American League - Aaron Judge
There is no doubt the impact that New York Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge had on his team this season, playing a huge part in
sending the Yankees to their first ALCS since 2012. If his 47 homeruns in his 2017 Homerun Derby victory isn’t an indicator to his inhumane power at the plate, his league second-best 52 home runs certainly is.
With an American League second-best WAR of 8.1, without Judge, the Yankees may well have been in a much closer race for the second wildcard spot come the end of the regular season.
While Judge’s two competitors for the award - Baltimore Orioles Trey Mancini and Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi - showed much better plate discipline throughout the season, especially in the second half, Judge’s contribution to his team overall gives him the upper hand this season.
National League - Cody Bellinger
With two Rookie of the Month and two Player of the Week awards to Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger’s name in his maiden season in the Major Leagues, Bellinger is another Rookie who started out explosive before fading after the All-Star game. But also like Judge, he bounced back in the postseason and almost led the Dodgers to their first World Series victory since 1988.
While challenger Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates has been a more useful utility player for his team, playing as many games in the outfield as he has in the infield, Bellinger has made the first base position his own at the Dodgers.
And when Bellinger has stepped up to the plate, he’s sent 39 balls over the wall, averaging a homerun per 12.3 at bats, the second-best in the National League.
American League - A.J. Hinch
It’s tough to choose between the World Series winning manager in the Astros A.J. Hinch, or the Cleveland Indians Terry Francona, who led his team to an American League record 22-game win streak.
Francona’s Indians looked destined to return to the World Series and leave as winners, similar to what the Kansas City Royals did in 2014 and 2015. With 102 regular season wins, the Indians crashed out in the ALDS to the Yankees in game 5, ending any hopes of redemption.
Meanwhile, at just 43-years-old, Hinch took his Astros team to their first-ever World Series title in just his third season with the franchise. After a lightning start to the season, the Astros dropped off a little in the second half, but Hinch got the best out of his players in the postseason.
The arrival of third baseman Alex Bregman on the Major League scene, who was robbed of being in the final three for AL ROTY, is also a large indicator of Hinch’s ability to man manage.
National League - Torey Lovullo
The last time the Arizona Diamondbacks made a postseason was in 2011, when they finished first in the NL West but lost in the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers. Before the 2017 season, the Diamondbacks had not experienced a season above .500 since then.
Then Torey Lovullo arrived.
In his first ever season as a head coach, taking helm at the Diamondbacks after four seasons as the Red Sox bench coach, Lovullo vaulted Arizona to a 93-69 record.
With the addition of right fielder J.D. Martinez and the ever-present Paul Goldschmidt, along with promising young players like second baseman Brandon Drury and utility player Chris Owings, Diamondback fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
American League - Corey Kluber
Anybody but Corey Kluber for the American League Cy Young this season would be criminal.
With an American League leading complete games (5), ERA (2.25) and wins (18), just to name a few, Kluber should be a shoe in for his second Cy Young.
Four of those wins also came in the Indians 22-game win streak throughout August and September, which really set them apart from the rest of the AL Central.
The closest competitor to Kluber should be Chris Sale, who joined the Red Sox this season after seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox. While Sale perhaps put in the most effort for his team, pitching a league-high 214.3 innings, which translated to the most strikeouts per nine innings pitch ratio (12.93), the clutch factor that Kluber brings to the Indians does it for me.
National League - Clayton Kershaw
The National League Cy Young award is a battle between three veteran pitchers this year, with the trio able to boast five prior Cy Young awards combined.
All three pitchers have contributed more effectively than the other two in different facets of the game, which makes my decision even tougher.
Dodgers Clayton Kershaw was the stingiest on the mound, with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 18 wins. The Washington Nationals Max Scherzer has a wicked arm, recording just an average of 5.65 hits per game and a league-high 268 strikeouts in his campaign for a third Cy Young. While Stephen Strasburg, also of the Nationals, has managed to keep the ball from beyond the wall, averaging just 0.667 homeruns per game and a WAR and 6.7.
In a close decision, I think future Hall of Famer Kershaw will inch out Scherzer and Strasburg for his fourth Cy Young, just for the huge part he played in shutting down teams season-long on the Dodgers journey to the World Series.
American League - Jose Altuve
Battling off potential Rookie of the Year winner Aaron Judge, the Astros 5-foot-6 maestro Jose Altuve is perhaps not only the most likable player in the league, but also the most valuable.
If you need a man to get the ball into play and to keep the train moving, Altuve is your man. Mr. Consistency, Altuve has recorded the most hits in the American League for the past four seasons now, this season recording 204.
Although Altuve falls behind Judge in runs created, that’s just because Judge loves to go yard. Yes, Judge had a league-leading AB’s per HR average of 10.2, but he also had a league-high 208 strikeouts in his rookie season.
While with Altuve, he’s a guy who likes to play small-ball (no pun intended), but having a guy who gets on base 34.6 percent of the time is much more useful to the team.
National League - Joey Votto
Props to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who has stuck with the Reds for his whole career, despite never making it past the NLDS – if they even make the playoffs.
Finishing rock bottom of the NL Central with a record of 69-94, Votto was a bright spot in another dark season for the Reds. If it wasn’t for Votto, who had a NL third-best WAR of 7.5, the Reds record would look much uglier than it already is.
Playing all 162 games this season, Votto scored 106 runs this year – 14 percent of the teams overall runs.
While the Reds have done nothing special this season, and therefore Votto was once again not in the spotlight, he should be on course for his second MVP award, with the first coming in 2010.