Major League Baseball has dominated headlines all week long thanks to the Baseball Writers' Association of America revealing its annual selections for Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, MVP and the Cy Young Award, but the hardware handouts didn't stop there.
Friday night, MLB announced winners of the first-ever Esurance MLB Awards. However, unlike the BBWAA awards, Esurance voting was open to fans as well as a comprehensive group include "Hall of Fame players, club presidents and general managers, many of the industry's everyday reporters, and the analytically inclined Society for American Baseball Research," according to MLB.com's Zachary Finkelstein.
Furthermore, the 2015 Esurance MLB Awards opened up a slew of new categories—including several with a technological slant. Beyond awards like Best Major Leaguer, Best Everyday Player and Best Starting Pitcher, MLB included categories such as Best Social Media Post, Best Player-Fan Interaction and Best Trending Topic, among others.
"To be recognized by fans, former players, broadcasters and front-office people, that means a lot," former MLB star Luis Gonzalez said, per Finkelstein. "You're being recognized by some of the elite people in the game of baseball."
A complete list of categories and nominees can be viewed here, courtesy of MLB, while a select list of Friday night's most notable winners is available below. Best Manager and Best Executive will be announced December at MLB's winter meetings.
|Notable 2015 Esurance MLB Award Winners|
|Best Major Leaguer||Bryce Harper||Washington Nationals|
|Best Everyday Player||Bryce Harper||Washington Nationals|
|Best Major Leaguer: Postseason||Wade Davis||Kansas City Royals|
|Best Starting Pitcher||Jake Arrieta||Chicago Cubs|
|Best Rookie||Kris Bryant||Chicago Cubs|
|Best Defensive Player||Kevin Kiermaier||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Best Breakout Player||Jake Arrieta||Chicago Cubs|
|Best Bounceback Player||Prince Fielder||Texas Rangers|
|Best Performance||Max Scherzer's 17-strikeout No-Hitter vs. New York Mets||Washington Nationals|
|Best Play, Offense||Jose Bautista's Home Run and Bat Flip in Game 5 of ALDS||Toronto Blue Jays|
|Best Play, Defense||Josh Donaldson's Diving Catch Into the Stands||Toronto Blue Jays|
|Best Moment||Eric Hosmer's Dash for Home in World Series Game 5||Kansas City Royals|
|Source: MLB Network|
The festivities started with the best defensive play of the season, and newly crowned American League MVP Josh Donaldson added to his trophy stockpile for his clutch diving catch into the stands, per MLB on Twitter:
Donaldson beat out teammate Kevin Pillar for his wall-climbing home run robbery and Mike Trout for a similar achievement, but as Bleacher Report's Zachary D. Rymer wrote, "of all the great defensive plays that occurred throughout 2015, Donaldson's is the most likely to have lasting power."
Toronto proceeded to sweep the best play categories thanks to Jose Bautista's mammoth momentum-shifting shot in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, per MLB:
The National League finally got in on the action when NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta beat out Zack Greinke and AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel for Best Starting Pitcher.
A year after posting what was then a career-best 2.53 ERA, Arrieta—who also won Best Breakout Player —locked in and tallied a staggering 1.77 ERA while pitching a league-high four complete games and tossing a league-best three shutouts.
"I was locked in, and what I mean by that was my timing and my tempo and my delivery were as close to perfect as I feel they could be," Arrieta said after winning the Cy Young, per ESPN.com's Jon Greenberg.
Chicago kept its run going when NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant doubled down on the awards circuit by nabbing Best Rookie honors over fellow finalists Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.
The show was rounded out with MLB's presentation of Best Major Leaguer, which was awarded to Best Everyday Player and NL MVP winner Bryce Harper. After becoming the youngest unanimous MVP in history, the 23-year-old capped off the most impressive year of his blossoming career with a couple more pieces of shiny validation.
The Esurance Awards may not hold weight like the official BBWAA honors, their ability to involve a greater breadth of players for a wider range of achievements that really connect with fans shouldn't be overlooked.
As the social media experience becomes more and more integral to fans' experiences season in and season out, don't be surprised if the awards evolve into a bigger piece of the league's hardware showcase.