 34 starts in the major leagues. In other words, the equivalent of a full, healthy season of taking the ball once every fifth day for Texas manager Ron Washington.
When looking to project how good Darvish already is, take a gander at some of his numbers across those 34 starts.
2013 started with a near perfecto in Houston. It could end with a Cy Young for the Rangers ace.
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Stats: 6 GS, 44.1 IP, 43 K, 3 BB, 2.03 ERA, 1.25 FIP, 1.8 WAR
Through the first month of the 2013 season, Adam Wainwright is putting together one of the most dominant runs of pitching seen in a long, long time.
Through six starts, he boasts a 14.33 K/BB ledger. At this rate, Wainwright would strike out more than 200 batters while issuing less than 20 walks over the course of the full season.
To put that into perspective, using the useful Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, his pace and command/control combo become mind-boggling.
Since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, exactly zero pitchers have struck out at least 200 in a season while walking less than 20. Cliff Lee's 185-18 ratio in 2010 was close, but Wainwright has been on an even better run to start this season.
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Minor League Stats: .289/.383/.456, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 14 R
Due to a combination of working on his all-around game, delaying free agency and arbitration numbers and extreme patience of the Rays front office and manger, Myers hasn't yet stepped foot on a major league field.
At some point, Tampa will call him up to improve its scuffling offense. His impact is yet to be determined, but his minor league career .912 OPS should translate into immediate help for the Rays.
Currently, Tampa is 18th in baseball with 103 runs scored. While that's not awful, its production from the No. 6 spot in the order, a likely early landing spot for Myers, is atrocious. With a .507 OPS, it's impossible to count on anyone hitting below Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist in the Tampa lineup.
Myers will change that on his way to the AL ROY award.
NL Rookie of the Year: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Stats: 5 GS, 31.2 IP, 34 K, 8 BB, 3.41 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 0.3 WAR
The 26-year-old South Korean hasn't just been the top rookie in the National League, his early season performance has helped keep the Dodgers afloat as injuries have rocked what was pegged as a deep, talented rotation.
Due to the brawl in San Diego, calf injury to Chris Capuano, further elbow trouble for Chad Billingsley and trading Aaron Harang, Don Mattingly's rotation became four question marks behind the stable Clayton Kershaw.
Ryu, sporting baseball's best David Wells body type impersonation, has been worth every penny Los Angeles spent on him last winter.
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Al Bello/Getty Images
Team Record: 15-10, Run Differential: +7
Of all of the preseason narratives and predictions about the 2013 New York Yankees, an important one was often left out: Joe Girardi is a really, really good manager.
While you can debate how much difference a baseball manager can or can't make over the course of a 162-game season, consider this about Girardi's highly successful six-plus seasons on the bench: He's received Manager of the Year votes in five, including winning the award in 2006 as skipper of the Marlins.
The current Yankees are old, injured and devoid of the talent Girardi had during back-to-back ALCS trips in 2009 and 2010, but despite the obstacles, they stayed afloat through April.
If it continues, Girardi's name will be in this discussion once again.
NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Team Record: 15-11, Run Differential: +4
In sports, timing can often overshadow the full story.
The final chapters of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates, covering Hurdle's first two years in Pittsburgh, left fans with sour tastes in their mouths heading into the offseason. Simply put, the franchise collapsed in consecutive Augusts and Septembers, turning first-place standings in late July into another pair of under .500 finishes.
Yet look closer and you'll see the big picture during Hurdle's time in Steel City: The franchise won 57 games in 2010, the year before he arrived.
In the two years since, the win totals have jumped from 57 to 72 to 79.
If A.J. Burnett continues to pitch like an ace, Andrew McCutchen gets hot and the bullpen stays dominant, first place may last longer than late July and .500 could become a realistic goal for the ever-improving Bucs.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Vernon Wells, New York Yankees
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Stats: .307/.374/.557, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 14 R, 1.6 WAR
The Comeback Player of the Year is often represented by different stories and tales of redemption. It can go to a former star off of a down year, a player returning from a grueling injury or sickness or an older player finding the fountain of youth one last time.
In the case of Vernon Wells, it feels like the most unlikely return to glory in a long, long time.
Simply put, Wells was one of the worst and least productive baseball players alive over the past two seasons. His .667 OPS was horrid, 86 OPS-plus embarrassing and 121-36 K/BB ratio suggested a hitter totally lost at the plate.
Now, out of nowhere, he's been rejuvenated by New York and playing for the Yankees.
If his play continues, look for Wells to unseat Ichiro Suzuki as the everyday right fielder once Curtis Granderson returns from injury.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Stats: .308/.388/.516, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 20 R, 1.1 WAR
From 2002-2010, mostly playing in obscurity in Tampa Bay, Carl Crawford laid the groundwork for a future run at 3,000 hits and the Hall of Fame. At the age of 29, he departed for Boston with a career .296 batting average and 1,480 career hits. With the Green Monster at his back, he was expected to be worth all of the $140-plus million the Red Sox paid to sign him.
Of course, injuries, issues with the media and a .292 OBP in 161 games got Crawford and his contract shipped out of Boston last August.
Through the first month of the season, the old Crawford is back, setting the tone for the top of the Dodgers' order.
On Sunday, his two home runs backed Clayton Kershaw in a victory over the Brewers. For the first time since his days in Tampa, Crawford was the best player on the field.
Who would you pick to win the 2013 MLB Awards?