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Bleacher Report's Final 2014 MLB Spring Training Awards

Joe GiglioContributor IMarch 27, 2014

Bleacher Report's Final 2014 MLB Spring Training Awards

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Every March, fans, analysts and fantasy baseball enthusiasts denounce the result of spring training games, yet keep a watchful eye on the progression and performance of individual players through the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues.

    On one hand, the games don't count and stats have no bearing on what will happen when the regular season arrives.

    On the other hand, we all pay attention, especially when performances jump off the page and grab our attention.

    Bleacher Report's MLB Lead Writer team—myself, Jason CataniaZachary RymerMike Rosenbaum and Adam Wells—has been tasked with assigning meaning to the outcomes and results of seemingly meaningless games. 

    Each November, fans squabble over yearly awards, snubs and discrepancies between the BBWAA and common sense.

    With the exhibition season coming to a close, why wait for the regular season to assign awards and boost the career credentials of emerging stars?

    After carefully examining the ballots, weeding out players eventually reassigned to minor league camp and discerning what performances truly stood out over the last six weeks, the votes have been tallied for a brand new award season.

    Here are Bleacher Report's final 2014 spring training awards.

     

    Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and MLB.com, unless otherwise noted. 

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

    Rymer: Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

    Rosenbaum: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

    Wells: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

    Giglio: Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians

    Spring training statistics: .412/.464/.824, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 3 SB


    It's Mike Trout's world. We're just living in it.

    After two of the most prolific opening acts in baseball history, Trout picked up where he left off during the 2013 regular season. 

    On a daily basis—even in the often monotonous nature of exhibition games—Los Angeles has a magnetic star who lights up the field. Whether it's in the box, on the bases or in the outfield, the American League MVP of spring training once again showed the rare ability to take over a baseball game in every way possible.

    Barring another all-time great offensive campaign from Miguel Cabrera, the regular season MVP should finally land with the Angels star.

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Rymer: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Rosenbaum: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Wells: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Giglio: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates



    Spring training statistics: .444/.490/.844, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 10 R 


    If not for Trout's stardom, McCutchen might be talked about as baseball's best overall player. Plus, unlike the underachieving Angels, the National League MVP of the spring led his team to October last year and back into the national spotlight.

    With a rare blend of power, speed, defense and leadership ability, McCutchen is quickly becoming a household name despite making his career in the city of Pittsburgh.

    After jumping from 79 wins in 2012 to 94 victories in 2013 and a berth in the NL postseason, many expect regression from the Pirates in 2014. That won't happen if McCutchen can reprise his role as the best all-around player in the National League.

    If the results of spring training are any indication of the season he's poised to have, pencil the Bucs in for another magical year.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

    Rymer: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

    Rosenbaum: Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians

    Wells: Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians

    Giglio: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers



    Spring training statistics:  20 IP, 0.00 ERA, 8 H, 17 SO, 5 BB


    Dominant.

    In 20 innings of Grapefruit League baseball, Justin Verlander didn't surrender an earned run. Somehow—just months removed from core surgery that hampered the former Cy Young award winner during the 2013 season—there was little rust or reason to doubt the future Hall of Famer.

    Last year, Verlander was seemingly passed by teammate Max Scherzer. In both the Tigers rotation pecking order and perception, a new ace emerged in Detroit.

    Based on the performance of the 2011 AL MVP over the last 20 innings, the debate over worth, value and ace status within the Tigers organization may not be over quite yet.

NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

    Rymer: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

    Rosenbaum: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

    Wells: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

    Giglio: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants


    Spring training statistics: 22.2 IP, 1.19 ERA, 15 H, 22 SO, 2 BB


    This was unanimous. 

    In baseball debates—even when it comes to simply picking standouts of spring training—it's hard to get five experts to agree on anything, let alone picking the best pitcher in the entire National League.

    Thanks to a ridiculous 22-to-2 strikeout-to-walk rate, Madison Bumgarner did the impossible by convincing the entire B/R Lead Writer team to pencil his name in as the spring training Cy Young award winner for 2014. 

    Now comes the next challenge: graduating from really, really good to great when the regular season begins. 

    If Bumgarner is up to the task, the Giants could find their way back to October baseball. 

AL Rookie of the Year: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

    Rymer: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

    Rosenbaum: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

    Wells: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

    Giglio: 
    Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

    Spring training statistics: 20.1 IP, 1.77 ERA, 15 H, 18 SO, 4 BB


    Nothing gets the average fan more excited than standout performances from young players during spring training. Despite the presence of prospect mavens—including our own Mike Rosenbaum—the idea of a player magically improving, taking a leap or becoming something unexpected is tantalizing on a yearly basis. 

    To be fair, Yordano Ventura didn't magically emerge from some foreign land to become a spring stud. In fact, the 22-year-old pitched 15.1 innings of solid (3.52 ERA) baseball during a September call-up in Kansas City last season.

    Yet his performance this spring was off the charts, leading to a job in Kansas City's Opening Day rotation.

    Over the next six months, talented rookies like Nick Castellanos—garnering a vote from Catania—and Boston's Xander Bogaerts will be strong contenders for the actual award. 

    When it comes to spring training, no AL rookie was better than Ventura. 

NL Rookie of the Year: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

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    Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals

    Rymer: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

    Rosenbaum: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

    Wells: Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals

    Giglio: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

    Spring training statistics: .280/.294/.640, 5 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R


    Quick wrists. Raw power. Game-changing bat speed.

    When Javier Baez steps up to the plate, cliches follow from announcers attempting to keep up with the glowing scouting reports, as well as his eye-opening skill and vast potential. 

    Unfortunately for aspiring baseball play-by-play men, Baez is making it awfully difficult to keep up.

    With five home runs—including a mammoth shot against the Colorado Rockies—Baez showed power well beyond what is expected from any 21-year-old shortstop.

    Don't pay too much attention to on-base percentage (.294) or strikeout-to-walk ratio (16-1) for a player still ironing out kinks and learning to become a complete hitter. Instead, focus on raw, unfiltered power and bat speed.

    Baez is the deserving NL ROY pick despite flaws in his game. When those are corrected, consideration for MVP awards will likely commence.

     

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

    Rymer: Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners

    Rosenbaum: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

    Wells: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

    Giglio: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels

    Spring training win-loss record: 15-6


    After years of success with the small-market Rays, it's fair to say that Joe Maddon is recognized as one of the best managers in the sport. With a forward-thinking approach, analytically-inclined mind and constant focus on the big picture, Maddon has become a dual threat: a player's coach in the clubhouse and liaison to the front office with major decision making. 

    Nurturing young players, advising general manager Andrew Friedman on roster moves and handling the day-to-day realities of life as a small-market team in a land of giants (Yankees, Red Sox) can overshadow the job Maddon does in the dugout.

    Whether it's spring training or Game 7 of the ALCS, Maddon gets the most out of the talent on his roster.

    After a solid spring, he's molded a team with the third-lowest payroll in baseball, per Deadspin, into a group capable of winning the AL East.

NL Manager of the Year: Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

    Rymer: Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

    Rosenbaum: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants

    Wells: Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

    Giglio: Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

    Spring training win-loss record: 17-11


    When a respected and knowledgeable baseball writer like ESPN's Jerry Crasnick identifies the Miami Marlins as a team with sleeper potential, someone deserves credit for a massive culture change and shift in direction. 

    After losing 100 games in his first year as a manager, Redmond didn't throw in the towel on a young team that was bound to experience growing pains.

    Now, the former catcher is poised to oversee a pitching staff with outrageous potential. In baseball, the fastest way to contention is through dominant starting pitching. After posting a 3.52 ERA as a team during the Grapefruit League season, Redmond could have that kind of staff in the near future. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays

    Rymer: Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

    Rosenbaum: Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox

    Wells: Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox

    Giglio: Grady Sizemore, Boston Red Sox

    Spring training statistics: .306/.342/.417, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 6 R


    With apologies to Melky Cabrera's 1.034 OPS and Michael Pineda's 1.20 ERA, this vote would have been disappointing if anyone but Sizemore took home the hardware.

    Baseball's feel-good story of spring continues to rewrite narratives, surprise fans and conjure up memories of when Sizemore was baseball's best young, ascending five-tool sensation.

    Yes, kids, Grazy Sizemore was Mike Trout before Mike Trout.

    Due to years of injuries, setbacks and lost athleticism, Sizemore shouldn't be expected to ever reach those heights again. But that doesn't mean he can't become a major contributor for the defending champions in Boston. 

    If his spring production carries over into the regular season, Jackie Bradley Jr. will have a difficult time holding onto the starting center field job in Fenway Park.

Executive of the Year: Dan Duquette, Baltimore Orioles

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Jerry Dipoto, Los Angeles Angels 

    Rymer: Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners

    Rosenbaum: Dan Duquette, Baltimore Orioles

    Wells: Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay Rays

    Giglio: Dan Duquette, Baltimore Orioles

    Major offseason acquisitions: Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz


    As The New York Times baseball writer Tyler Kepner astutely pointed out, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has a history of magical seasons once every 10 years. 

    In 1994, Duquette's Expos were baseball's best team before the strike hit and caused the cancellation of the postseason and World Series. In 2004, the Red Sox—a team Duquette was largely responsible for building—won the World Series. 

    After adding Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz to a core that has averaged 89 victories per season over the last two years, 2014 could soon be remembered as another triumph for Duquette's executive resume.

    The AL East is a bear, but the Orioles have a legitimate chance to win their division for the first time since 1997. Credit for the depth and direction of the 40-man roster and farm system should go to our 2014 spring training award winner.

AL Hank Aaron Award: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

    Rymer: Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

    Rosenbaum: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

    Wells: Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

    Giglio: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

    Spring training statistics: .431/.531/.784, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 12 R


    The Hank Aaron Award?!

    In the name of fairness—and to quell angry MVP comments from readers—the B/R MLB team believes that the Hank Aaron Award should be given its just due. Sometimes, pure hitting is what fans want. By bringing this award into the conversation, defense, WAR and all-around excellence can be put on the back burner. 

    Then, the MVP honor can truly reflect the best player—not best hitter—in each league.

    After underachieving during a three-year big league career, Kansas City's Mike Moustakas did the exact opposite this spring.

    Yes, it's only exhibition season, but let's put those OBP (.531) and SLG (.784) numbers in perspective.

    Since 1900, only three players ever posted seasons with an OBP of .532 or better: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. Only Bonds and Ruth ever cracked the .784 slugging mark.

    No, Kansas City's third baseman isn't about to become an immortal hitter. For the last six weeks, however, he's raked like one. 

NL Hank Aaron Award: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Voting breakdown

    Catania: Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds

    Rymer: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Rosenbaum: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Wells: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Giglio: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Spring training statistics: .444/.490/.844, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 10 R 


    Yes, the B/R voters understand the difference between best hitter and best player. In the case of spring awards for the National League, the vote for each category belongs to the same person: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

    As noted earlier, Pittsburgh has an all-around star. But even if the perennial MVP candidate was a lousy leader, defender or slow runner, an .844 slugging percentage would win this award every single time. 

    It took nearly two decades, but the Pirates finally have a worthy heir to the throne that Barry Bonds vacated when he departed for San Francisco after the 1992 season. 

    Agree? Disagree? 

    Who were the most impressive performers of spring training 2014?

    Comment, follow me on Twitter or "like" my Facebook page to talk about all things baseball.

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