Mid-April Awards for the Early 2014 MLB Season
Is two weeks too soon to start up the awards conversation for the 2014 Major League Baseball season? Undoubtedly. But it's never too early to at least start the discussion about which players are off to fantastic starts. That's what this is all about.
Pretend for a moment that the season isn't six months long but merely one. In that warped world, how would the current clubhouse leaders stack up in a batch of individual performance-related categories based on real-life postseason awards, such as Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year?
Let's review the first half of the first month by highlighting the candidates—and winners—of the "April Awards."
Top MVP: Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Statistics: .345/.383/.655, 10 R, 8 XBH (4 HR), 9 RBI, 1 SB (60 PA)
While there's a valid argument that the Most Valuable Player should simply go to the best all-around performer, extra weight is awarded to players on winning clubs around here, so players on teams at .500 or better were considered most heavily.
Certainly, the best team so far is the Brewers, who are 10-3 entering play Tuesday and fresh off a nine-game winning streak. Just about everyone on the roster is off to a great start (duh), but they've been fueled, driven and steered by Carlos Gomez, who came into his own as a superstar in 2013 and looks poised to make a legitimate MVP run this year.
The 28-year-old isn't a perfect player—he's still occasionally aggressive to a fault at the plate—but he does a lot of everything in every facet of the game and has become one of the most exciting to watch.
Next in Line: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies; Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers; Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals; Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves; Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox; Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners; Mark Buehrle, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Honorable Mentions: Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants; Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals; Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays; Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays; Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox; Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Yankees; Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
Top Hitter: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Statistics: .489/.549/.844 , 9 R, 10 XBH (3 HR), 10 RBI, 0 SB (51 PA)
Anybody sporting a near-.500 batting average through two weeks of the season, along with some thunder in his stick, is going to be tough to beat in this Silver Slugger-like category.
Following a 2-for-5 effort Monday night, Chase Utley's batting average actually dipped to .489 at the start of Tax Day. That's highest in the majors—over a player you'll read about in a bit—and Utley also has seven doubles and three homers among his 22 knocks.
The 35-year-old's 1.393 OPS also is tops in MLB—by a wide margin—and he appears to be positioning himself for a late-career renaissance as long as he can stay healthy enough to reach 130-plus games for the second season in a row after failing to play more than 115 in any of the previous three.
Honorable Mentions: Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves; Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers; Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers; Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies; Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves; Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies; Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins; Mark Trumbo, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants; Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
Top Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Statistics: 3 W, 2.11 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 0 SV, 30 K (21.1 IP)
Felix Hernandez beats out his closest competitors by virtue of his ridiculous strikeout numbers (an MLB-best 30 K in 21.1 IP) and having dominated tough AL West rivals, the Athletics twice and the Angels once, in his three starts.
It's more of the same for the just-turned 28-year-old King, who has topped 200 innings each of the past six years while posting a cumulative ERA of 2.94, WHIP of 1.17 and K/9 of 8.5. To this point, Hernandez is showing no signs of slowing down.
Next in Line: Mark Buehrle, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays; Andrew Cashner, RHP, San Diego Padres; Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers; Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox; Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs; Chris Tillman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles; Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics; Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics; Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Yovani Gallardo; RHP, Milwaukee Brewers; Tim Hudson, RHP, San Francisco Giants; Alex Wood, LHP, Atlanta Braves; Scott Feldman, RHP, Houston Astros
Top Reliever: Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Statistics: 0 W, 1.59 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 5 SV, 12 K (5.2 IP)
After leading the NL in saves each of the past three years, it's only fitting that with five so far Craig Kimbrel should once again be in that position through Tuesday—even though he was kept out of another opportunity with a sore shoulder that appears to be merely a day-to-day issue, per Kevin McAlpin of Atlanta's 680 The Fan.
Assuming there's nothing to worry about, the 25-year-old Kimbrel should be back doing what he does—owning opposing hitters—in short order, which makes the reigning best reliever in the game a prime candidate to maintain his mantle.
Honorable Mentions: Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers; Chris Withrow, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Adam Ottavino, RHP, Colorado Rockies; Cody Allen, RHP, Cleveland Indians; Sergio Santos, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; Sean Doolittle, LHP, Oakland Athletics; Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers; Justin Grimm, RHP, Chicago Cubs; Drew Storen, RHP, Washington Nationals; Scott Atchison, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Top Rookie: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
2014 Statistics: .255/.361/.588 , 8 R, 8 XBH (4 HR), 14 RBI, 0 SB (61 PA)
This could very easily be a co-winner, as Yankees rookie right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has been extremely impressive in his first two outings (14.0 IP, 13 H, 5 ER, 18:1 K:BB). Jose Abreu, though, gets the ever-so-slight nod for succeeding as a hitter right out of the gate at a time when pitching is dominating the sport as a whole.
Plus, the 27-year-old Cuban defector, whose 14 RBI are third-most in the majors, managed to blast not only one but two home runs for his first-ever four-baggers in his eighth MLB game—and then pulled off the same two-homer feat just two days later.
Honorable Mentions: Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees; Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Josmil Pinto, C, Minnesota Twins; Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers; Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox; Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks; Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox; Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals; Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Top Comeback Player: Grady Sizemore, OF, Boston Red Sox
2014 Statistics: .343/.395/.571, 4 R, 4 XBH (2 HR), 4 RBI, 1 SB (38 PA)
There is no shortage of comeback candidates, but there's really no way anyone could beat out a guy whose last MLB action came in 2011. What makes it all the more gratifying—and deserving—is that Grady Sizemore once was an elite talent in the sport who suffered through countless injuries and surgeries before making it back this year. Finally.
As if that weren't enough, the 31-year-old actually has been playing extremely well for the Red Sox and even looking like a reasonable facsimile of the Sizemore of old. He may not be able to keep that up—let alone stay healthy—all year long, but he's got the early-season version of the Comeback Player of the Year Award locked up.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers; Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays; Michael Pineda, RHP, New York Yankees; Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays; Nyjer Morgan, OF, Cleveland Indians; Jose Valverde, RHP, New York Mets
Top Out-of-Nowhere Start: Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
2014 Statistics: .478/.490/.696, 9 R, 7 XBH (1 HR), 9 RBI, 3 SB (49 PA)
This last "April Award" is the only one that isn't based on an actual MLB after-season honor, but hey, this isn't an official ballot, so why not have some fun to wrap things up by choosing the top didn't-see-that-coming performer of the first two weeks of the 2014 campaign?
That faux trophy (fauxphy?) goes to none other than Charlie Blackmon because, let's face it, until his 6-for-6 game on April 4, you'd never even heard of the man. And now, almost two weeks later, he's still smoking along with a .478 average—second only to Utley's .489—and a .696 slugging percentage that checks in at No. 3 in the majors.
While he's capable of sticking in the Rockies outfield as a fringy starter all season, the 27-year-old won't be keeping this up for much longer. But now, at least Blackmon has a fancy fauxphy to call his own.
Honorable Mentions: Emilio Bonifacio, 2B, Chicago Cubs; Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers; Aaron Harang, RHP, Atlanta Braves; Yangervis Solarte, 2B/3B, New York Yankees; Chris Colabello, 1B, Minnesota Twins; Roenis Elias, LHP, Seattle Mariners; Jesse Chavez, RHP, Oakland Athletics
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