Handing out First-Half Awards to New York Yankees Players

Colin KennedyFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2013

Handing out First-Half Awards to New York Yankees Players

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    Inching closer and closer to the All-Star break, it is about time to hand out the New York Yankees' midseason awards. 

    A time to recognize and acknowledge player performances over the first half of the season, which have helped keep New York afloat a tough Eastern division in the American League. 

    Awards for the best pitcher, rookie and player will be distributed to current members of the team in an effort to expose the Yankees' success and highlight personal impact on the team. 

    Will CC Sabathia take home this year's Cy Young award?

    Can someone other than Robinson Cano contend for the club's Most Valuable Player honor? 

    Here is a closer look.

Cy Young: Hiroki Kuroda

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    When the New York Yankees inked Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal back in January of 2012, they were taking a slight risk on a career National Leaguer. 

    18 months later, Kuroda has general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankees looking like geniuses for the cheap acquisition of this year's ace. 

    Most would point to CC Sabathia when talking about New York's No. 1, and reasonably so. 

    However, take a closer look, and the numbers will reveal that Hiroki Kuroda has actually been the Yankees' best pitcher over the last 18 months. 

    Through the first half of 2013, Kuroda has given his ball club 11 quality starts—two more than any other starting pitcher on the staff.

    His 2.95 ERA is good for seventh in the American League among starters, and is more than a run lower than the team's next best starter in CC Sabathia.

    A modest 7-6 record could prevent Kuroda from making the AL All-Star team; however, fans might want to consider the fact that he has received an average of just 2.37 runs per game in support of his starts the last eight outings. 

MVP: Robinson Cano

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    On a roster that is supposed to be studded with superstars, Robinson Cano has emerged as the face of the future for the Yankees in recent seasons. 

    The only change in 2013? Cano might be one of the only recognizable faces on the field on a daily basis. 

    Injuries have been a problem for New York to say the least through the season's first few months. And without the consistent production from Robinson Cano, they likely wouldn't remain in contention in the competitive AL East. 

    OK, so "consistent" might not be the best word to describe one of the game's streakiest players. But slumping or sizzling, there isn't a hitter currently in New York that fans would rather see at the dish with the game on the line. 

    On the season, Cano is batting .295 with 20 HR, 57 RBI, a .371 OBP and .905 OPS. To help put that in perspective, consider the following:

    Cano's 57 RBI are 21 more than the team's second-leading run producer, Travis Hafner (36). Only one combination of players on the Yankees (Hafner and Vernon Wells) can be paired to surpass Cano's total of 20 HR. And lastly, his .905 OPS is more than 100 points higher than the next qualified contender in Brett Gardner (.782).

    Just the past week or so, Cano has showed the league his ability to put a team on his back offensively. He has totaled an impressive 14 hits in his last seven contests and raised his batting average a lofty 14 points in the same span. 

    Add in the fact that he consistently plays Gold Glove-caliber 2B and you have a no-brainer for the Yankees' first-half MVP.

Rookie of the Year: Zoilo Almonte

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    The 2013 first-half Rookie of the Year award brings us to another very distinguishable and clear-cut decision. 

    Since coming to the bigs in late June, Zoilo Almonte has provided the New York Yankees with an offensive spark. 

    His impact was felt immediately when Almonte homered and totaled three hits in his first ever Major League start on June 21 against Tampa Bay; however, Almonte's presence in the lineup has continued to benefit the Yankees into July. 

    Through the team's first 72 games, they scored an average of 3.8 runs a game. Since Almonte emerged into New York's everyday lineup, that number stands around 4.6 runs per game.

    Currently, Almonte is batting .314 with one HR and eight RBI.

    Though his numbers don't jump off the page like the phenomenal Yasiel Puig over in Los Angeles, there is no denying the fact that Almonte has contributed significantly to a resurgent Yankee offense. 

    He has given manager Joe Girardi options and flexibility with his ability to play multiple positions and hit from both sides of the plate, and at only 24 years of age, Almonte has already shown fans in the Bronx why the organization has been high on his potential. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Mariano Rivera

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    In a season that hasn't gone quite as planned for the New York Yankees, perhaps the midseason awards can be the most definitive takeaway from the year's first half. 

    Mariano Rivera's nomination as the Comeback Player of the Year rounds out the ceremony with little surprise. 

    Just one season after suffering a torn ACL and facing potentially career-ending rehabilitation at the age of 43, Rivera has returned to baseball right where he left off—as the game's most masterful closer. 

    He announced before the season began that 2013 would be his final campaign. And 85 games into his farewell tour, it is beginning to appear that Rivera might need an encore. 

    Given his unfathomable body of work, few really doubted whether or not he could pitch again following reconstructive surgery to his knee last June. 

    But did we really see this coming?

    In his 19th Major League season, Rivera is composing arguably his most impressive resume to date. He has surrendered just five earned runs in 35 appearances thus far in 2013. 

    No, he isn't striking batters out at the same rate he used to when he could pump it up to 95 MPH. But Rivera is relying on superior experience and command to spot his signature cutter on the corners of the plate and do what he does best: jam the batter. 

    He has converted on 28 of 29 save opportunities while walking just six total batters in the process. Rivera has allowed only one home run in more than 31 innings of work, and if it weren't for Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers, Rivera would likely be 2013's clear choice for Closer of the Year.