- In the latest check at the American League awards race, DJ LeMahieu surges up the board to approach Mike Trout's perch and Mike Minor unseats Justin Verlander as the AL Cy Young frontrunner.
With June officially done and the All-Star break rapidly approaching, MLB is through its halfway point. That means performances are normalized across the board, which goes a long way toward eliminating some of the surprising contenders in the AL awards races. Yet as you’ll see below, a hot June has bumped some unexpected names into the thick of the competition. Here’s a look at the top players in all three awards chases as July begins (and here's a look at our last check of the AL awards).
This piece will pick 10 MVP contenders, five Cy Young choices, and three Rookie of the Year options, just like the actual BBWAA ballots. The rookie cut-off is 130 at-bats or 50 innings from the season(s) prior. Stats in bold indicate American League leader; stats in bold and italics indicate MLB leader. All stats are through games played on Sunday, June 30.
1. Mike Trout, CF, Angels (Last Month: 1)
.297/.452/.606 (361 PA), 22 HR, 57 RBI, 8 SB (2 CS), 70 BB, 181 OPS+, 5.3 bWAR
You can set your watch to Trout’s consistency and ability to make the incredible seem mundane. Case in point: His June was his best month of the season—a .320/.440/.641 line with nine homers and 23 runs driven in. Yet that’s merely the third straight month in which Trout’s OPS has broken the 1.000 mark. What’s more, June actually represents his worst month by plate discipline, as for the first time on the season, he struck out more than he walked. Even when he’s the best player alive, Trout can still somehow be better.
2. DJ LeMahieu, 2B/3B, Yankees (Last Month: Not Ranked)
.345/.392/.534 (343 PA), 12 HR, 61 RBI, 4 SB (0 CS), 24 BB, 144 OPS+, 4.0 bWAR
LeMahieu didn’t make my May MVP shortlist despite hitting .323/.374/.495 that month. Apparently determined to correct that oversight, he went into turbo mode in June: .395/.434/.658 with six homers, 29 RBI, and 45 hits in 25 games. He leads the AL in base knocks with 108, has multi-hit efforts in 15 of his last 25 contests, hasn’t come up empty at the plate in over two weeks, and over the weekend in London collected seven hits in 12 at-bats, including three doubles, and drove in seven. LeMahieu is doing that all atop the lineup for New York, too, and has been especially good in the biggest moments: He’s slashed .486/.506/.722 with runners in scoring position and .455/.500/.773 in that same situation with two outs. Another month like that, and he’ll start putting real pressure on Trout.
3. Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins (Last Month: 2)
.320/.378/.521 (366 PA), 11 HR, 39 RBI, 3 SB (3 CS), 31 BB, 138 OPS+, 4.0 bWAR
Named an All-Star for the first time in his career—and as the starter at shortstop, no less—Polanco didn’t play like one in June, hitting .288/.320/.398 and walking only six times in 129 plate appearances. That cost him the No. 2 spot to LeMahieu, and he’s barely keeping the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters off his tail. Will he still be sinking come July 31?
4. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros (Last Month: 4)
.266/.391/.532 (371 PA), 22 HR, 52 RBI, 3 SB (1 CS), 61 BB, 145 OPS+, 4.0 bWAR
5. Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics (Last Month: 5)
.270/.356/.552 (365 PA), 21 HR, 52 RBI, 0 SB (1 CS), 40 BB, 143 OPS+, 4.4 bWAR
Bregman and Chapman round out the top five with seasons that are eerily similar. I’m giving the Astros’ third baseman the slight nod, as he has more walks and is hitting for as much power as his Bay Area counterpart, but they’re neck and neck as June turns to July.
6. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (Last Month: Not Ranked)
.322/.372/.525 (348 PA), 12 HR, 50 RBI, 8 SB (5 CS), 24 BB, 131 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR
Snubbed from the All-Star team, Devers has nonetheless been a bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Red Sox club. Just 22 years old, he’s amid a breakout year offensively and has thumped the ball all season: His average exit velocity of 92.5 mph ranks 15th in the majors, and he’s No. 1 in balls hit 95 mph or more with 129, plus has a hard-hit rate of 48.7%.
7. Carlos Santana, 1B, Indians (Last Month: Not Ranked)
.293/.411/.534 (353 PA), 18 HR, 50 RBI, 3 SB (0 CS), 58 BB, 146 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR
Revitalized after a lost year in Philadelphia by his return to Cleveland, Santana earned a deserving All-Star nod with his bounce-back season. His .411 on-base percentage is second only to Trout in the AL, and his 16.4% walk rate is tied with Bregman for third.
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (Last Month: Not Ranked)
.299/.392/.540 (365 PA), 16 HR, 57 RBI, 3 SB (1 CS), 49 BB, 140 OPS+, 2.7 bWAR
Like Devers, Bogaerts is both a puzzling All-Star miss and one of the few things that’s gone right in Boston this year, and his offseason extension represents Dave Dombrowski’s best (and perhaps only good) move of the winter. A line-drive machine, Bogaerts leads the AL in doubles with 27 as he builds on his breakout 2018 campaign.
9. Joey Gallo, LF, Rangers (Last Month: 3)
.286/.426/.683 (238 PA), 20 HR, 46 RBI, 3 SB (1 CS), 46 BB, 179 OPS+, 3.5 bWAR
10. George Springer, CF, Astros (Last Month: 6)
.306/.387/.617 (243 PA), 18 HR, 45 RBI, 4 SB (1 CS), 28 BB, 163 OPS+, 2.6 bWAR
Gallo and Springer bring up the rear of this list, as both have put up gaudy numbers when healthy but were MIA in June due to injury. That’s left them well short of plate appearances compared to the men ahead of them, though they’ve been too good for me to cut them.
Missed The Cut
Mookie Betts (Last Month: 8)
Hunter Dozier (Last Month: 7)
1. Mike Minor, LHP, Rangers (Last Month: 2)
8–4 (17 GS), 112 2/3 IP (6.6 IP/GS), 2.40 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 110 K, 37 BB, 12 HR, 209 ERA+, 5.7 bWAR
Minor was brilliant in June, letting in just seven runs in 37 innings, including back-to-back starts of eight innings with one run allowed against Cleveland and nine innings with one run given up versus Detroit. He may not offer the raw dominance of Justin Verlander, but it’s hard to argue with his numbers. The name of the Cy Young game is run prevention, and Minor has been the AL’s best in that department.
2. Justin Verlander RHP, Astros (Last Month: 1)
10–3 (18 GS), 119 2/3 IP (6.6 IP/GS), 2.86 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 147 K, 26 BB, 23 HR, 155 ERA+, 3.7 bWAR
A so-so June—a 4.02 ERA in six starts—coupled with Minor’s excellence bumps Verlander out of the top spot. Not helping is his propensity for allowing homers, as he’s given up nearly as many this season as he did in all of 2018. Blame the rabbit ball, though at least the homers aren’t hurting Verlander much: 18 of those 23 dingers have been of the solo variety thanks to the veteran righty’s majors-best ability to keep runners off base.
3. Charlie Morton, RHP, Rays (Last Month: Not Ranked)
8–2 (17 GS), 100 IP (5.9 IP/GS), 2.43 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 120 K, 34 BB, 7 HR, 184 ERA+, 3.1 bWAR
Morton just keeps chugging along at the ripe old age of 35, stepping up as Tampa Bay’s ace with Tyler Glasnow hurt and Blake Snell struggling. Among qualified AL starters, his 29.9% strikeout rate ranks seventh, and his 0.63 home-run-per-nine rate—a miraculously low number given the juiced ball—is the second best in the Junior Circuit. The only thing keeping him from truly challenging Minor and Verlander is his comparatively low innings total.
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP, White Sox (Last Month: 4)
11–2 (16 GS), 96 IP (6 IP/GS), 2.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 115 K, 33 BB, 9 HR, 168 ERA+, 3.7 bWAR
After a dynamite stretch through May and the first half of June, Giolito hit the skids toward the end of the month, giving up nine runs and seven walks over 11 innings against the Cubs and Red Sox. He righted the ship versus Minnesota on Sunday, though, blanking the hard-hitting Twins over five rain-shortened innings—and having thrown only 68 pitches, he would’ve gone further were it not for the weather. If that rough patch is a blip and not a sign of Giolito’s control deserting him, then he’ll remain in the Cy Young hunt.
5. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Twins (Last Month: 5)
10–3 (16 GS), 85 2/3 IP (5.3 IP/GS), 2.73 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 94 K, 27 BB, 8 HR, 164 ERA+, 2.3 bWAR
Odorizzi came back to earth a bit in June: After allowing only three runs in 28 2/3 innings in May, he gave up 12 over 27 1/3 this month. That’s still plenty good, but coupled with his average strikeout rate and short outings, he’s not a good bet to climb any higher than this spot—and in real danger of losing it to Texas’ Lance Lynn.
Missed The Cut
Rookie of the Year
Brandon Lowe (300 PA, .271/.333/.513, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 123 OPS+, 2.7 bWAR)
Dan Vogelbach (317 PA, .244/.379/.519, 20 HR, 48 RBI, 142 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR)
Griffin Canning (11 GS, 61 2/3 IP, 3.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 119 ERA+, 1.5 bWAR)
Lowe is your frontrunner, leading all AL rookies in WAR, though Vogelbach—Seattle’s lone All-Star—is right on his heels. Canning rounds out the trio, emerging as a viable piece of the Angels’ rotation. Keep an eye, meanwhile, on Eloy Jimenez, who got off to a slow start and missed time with injury but hit a splendid .284/.340/.602 in June. He could bash his way into this group by the end of July.
Missed The Cut