Awards week 2018 in Major League Baseball will draw as much intrigue as any of its predecessors. A compelling race for Manager of the Year and the Cy Young Award have people’s attention on the National League side and I’m sure that everyone is eager to see the outcome of the American League’s Most Valuable Player vote as well.
With the week set to kick off tomorrow night with the Rookie of the Year honors, here are Home Run Daily’s Award winners for the 2018 MLB season.
Comeback Player of the Year:
NL: Matt Kemp, OF- Dodgers
The 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers were nowhere near as impressive or dominant as their 2017 counterpart but still reached the World Series for the second straight year. The man largely responsible for that is Matt Kemp, for it seemed as if he was the only one on the team producing at many points. Driving in 85 runs on top of a .290 AVG and 21 HR, Kemp was named an All-Star for the first time since 2012 and proved that the Dodgers made the right choice in bringing him back. After bouncing around from San Diego and Atlanta before returning to LA last season, Kemp exorcised the demons of many frustrating seasons this year and proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with.
AL: Xander Bogaerts, SS- Red Sox
Bogaerts was hit on the right wrist by a pitch against Tampa Bay on July 6, 2017 and suffered a sprained joint. He elected to not be put on the disabled list, and the decision effectively torpedoed his season. The consistent offense Red Sox fans had become accustomed to seeing from him went MIA as he finished the year batting .273 with just 10 homers. Bogaerts himself admitted that playing with the injury was a mistake, but he atoned for it this year, bouncing back with one of the best years of his still young career. The Aruban batted .288 and posted career highs in both homers (23) and RBI (103). The MLB is currently loaded with eons of talented young shortstops: Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Ozzie Albies, just to name a few. Bogaerts showed any doubters this year that he still belongs in that conversation.
Rookie of the Year:
Our pick: Miguel Andujar
In a season where all the hype for the New York Yankees was surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and fellow rookie Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar stole the spotlight. He was arguably the team’s most consistent force throughout the season when considering that Stanton under-performed and Aaron Judge was lost for a lengthy stretch due to injury. For the season, Andujar batted .297 with 27 HR, 92 RBI and 47 doubles, the last of which broke the Yankees’ rookie record held by the legendary Joe DiMaggio. That’s pretty elite company to be in, especially as a 23-year-old. The Yankees will look to add a shortstop this offseason with Didi Gregorious losing 2019 to Tommy John surgery, but it’s safe to say Andujar has the hot corner locked up.
Our pick: Ronald Acuna
Entering 2018, the hype was there and then some for no. 2 overall prospect Ronald Acuna, and when he was called up on April 25, he delivered as expected. The 20-year-old Venezuelan wasted no time in showing why he’s considered to be a future face of the game, wowing fans with his play on both sides of the ball and helping spark the upstart Braves to their first NL East title since 2013. Acuna batted .293 with 26 HR and 64 RBI in addition to 16 stolen bases. He also made the highlight reel in playoffs with an impressive grand slam in Game 3 of the NLDS off fellow nominee Walker Buehler. Numbers like that from a kid not even old enough to drink in the United States tell you something: this guy is going to be a freak.
Manager of the Year
NL Finalists: Bud Black- Rockies, Brian Snitker- Braves, Craig Counsell- Brewers
Our pick: Brian Snitker
The Milwaukee Brewers have always been my NL team, and as such I want oh so badly to give this one to Counsell, who led the Brewers on an incredible run. However, the most truly deserving nominee is Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. The Braves were considered to still be in the process of rebuilding entering the 2018 season and were not expected to be contenders. However, propelled by the efforts of Acuna, Albies, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Mike Foltynewicz, the Bravos turned nearly every head in baseball and won the NL East from rival and perennial winner Washington. Considering that he was thought of as just an interim piece when Atlanta promoted him from Triple-A following Fredi Gonzalez’ 2016 firing, Snitker’s success with the Braves is remarkable. Leading such a young and unproven team to a division championship is impressive for any manager. Thanks in part to Snitker’s efforts, baseball is quickly returning to prominence in Georgia.
AL Finalists: Bob Melvin- Athletics, Alex Cora, Red Sox, Kevin Cash- Rays
Our pick: Bob Melvin
Under Melvin, the Athletics were one of the game’s best teams from 2012 to 2014, but the team fell rapidly afterwards, so much so that it’s a bit surprising he was never fired. However, the 2018 A’s showed glimpses of the team of old and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Despite what can be argued as a lack of talent on paper, Oakland was a revelation this season and finished second only to the defending World Champion Astros in the West. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Sean Manaea led the way on the field, but Melvin’s savvy and intuitive leadership was the true reason behind Oakland’s appearance in the Wild Card game. This would be Melvin’s third Manager of the Year crown. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash could be a major dark horse here, however, as he led the Rays to their first winning record in five years despite an egregious lack of talent and fan investment.
Cy Young Award
AL Finalists: Corey Kluber, RHP- Indians, Blake Snell, LHP- Rays, Justin Verlander, RHP- Astros
Our winner: Blake Snell
Before this season, fans and critics alike could tell that the ability was there for Rays LHP Blake Snell, he just needed fine-tuning. And a demotion to Triple-A proved to be just that. Since he returned to the majors in June of last season Snell has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and 2018 served as his coming out party. An MLB best 21 wins and .178 BAA coupled with an AL best 1.89 ERA make the man known as Snellzilla the easy favorite for the award, even though he’s matched up against bigger names in Kluber and Verlander. Despite missing the playoffs, the Rays were one of the surprises of the year in the American League and actually finished with less losses than AL Central winner Cleveland. Snell’s breakout year led the way and gave the team enough confidence to trade former ace Chris Archer to Pittsburgh. If Tampa Bay continues to surge, it will be Snell at the helm.
Our winner- Jacob deGrom
This is the most intriguing race of the year without question. Though Nola had a terrific season for Philly, the NL Cy Young is a two-horse race between Scherzer and deGrom. Scherzer by far has the all-around better line of stats, with an NL leading 300 Ks, 18 wins, .188 BAA and 220 IP. His division rival has him by the throat in one area, however, and it could be the difference maker. deGrom’s ERA of 1.70 was the best in the MLB and the lowest a qualifying pitcher has finished with since Zack Greinke’s 1.66 in 2015. That still wasn’t his most impressive achievement this season, that honor goes to his streak of 25 consecutive starts allowing three runs or less that broke a 108-year-old MLB record. If that still doesn’t convince you, remember that he would be 30-0 if the Mets had scored four runs in each of his starts. Scherzer’s all-around line may be more impressive, but it is deGrom who is the most impressive finalist.
NL Finalists: Christian Yelich, OF- Brewers, Nolan Arenado, 3B- Rockies, Javier Baez, 2B- Cubs
Our pick: Christian Yelich
The Miami Marlins unloaded their talented outfield in the winter of 2017, sending Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Marcel Ozuna to the Cardinals and Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Milwaukee invested top prospect Lewis Brinson and many others in the Yelich trade, so it obviously had high hopes, but anyone see them paying off like this? Getting out of Miami turned out being the best thing that ever happened to Yelich, as a better supporting cast helped him finally unleash his potential. Leading the NL with a .326 batting average while finishing second in RBI with 111 and third in homers with 36, the 26-year-old also hit for the cycle twice in a three week span. He was awarded his first Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Awards after the season, during which he was the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s run to its first playoff and NLCS appearance in seven years. Baez and Arenado had reliably strong seasons, but Yelich is the runaway favorite here.
AL Finalists: Mike Trout, CF- Angels, Jose Ramirez, 3B- Indians, Mookie Betts, RF- Red Sox.
Our pick: Mookie Betts
Much like Yelich, Mookie Betts checked nearly every box in 2018 and continued to rival fellow nominee Trout for the title of the best in baseball. Betts led the MLB with a .346 AVG and .640 slugging % alongside 32 HR and 30 stolen bases, making him just the second Red Sox ever after Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011 to join the 30-30 Club. He also hit for the cycle and led the MLB in its favorite statistic with a 10.9 WAR, which alone is enough to win him MVP in today’s game. Trout is a favorite every year and beat out Betts for MVP in 2016 in an underwhelming decision, but Betts has the advantage this time. On top of his formidable performance, he was also the most consistent offensive player in the game this year, more so even than teammate JD Martinez, who nearly won the Triple Crown. As the centerpiece of Boston’s 2018 World Championship, Betts did pretty much everything a hitter can do this year and will more than likely take home his first career MVP on Thursday.
Agree/disagree? What are your selections?
As previously mentioned, Awards Week begins tomorrow with Rookie of the Year, then continues with Manager of the Year on Tuesday and Cy Young on Wednesday before concluding with MVP on Thursday. Be sure to tune into MLB network each night to see how the BBWAA votes!
Blue Jays Sign Daniel Hudson
Red Sox Place Sandy Leon On Waivers
The Red Sox had been actively scouring the trade market in recent months in an attempt to revamp their backstop position, but were unable to work out anything.
Should Leon go unclaimed, he will be be removed for the Red Sox 40-man roster and can either hit free agency, or stay with Boston at the Triple-A level.
Mediocre Bullpen May Cost Boston in 2019
The 2018 Boston Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games and iced the season with the franchise’s ninth World Championship, all in spite of a lousy bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel was the team’s only truly reliable option throughout the year and even he struggled badly at points. In 2019 the prognosis looks even worse for the staff. Boston lost two big bullpen assets this winter and hasn’t made any big moves to fill the void.
Kimbrel became a free agent after the season ended and has been reported as seeking a six-year, $100 million+ contract that would be a record for a reliever. The Red Sox and every other MLB team have made it evident that this won’t happen and Kimbrel is still available with Opening Day less than a week away. Fellow gas-thrower Joe Kelly also moved on and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ironically who Boston defeated in the Fall Classic. Kelly was converted into a reliever in 2015 and it proved to be a good choice, as he was consistent and served as a capable bridge to the late innings
Kelly and Kimbrel’s absences leave a big hole in the Red Sox roster. It’s understandable why Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wouldn’t want to give such a massive deal to a closer on the wrong side of 30 like Kimbrel, but not resigning the fireballer at all may prove to be a mistake for Boston, especially since Knuckleballer Steven Wright was suspended for PED usage and will miss 80 games. Wright was expected to be a big part of the bullpen since he can both eat innings and get strikeouts. Instead the Sox lost another big name, albeit not permanently.
Sophomore Manager Alex Cora announced today what the Red Sox bullpen will look like at least for the start of the 2019 season, and you wouldn’t be wrong if the first thought in your head was “average”. According to Boston’s MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, Cora’s ‘pen to start 2019 will be Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Ryan Brasier, Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Tyler Thornburg and Colten Brewer. While that is by no means the worst group of relief pitchers a team could throw together (pun not intended), it isn’t exactly a stellar one either, due to the massive amount of question marks surrounding it.
The first and biggest problem is that none of those players seem capable of stepping up and taking the closer’s role. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier seem to be the most viable guys if the team wants a set closer. Barnes has been with Boston since 2016 and spent most of that time as one of Kimbrel’s set-up men. He has battled consistency issues, though and has posted an ERA above three in each of the past two seasons, which isn’t exactly a selling point.
Brasier, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise for Boston when he was brought up from Triple-A on July 8 and proved to be very consistent. He posted a 1.64 ERA on the year and was given very important innings by season’s end and the playoffs. The only question with Brasier is if he can continue that success into the new season or prove to be a one-season wonder. After spending 2017 in the NPB, Brasier was a low-risk signing that has paid off on Boston’s part to this point. It all hinges on how he follows up.
Tyler Thornburg has shown in the past that he has the tools to be a dominant reliever, but he’s been all but non-existent since coming to Massachusetts. The 30-year-old was Boston’s return in the December 2016 deal that sent Travis Shaw to Milwaukee and Boston is still waiting for that return. Due to thoracic outlet syndrome, Thornburg missed all of 2017 and didn’t make his Red Sox debut until July 6, 2018, 17 months after he was acquired. He pitched to a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings and was not included on the playoff roster. 2019 will be Thornburg’s first full season with the Red Sox and the team is still waiting to see whether or not that December 2016 trade was a steal on the Brewers’ part. If he pitches well, Cora will put him in the big role that he was expected to fill. If he doesn’t, a designation for assignment may come a-calling.
A member of the 2013 World Championship team, Brandon Workman is one of the longest-tenured Red Sox at this point. The righty’s fast rise was derailed in 2015 when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the next two seasons. He finally returned in 2017 but has had to fight for a roster spot ever since. Workman has shown that the surgery didn’t slow him and his stuff is still very effective. However, he hasn’t played a full season since 2014 and will have to prove that he is capable of handling the weight after all he’s been through. Cora is giving him the chance, the ball is in Workman’s court.
Similar to Barnes, Heath Hembree’s problem over the past few seasons has been consistency. Hembree excels at strikeouts and handles the middle innings well, but he doesn’t do well in pressure situations, which was why he wasn’t on the postseason roster last year until Steven Wright went down. In 2018 he struck out a career-high 76 batters but posted a 4.10 ERA. Since Wright will miss half of this season, Boston will count on Hembree even more to eat the middle innings. He will have to find a way to give up less runs, even if it means cutting down on his K total.
The problem with Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson is that both are starters converted to the way of the bullpen. Both have been effective in this role over the last two seasons and can eat multiple innings when the rest of the ‘pen is spent, but neither possess dominant, overpowering stuff. You won’t see either come into the game in the eighth with the scored tied and the bases loaded. You can’t hold this against either Velazquez or Johnson, but it’s tough to deny that this bullpen lacks guys like that. Both pitchers are often called on as spot starters and this will continue, especially early this season. Boston opens 2019 on the West Coast with 11 games in as many nights.
All I can say about Colten Brewer is that I know nothing about him other than Boston acquired him from San Diego last November.
All of these guys are talented, but none of them are considered truly dominant. That’s not good enough for a Red Sox team that will compete for the AL East with a New York Yankees squad that spent the whole winter bolstering its relief core. Brian Cashman brought in a couple of big names and it would be very tough to say that the Bomber bullpen isn’t pretty darn stacked. Fellow sophomore Manager Aaron Boone will have Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino at his disposal. That’s a scary quintet especially considering all five of those guys can close. Boston won the East last season and beat its storied rival in the ALDS relatively easily, but the Yankees just might have the edge in 2019. Boston’s bullpen can be called mediocre at best, New York’s can be called an embarrassment of riches.
Will Boston end up resigning Kimbrel after all? It will be very intriguing to see how the team performs in the early going. No matter how well a starter does, every team has to turn to its relievers eventually. That may be a frightening experience for Red Sox Nation in 2019.
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