Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Altuve are MVP Frontrunners as Awards Watch Returns

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With only a month-and-a-half remaining in the regular season, it's time we start projecting the leaders for this year's highest honors. While the Rookie of the Year races are all but decided in both the American and National Leagues, the Cy Young and MVP races should be tightly contested as the season nears its conclusion. Here's our first crack at this year's Awards Watch.

Note: All stats are through Tuesday, Aug. 8.

MVP

National League

1. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Season Stats: .322/.437/.592, 25 HR, 89 RBIs, 16 SB, 5.5 WAR

Now that the Diamondbacks have surrounded their franchise first baseman with a trustworthy team, Goldschmidt is coasting toward the first MVP award of his remarkable career. Barring a late-season collapse, Arizona will be making its first playoff appearance since 2011 with the 29-year-old anchoring a strong season in the desert. Goldschmidt leads all major league players in runs created (109) and offensive win percentage (.796) and the National League in offensive WAR. He's one of the game's premiere power hitters, but he also has 16 stolen bases in 20 chances. As Tom Verducci noted in his midseason review, Goldschmidt's numbers are shockingly similar to Miguel Cabrera's at his same age. He may often be overlooked in Arizona, but Goldschmidt is one of the most consistent and stupendous players in baseball.

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Season Stats: .326/.422/.618, 29 HR, 84 RBIs, 2 SB, 4.6 WAR

After a dreary 2016 season that saw him post a career-low batting average (.243), the reinvigorated Harper is the linchpin of the Nationals' powerhouse offense. While he likely won't eclipse the numbers from his 2015 MVP season (42 homers, 198 OPS+), Harper has re-established himself as the foremost young player in the NL. His teammate Anthony Rendon (5.0 WAR, 21 homers) may snatch some first-place votes from him, but Harper remains the essential piece of the Nats' lineup.

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3. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

Season Stats: .351/.443/.566, 15 HR, 48 RBIs, 4 SB, 4.6 WAR

Now that he's leading the NL in batting average, Turner is starting to receive some overdue recognition as one of baseball's most consistent hitters. He slumped a bit in July (he started the month with a .388 average) but has hit four home runs in his last three games, indicating his swing may be returning. The recipient of a four-year, $64 million contract in the offseason, Turner is playing the best baseball of his career. Teammate Corey Seager (.307/.398/.530 and 19 homers) is another viable candidate for this slot.

Forgotten down-ballot candidate: Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers

Season Stats: .312/.376/.546, 15 HR, 54 RBIs, 13 SB, 4.0 WAR

Taylor started the season in Triple A Oklahoma City but has become one of the Dodgers' most versatile players since arriving on April 19, filling in for an injured Logan Forsythe at second base, an injured Turner at third and a hobbled Joc Pederson in centerfield. If you want one of the season's most incredible stats, look at the names surrounding Taylor and his .407 BABIP.

American League

1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Season Stats: .365/.426/.576, 17 HR, 78 RBIs, 24 SB, 6.3 WAR

After finishing third in last year's MVP race, Altuve is poised to win this year's honors if he maintains his astonishing second-half performance. After starting the month of July at .327/.399/.523, Altuve has remained on a torrid hot streak, good for a .452/.489/.652 clip with six homers and 24 RBIs. He's helped steady a lineup that lost its other MVP candidate (Carlos Correa) to a thumb injury on July 18 and established himself as the most feared bat in the American League.

2. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Season Stats: .297/.424/.622, 35 HR, 85 RBIs, 6 SB, 5.3 WAR

With his mammoth home-run power and mature batting eye, Judge looked primed to win the rare Rookie of the Year/MVP combo last earned by Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. Unfortunately for the stupendous rookie, he's struggled since the beginning of last month, hitting a bland .222/.361/.454 over that span. It takes nothing away from Judge's remarkable season—he's a lock to win Rookie of the Year—but he'll need to improve if he hopes to anchor the Yankees through a grueling chase for the division title.

3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Season Stats: .343/.464/.710, 23 HR, 52 RBIs, 13 SB, 5.0 WAR

Never slide head-first, kids. If Trout had gone feet-first into second base during a May game against Oakland, perhaps he wouldn't have missed 39 games with a thumb injury in what was shaping up to be his best season of his world-class career. Even with his protracted absence, Trout is second in the AL in offensive WAR, would be leading the league in OPS (1.174) if he were eligible for the batting title, and has 13 stolen bases in 14 chances. He's the best in the game, but he won't win the award because of his absence.

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Forgotten down-ballot candidate: Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels

Season Stats: .306/.361/.459, 11 HR, 49 RBIs, 17 SB, 6.2 WAR

Simmons has long been the best defensive shortstop in the game (he leads the majors with a 2.8 defensive WAR this year), but his offensive numbers have spiked to make him one of the AL's best this season. It's too bad that his career season is being lost in Anaheim, but he should eclipse all of his career-high offensive numbers (excluding home runs) by season's end.

Cy Young

National League

1. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

Season Stats: 12–5, 2.23 ERA, 0.848 WHIP, 12.3 K/9 (210 K), 5.53 K/BB, 2 CG, 194 ERA+, 6.3 WAR

2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Season Stats: 15–2, 2.04 ERA, 0.884 WHIP, 10.7 K/9 (168 K), 7.0 K/BB, 1 CG, 204 ERA+, 4.6 WAR

3. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

Season Stats: 13–4, 3.10 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, 9.9 K/9 (157 K), 5.81 K/BB, 151 ERA+, 4.3 WAR

For the second consecutive season, Kerhsaw may lose the Cy Young race because of an injury. Had he avoided the lower back strain that has shelved him since July 24, he and Scherzer would be locked in a battle that echoed the 2015 drama between Kershaw, Greinke and eventual winner Jake Arrieta. Scherzer has recorded at least nine strikeouts in 16 starts and leads the NL with 153 1/3 innings pitched. The Dodgers are 19–2 when Kershaw starts, and he had surrendered just two earned runs over the last 37 innings he pitched before landing on the disabled list. Greinke has bounced back after a dreadful 2016 and is bidding to add an NL Cy Young to the AL honor he won in '09.

Both Scherzer and Kershaw are deserving winners every year at this point. But Scherzer may get his second straight Cy Young and third overall because Kershaw missed just a little too much time.

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American League

1. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Season Stats: 14–4, 2.57 ERA, 0.880 WHIP, 12.8 K/9 (229 K), 7.90 K/BB, 177 ERA+, 5.3 WAR

2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

Season Stats: 10–3, 2.65 ERA, 0.912 WHIP, 12.4 K/9 (183 K), 6.54 K/BB, 175 ERA+, 5.1 WAR

3. Luis Severino, New York Yankees

Season Stats: 9–4, 2.91 ERA, 1.069 WAR, 10.5 K/9 (162 K), 4.5 K/BB, 158 ERA+, 4.6 WAR

As Jay Jaffe documented in detail on Tuesday night, the race between Kluber and Sale is electric. In his last 11 starts, the former has a 1.62 ERA, a batting average against of .159, and 124 strikeouts over 83 1/3 innings pitched, and has reduced his ERA from 4.38 to 2.65 and logged double-digit strikeouts in 10 of turns. Sale, conversely, has double-digit strikeouts in 15 of his 23 starts and has kept his ERA under 3.00 all season. Right now, Sale is the leader because of his season-long dominance, but Kluber's stretch has vaunted him back into a race that appeared uncontested at the beginning of July. Severino is the unlikely third member of this group, and while he won't win, he's been essential to the Yankees' 2017 surge.

Rookie of the Year

National League

1. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodges

Season Stats: .264/.343/.607, 32 HR, 75 RBIs, 7 SB, 3.3 WAR

American League

1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Season Stats: .297/.424/.622, 35 HR, 85 RBIs, 6 SB, 5.3 WAR

Both of these races are over and have been for some time. Bellinger will soon break Mike Piazza's Dodgers rookie home-run record of 35, and that comes after he was called up on April 25. Judge's story is well-documented by now, and even if he's been slumping in the second half, there isn't a rookie that even approaches his 2017 production. The two have already established themselves as two of baseball's premiere young power hitters and should be joys to watch for the foreseeable future.

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