There are some great debates being set up already for the major awards. Jose Reyes, Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder or even Lance Berkman for NL Most Valuable Player? Adrian Gonzalez or Jose Bautista for AL MVP? In the Cy Young races, any of three Phillies starters could win in the NL while In the AL, a strong case could be made for Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver. And as for NL Manager of the Year, well, there are several worthy candidates.
But in the less-coveted Least Valuable Player awards, there is one obvious candidate in each league at this point. Here are the Midseason Awards, for good and bad.
1. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox. He's come east and done everything expectant Bostonians imagined. He's leading the AL in batting average (.348) and hits (121) and the majors in doubles (28), RBIs (75) and total bases (203).
2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. His MLB-best 1.154 OPS is of the charts and he also tops all big leaguers in home runs (28), walks (70), OBP (.467) and slugging (.687). His team is in fourth in the AL East, however.
3. Curtis Granderson, Yankees. His fabulous first half is key to the Yankees' first-place standing. Granderson's 25 home runs are more than he hit all of last season, and he leads the majors in runs (77) and the AL in triples (seven).
AL LVP (Least Valuable): Adam Dunn, White Sox. One of baseball's most consistent players over the past half-dozen years, he's been simply dreadful in his first season after signing a $56-million, four-year contract for the underachieving team. Dunn is hitting just .167 with eight home runs and has struck out 108 times, tops in the AL. The White Sox need him to turn things around in the second half.
1. Jose Reyes. The Mets aren't in a playoff position at the moment, but they are contending, thanks to him. Leads the majors in batting average (.354), hits (124) and triples (15) and the NL in runs (65).
2. Matt Kemp. Part of his incredible all-around play for the historic franchise in trouble includes an NL-best 189 total bases, as well as a .325 average, 22 home runs and 64 RBIs.
3. Lance Berkman, Cardinals. Seems reborn in St. Louis, chief rival of his old Astros. At 35, he leads the NL with 23 home runs, a .612 slugging percentage and a 1.018 OPS.
3. Prince Fielder, Brewers. Like fellow free-agent-to-be Reyes, he is having his big year at the right time. Fielder ranks first in the NL with 71 RBIs and has a .302 average and 22 home runs as well.
NL LVP -- Dan Uggla, Braves. Uggla has been even worse than Dunn, and for more money ($61 million over five years). And unlike Dunn, who switched leagues, became a DH and had an appendectomy, Uggla has no ready-made excuses for his .178 average and .250 on-base percentage, both of which are more than 100 points worse than what he posted last year for Florida.
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers. He has been simply dominant and has single-handedly kept Detroit's rotation afloat by going 11-4 with a 2.26 ERA and leading the majors in strikeouts (138), WHIP (0.879) and innings pitched (143 1/3). Also pitched a no-hitter in May.
2. Jered Weaver, Angels. Brilliant pitcher is probably a short-timer in Anaheim with free agency after 2012 looming. Is first among all AL pitchers with a 1.92 ERA and third in wins (10) and WHIP (0.921).
3. Josh Beckett, Red Sox. Big bounce-back year for him; his seven wins are already one more than he had in 2010, and he's lowered his ERA from 5.78 to 2.12. The Yankees' CC Sabathia (12-4, 290 ERA) is coming fast, though, and isn't hurt by nice run support, either, having won his games by the following scores: 15-3, 12-3, 12-5, 13-2, 5-4, 7-1, 3-2, 12-4, 10-4, 8-3, 9-2.
AL Cy Old -- Fausto Carmona, Indians. Appeared to be rounding into form after brutal Opening Day performance before imploding. He now has the most losses (10) and earned run allowed (67) in the majors.
1. Roy Halladay, Phillies. The best of the best. Leads the NL in wins (11), complete games (6) and innings pitched (136 1/3) is second in strikeouts (131) and WHIP (1.027) and third in ERA (2.44).
2. Jair Jurrjens, Braves. The best of the second best, he's tied with Halladay for the league lead in wins and ranks first with a 1.89 ERA.
3. Cole Hamels, Phillies. He's 10-4 with a 2.40 ERA and an NL-best 0.952 WHIP. Yet another Phillies pitcher, Cliff Lee, is in the hunt, too.
NL Cy Old: Javier Vazquez, Marlins. After being one of the worst in the AL last year, going 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA for the Yankees, he's been even worse with Florida: 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA.
1. Michael Pineda, Mariners. Better than King Felix so far, posting a better ERA (2.58 to 3.22) and WHIP (1.009 to 1.153) and the same number of wins (8).
2. Zach Britton, Orioles. Mature beyond his 23 years, Britton is 6-6 with a 3.47 ERA.
3. Jordan Walden, Angels. Dominating stuff has helped him post 19 saves, fifth-most in the AL, and a 2.95 ERA.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves. The closer of the league's top bullpen leads the majors with 26 saves.
2. Dillon Gee, Mets. He doesn't throw hard, he just wins, going 8-2 for an MLB-best .800 winning percentage.
3. Danny Espinosa, Nationals. Hasn't missed a game and has shown terrific power, with 15 home runs (tied for the team lead) and 48 RBIs (most on the club). Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney (.289 average) also deserves consideration.
1. Manny Acta, Indians. Nobody had the Indians contending this late, or at all, yet they lead the AL Central by 1 ½.
2. Mike Scioscia, Angels. One of the best every year, he has the Angels tied for first in the AL West and chasing their seventh postseason berth in his 12 seasons at the helm.
3. Joe Girardi, Yankees. Binder looking good so far, as he's guided the Yankees to the top of the AL East.
AL Worst Manager -- Ozzie Guillen, White Sox. He talks about getting fired so much, he's finally convincing us.
1. Clint Hurdle, Pirates. Incredible job to date to guide the Pirates to a 45-41 mark, good for second place in the NL Central, just 1 ½ behind the Cardinals.
2. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks. The same could be said of Gibson, who has Arizona within a game of defending World Series champion San Francisco in the NL West.
3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals. Has weathered some setbacks,like injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols to steer St. Louis to the top of the NL Central.
NL Worst Manager -- Jim Tracy, Rockies. No obvious candidate here, but Colorado has really sunk since its quick start. An injury to starter Jorge De La Rosa was a big loss, so there are excuses.
• The Astros' Wandy Rodriguez may be as good as it gets among starting pitchers on this trade market, and that's assuming Houston consents to trading him, which is no certainty. The Astros are talking to other teams, but they remain something of a wild card because they have been reluctant to sell in the past and have a new owner coming in.
• Some controversy has surrounded Jim Crane's candidacy to buy the Astros, but he is expected to win approval. GM Ed Wade would seem to be in trouble if new ownership looks at what's been done there.
• Word is that Cubs manager Jim Quade is safe but GM Jim Hendry's fate seems not to have been decided. Some in baseball don't blame Hendry for some of the Cubs' bigger contracts, saying he may have been under orders. Owner Tom Ricketts is seen as cautious, which may help Hendry, as well.
• The 70 first half heroes I listed last week should have been at least 73. Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, Nationals outfielder Michael Morse and Rays outfielder Sam Fuld all should have made it, as readers reminded me.
• Of course the Mets will make an offer to retain Jose Reyes. They can't afford to look like they aren't trying. The big question is whether they can be competitive for him. One competing GM said of Reyes, "He will get more than Carl Crawford.'' As we know, Mets owner Fred Wilpon opined earlier that Reyes wouldn't get the $142 million Crawford got from the Red Sox last winter, so it would look funny for the Mets to offer it.
• Reyes looks almost a certainty to stay with the Mets this summer, though. And one GM said of the Mets, "How can they trade (Carlos) Beltran either?'' That GM said Francisco Rodriguez's vesting option -- he'll make $17.5 million in 2012 if he finishes 55 games -- puts him in another category, as one player the Mets will probably try hard to trade.
• One interesting scenario would be for the Phillies to go after Reyes this winter. If the Phillies have a weakness, it's their inconsistent offense. And they have Raul Ibañez, Brad Lidge and potentially incumbent shortstop Jimmy Rollins coming off the books.
• Closer Ryan Madson's contract also expires, but the Phillies would like to re-sign him.
• Albert Pujols is amazing. To return after 15 days with a broken wrist might be his greatest achievement to date.
• One more person in the know said he believed there was no way the Brewers would be able to retain Prince Fielder.
• If the Rockies continue to fade, look for Huston Street to hit the trade market, improving an already strong relief market.
• Recently-released pitcher Scott Kazmir has drawn decent interest despite poor performance in his last days in the Angels organization. He is expected to pick a team soon.
• The Mets' Jason Bay showed serious courage running into the same leftfield wall in Dodger Stadium that caused his concussion last year.
• One competing GM said he believed the Royals would trade Wilson Betemit, Jeff Francoeur and Jeff Francis and that Francis could succeed in the NL, where he had the best years of his career for the Rockies. That exec said he believed the Royals want to keep Melky Cabrera.
• The Dodgers are telling folks they don't expect to consider dealing away players for another 2 ½ weeks. If they do, they have some attractive starting pitchers and infielders. "Jamey Carroll's going to be a pretty good target for a lot of teams,'' one GM said.
• The Tigers may look at a starting pitcher and a hitter. One positive addition for them could be Carlos Guillen, who hasn't played for Detroit all year after offseason knee surgery, might be back right after the All-Star break. The Tigers could also decide to call up top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who's more talented than anyone they'd find on the starting pitching market.
• The back ailment of Clay Buchholz and underperformance of John Lackey means the Red Sox could be a surprise team looking for a starting pitcher, too. Ace Jon Lester had to leave his start on Tuesday night with a back ailment but it's not being portrayed as serious.
• Omar Minaya, whose Mets tenure is looking better with the fine play of the team this year, is expected to pick a different team to work for in 2012. The Mets' new regime hasn't used him this year.
• Roger Clemens' perjury trial begins Wednesday. He only has himself to blame for this mess he's in.