B/R's MLB Experts Vote for AL and NL MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and More
Major League Baseball award week is upon us, and over the next four days, the Baseball Writers' Association of America will hand out the season's biggest individual hardware.
Here's the award schedule:
- Monday: AL and NL Rookie of the Year
- Tuesday: AL and NL Manager of the Year
- Wednesday: AL and NL Cy Young
- Thursday: AL and NL Most Valuable Player
Before the winners of each award are announced, Bleacher Report's resident MLB experts—Joel Reuter, Zachary Rymer and Jacob Shafer—filled out their full ballots for each award.
The BBWAA votes on a top three for Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year, a top five for Cy Young and a top 10 for MVP, and we did the same to paint a more complete picture of our award selections.
These are not meant to be predictions, but rather a simple indication of whom we would have voted for if given the opportunity.
Let's kick things off with the Rookie of the Year picks.
AL Rookie of the Year
AL Rookie of the Year Ballots
|Lewis, SEA||Lewis, SEA||Lewis, SEA|
|Robert, CWS||Robert, CWS||Robert, CWS|
|Karinchak, CLE||Murphy, OAK||Karinchak, CLE|
Luis Robert may have a higher ceiling, and he had an extremely productive season overall, but a brutal .136 average and 34 percent strikeout rate in September tanked his AL Rookie of the Year case. Kyle Lewis was the more consistent rookie, and he looks like a foundational piece in Seattle's rebuild.
James Karinchak struck out 53 of the 109 batters he faced en route to a staggering 17.7 K/9 strikeout rate, and his emergence no doubt led to the front office's decision to decline Brad Hand's 2021 option.
Kudos to Robert for finishing tied for second in the majors with seven outs above average on defense, but he effectively torpedoed his Rookie of the Year candidacy by going just 11-for-81 at the plate in September. Lewis was a decent defender in his own right and simply a steadier hitter en route to a respectable .801 OPS and 11 home runs.
Really? I'm the only one who thinks Sean Murphy deserved a vote? OK, then. You tell me what's missing from a rookie resume that includes an .821 OPS and elite framing behind the dish.
I was tempted to be a contrarian and give this to Robert. His ceiling is sky-high, but his frigid September knocked him down a rung and made Lewis the obvious choice.
Once Lewis is joined by the gaggle of talent on the Mariners' loaded farm, Seattle will be set up to end its near-20-year postseason drought.
NL Rookie of the Year
NL Rookie of the Year Ballots
|Williams, MIL||Williams, MIL||Williams, MIL|
|Cronenworth, SD||Cronenworth, SD||Cronenworth, SD|
|May, LAD||May, LAD||May, LAD|
Devin Williams faced 100 batters and piled up 53 strikeouts in a brilliant rookie campaign, allowing just eight hits while holding opposing hitters to an .090 batting average. Simply put, he was lights-out.
Jake Cronenworth looked like a throw-in in the Tommy Pham-for-Hunter Renfroe blockbuster during the offseason, and he ended up seizing the open second base job. He would be the clear-cut winner most years, but he's going up against sheer dominance.
It says a lot about Williams' changeup that he preferred it to his fastball in 2020 even though the latter got as fast as 99 mph. It also shouldn't be overlooked that his 22 appearances yielded 27 innings, meaning he took the hard road to otherworldly numbers like his 0.33 ERA and a 53 percent strikeout rate.
Nevertheless, the three of us might be guilty of underrating Cronenworth. His results included an .831 OPS, and his peripherals included above-average marks for...[checks notes]...well, everything.
Relief pitchers are notoriously fickle creatures, unhittable one season and eminently hittable the next. But Williams looks like the real deal with his blazing fastball and devastating changeup, a combination that helped him post a ludicrous 0.33 ERA and 17.7 K/9 out of the Brewers bullpen.
Out West, the Padres' Cronenworth and Dodgers' May add potent rookie weapons to what might be the two most loaded rosters in the Senior Circuit (with apologies to Atlanta).
AL Manager of the Year
AL Manager of the Year Ballots
|Cash, TB||Cash, TB||Cash, TB|
|Montoyo, TOR||Montoyo, TOR||Melvin, OAK|
|Melvin, OAK||Baldelli, MIN||Renteria, CWS|
The Tampa Bay Rays were once again led by a deep and talented pitching staff, and Kevin Cash did a terrific job navigating injuries while piecing together a dominant relief corps. The Blake Snell decision will be his enduring legacy in 2020, but he piloted the AL's best team to the second World Series appearance in franchise history.
Charlie Montoyo led a young Toronto Blue Jays team to the playoffs sooner than expected amid an ongoing youth movement, while Bob Melvin led the Oakland Athletics to a division title while continuing to work under the confines of a tight budget.
There's no question that the Rays had a very good team this season, yet they actually overachieved relative to the disparity between their runs scored and runs allowed. It's fair to chalk that up to Cash's managing, specifically with regard to how well he juggled the many hitters and pitchers he had to play with.
Since I'm the only one who gave him a vote, I'll note that Rocco Baldelli didn't have it easy this year. The Twins didn't have the same elite offense they did in 2019, and they got only four starts out of All-Star right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Yet they still won the toughest division race in the American League.
Guiding the team with the game's No. 28 payroll to the best record in the American League is enough to earn Cash Manager of the Year, despite the considerable depth and talent he had at his disposal. And since this is a regular-season prize, we won't mention Blake Snell or Game 6 (oops).
Melvin deserves kudos for his small-market success, while Rick Renteria capably shepherded the young White Sox before being supplanted at the helm by Tony LaRussa.
NL Manager of the Year
NL Manager of the Year Ballots
|Mattingly, MIA||Mattingly, MIA||Mattingly, MIA|
|Tingler, SD||Tingler, SD||Tingler, SD|
|Roberts, LAD||Snitker, ATL||Kapler, SF|
The Miami Marlins worked around a COVID-19 outbreak and used 61 different players to reach the postseason for just the third time in franchise history. Things could have very easily unraveled, but instead Don Mattingly was able to lead the young roster to the NLDS.
Why Dave Roberts in the third spot on my ballot? His successful assembly of what turned out to be one of the best bullpens in baseball proved to be a real difference-maker over other recent Los Angeles Dodgers division winners.
Nobody will ever confuse Mattingly for a brilliant in-game tactician, but he clearly worked some magic behind the scenes to get the Marlins through a season that began with a coronavirus outbreak and was subsequently hampered by a subpar offense. Most of said magic was concentrated in the team's 25-and-under starters, who ultimately produced a respectable 4.26 ERA over 245 innings.
I suppose I also have to explain my vote for Brian Snitker. Easy: Only the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels got worse ERAs out of their starting pitchers, yet Atlanta won a third straight NL East title anyway. Though the club's offense deserves most of the credit for that, Snitker's management of one of the league's top bullpens was also a factor.
With the short schedule and expanded postseason, the 2020 season was almost guaranteed to produce at least one Cinderella squad. The Miami Marlins donned the glass slipper by finishing 31-29 despite a minus-41 run differential and pushing to the division series round (again, this is about the regular season, but still). Give credit to Mattingly, who is a steadying presence in Miami.
Jayce Tingler helped the Padres rise to full-blown contender status, while Gabe Kapler kept the San Francisco Giants in the playoff hunt until the season's final day in his first year as Bruce Bochy's replacement.
AL Cy Young
AL Cy Young Ballots
|Bieber, CLE||Bieber, CLE||Bieber, CLE|
|Maeda, MIN||Maeda, MIN||Cole, NYY|
|Keuchel, CWS||Cole, NYY||Maeda, MIN|
|Cole, NYY||Giolito, CWS||Giolito, CWS|
|Ryu, TOR||Ryu, TOR||Ryu, TOR|
No surprise that Shane Bieber was the unanimous selection here, and it would be an absolute shocker if the same is not true of the BBWAA's vote.
I'll concede that Lucas Giolito is the ace of the Chicago White Sox staff, but Dallas Keuchel helped vault that staff to new heights in the first season of a three-year, $55.5 million contract. The veteran southpaw finished second in the AL with a 1.99 ERA and did not allow more than three runs in any of his 11 starts.
Well, all Bieber did this year was lead at least the American League in wins, ERA, strikeouts and both hits and strikeouts per nine innings pitched. That's a Cy Young Award favorite if there ever was one.
Nonetheless, Kenta Maeda deserves his due credit for putting up a 2.70 ERA and leading MLB with a 0.75 WHIP. Hyun-Jin Ryu should likewise be credited for translating his wizardry to the American League East, particularly to the extent that he was able to whiff 9.7 batters per nine innings despite sitting at only 89.6 mph with his fastball.
Bieber is the obvious pick for his impressive stats and sheer dominance, short season or not. So let's talk about Giolito, who finished outside my top three but was a huge part of the ChiSox's playoff push with 12.1 K/9 and a no-hitter.
The 26-year-old is an ace on one of the fastest-rising clubs in the game. Expect him to grace Cy Young ballots for years to come.
NL Cy Young
NL Cy Young Ballots
|Bauer, CIN||Bauer, CIN||Bauer, CIN|
|Darvish, CHC||deGrom, NYM||deGrom, NYM|
|deGrom, NYM||Darvish, CHC||Darvish, CHC|
|Lamet, SD||Lamet, SD||Lamet, SD|
|Fried, ATL||Fried, ATL||Burnes, MIL|
Similar to the AL Cy Young ballot, the choice for the top spot here is an obvious one, and there's a good chance Trevor Bauer will claim the BBWAA's vote unanimously.
The toughest choice for me was Yu Darvish vs. Jacob deGrom for the second spot on my ballot. Thanks to an edge in ERA (2.01 vs. 2.38) and quality starts (10 vs. 8), Darvish gets the nod by the slimmest of margins. Max Fried was so important to Atlanta's rotation this year's that it's impossible to leave him off the ballot.
If anything, Trevor Bauer's NL-best 1.73 ERA might undersell just how dominant he was this season. With the help of the best spin rate of any starter, he whiffed 100 batters and allowed only 41 hits in 73 innings. By expected ERA, he was better than even Bieber.
If not for Bauer, Jacob deGrom would be an easy pick to win his third straight NL Cy Young Award. It's mind-boggling that he averaged just about 99 mph on his fastball and also that he whiffed 104 batters despite pitching five fewer innings than Bauer. Much will depend on his durability going forward, but he's putting together the sort of prime that might make him worthy of Cooperstown down the line.
The Mets' Jacob deGrom has a strong case for a third straight Cy Young, and Darvish resurrected his ace-level skills on the North Side.
But this one belongs to Bauer (just ask him). He led the NL in ERA (1.73) and WHIP (0.80) and paced all qualifiers with a .159 opponents' batting average. As he steamrolls into free agency, someone is going to pay the man handsomely, even in this uncertain market.
AL MVP Ballots
|Abreu, CWS||Abreu, CWS||Ramirez, CLE|
|Ramirez, CLE||Bieber, CLE||Abreu, CWS|
|LeMahieu, NYY||Ramirez, CLE||Cruz, MIN|
|Cruz, MIN||LeMahieu, NYY||LeMahieu, NYY|
|Anderson, CWS||Lowe, TB||Bieber, CLE|
|Bieber, CLE||Trout, LAA||Trout, LAA|
|Trout, LAA||Anderson, CWS||Lowe, TB|
|Voit, NYY||Cruz, MIN||Anderson, CWS|
|Lowe, TB||Hernandez, TOR||Springer, HOU|
|Hernandez, TOR||Maeda, MIN||Voit, NYY|
Jose Ramirez hit .417 with eight home runs and 20 RBI in his final 16 games to make a serious push for AL MVP honors, but Jose Abreu still gets the nod for me. He was a steady presence in the middle of a young White Sox lineup, and it's hard to ignore his 60 RBI in 60 games.
I consistently pointed to Tim Anderson as a major regression candidate heading into the 2020 season, so consider my penciling him in at No. 5 on my ballot as me officially eating crow. He can flat-out hit. I'm generally anti-pitcher when it comes to the MVP vote, and it was even harder for me to wrap my head around the idea in a shortened season.
Jose Abreu was the most consistent hitter in the American League this season, finishing with league-best marks for hits, slugging percentage, runs batted in and total bases. It's also worth something that he started all 60 of the White Sox's games and a little something more that he hit in the clutch. To wit, he had a 1.083 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Though Shane Bieber obviously had an incredible season, there's something that just doesn't feel right about awarding the MVP to a guy who ultimately only played in 12 games. Ramirez, meanwhile, simply wasn't as consistent as Abreu. There were only two full months of baseball this season, and he was frankly mediocre all throughout one of them.
You can make a strong case for Abreu, who tied for the AL lead in rWAR and was the veteran backbone of the White Sox's young offense. But Ramirez helped carry a far less potent Cleveland lineup with 17 homers and a .993 OPS, stole 10 bases and provided more defensive value at third base than Abreu did at first.
Tip your cap to the ageless Nelson Cruz, and give points to batting champ DJ LeMahieu. Bieber might have rated higher on my list; I'm not opposed to pitchers winning MVP. But the truncated season ultimately hurt his cause.
NL MVP Ballots
|Freeman, ATL||Freeman, ATL||Betts, LAD|
|Betts, LAD||Betts, LAD||Freeman, ATL|
|Machado, SD||Tatis Jr., SD||Tatis Jr., SD|
|Ozuna, ATL||Ozuna, ATL||Soto, WAS|
|Soto, WAS||Seager, LAD||Ozuna, ATL|
|Tatis Jr., SD||Soto, WAS||Machado, SD|
|Seager, LAD||Bauer, CIN||Seager, LAD|
|Yastrzemski, SF||Yastrzemski, SF||Yastrzemski, SF|
|Turner, WAS||deGrom, NYM||Bauer, CIN|
|Conforto, NYM||Turner, WAS||Turner, WAS|
Mookie Betts is a more well-rounded player, and there's no ignoring his contributions for the best team in baseball, but Freddie Freeman deserves the hardware. He had 37 extra-base hits and 53 RBI in 60 games, tallying more walks (45) than strikeouts (37) while anchoring a high-powered offense, all after a nasty bout of COVID-19 just before the season began.
I'm the only one giving props to Michael Conforto? He ranked in the top 10 in the NL in batting average (.322, sixth), on-base percentage (.412, sixth), hits (65, seventh) and OPS+ (156, 10th) while adding six outfield assists.
How did Betts lead the majors with 3.4 rWAR? Simple. He excelled offensively with a .927 OPS, 16 homers and 10 stolen bases and also played Gold Glove defense in right field. The Los Angeles Dodgers benefited accordingly as he led them to 43 wins.
Still, we shouldn't necessarily translate "most valuable" to mean "the player with the most WAR." Freeman was frankly on another planet offensively this season in hitting .341/.462/.640 with an MLB-high 37 extra-base hits, and his performance actually improved as the leverage of any given situation got higher. He was the main driver of an offense that had a huge hand in Atlanta surviving its mostly miserable starting pitching.
If you go by rWAR, Betts is the pick. He's a five-tool talent in the midst of his prime who can run, hit, hit for power and play a lights-out right field. But he's more than that: He's the face of the game; an exuberant, must-watch talent who plays in a massive market for the best team in baseball.
All due respect to Freeman and a shoutout to rising stars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto, but this was a relatively easy call.