- Our latest check at the American League awards races reminds us all how great Mike Trout truly is, how remarkable Justin Verlander's revival has been and how murky the AL Rookie of the Year balloting is.
The trade deadline may have shaken up the majors, but in the AL, the three major awards races have seen no such movement. Instead, you have two established stars running away with the MVP and Cy Young races, though there have been some big jumps amid the young names down the ballot. With two months left in the season, do any of them have what it takes to make a run at a trophy? Here’s how all the top contenders shake out after a busy July (and here’s last month’s check-in on the chase).
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 current as of the morning of Mon., Aug. 5.
1. Mike Trout, CF, Angels (Last Month: 1)
.296/.437/.659 (474 PA), 36 HR, 87 RBI, 8 SB (2 CS), 85 BB, 186 OPS+, 7.1 bWAR
One way not to lose the MVP award for the millionth time: lead your league in every conceivable category. That’s what Trout is doing, as all the bold ink up there shows. Not only that, but he’s also coming off a ludicrous month of July in which he hit .286/.392/.821 (yes, you read that last one right) with 13 homers in 22 games. He’s on pace to obliterate his career high in home runs (41, set in 2015) and, at 7.1 WAR through 106 games, is on his way to the fourth 10-plus WAR season of his career and third in his last four years. You simply can’t do any better than this.
2. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros (Last Month: 4)
.267/.397/.531 (486 PA), 27 HR, 67 RBI, 4 SB (1 CS), 84 BB, 145 OPS+, 4.9 bWAR
The gap between Trout and second place might as well be the Grand Canyon, but I’m obliged to pick his runner-up anyway. For this month’s installment, it’s Bregman, who edges out fellow AL West third base counterpart Matt Chapman thanks to better plate patience (his 17.4% walk rate is second only to Trout in the majors) and a little more power.
3. Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics (Last Month: 5)
.257/.343/.515 (466 PA), 24 HR, 64 RBI, 0 SB (1 CS), 51 BB, 128 OPS+, 4.8 bWAR
Not that Chapman is terribly far behind Bregman, though. Neither of these two is putting pressure on Trout, but the battle for No. 2 is still plenty intriguing.
4. DJ LeMahieu, 1B/2B/3B, Yankees (Last Month: 2)
.335/.382/.530 (443 PA), 17 HR, 75 RBI, 4 SB (2 CS), 31 BB, 141 OPS+, 4.5 bWAR
LeMahieu couldn’t follow up his scorching June with a similar July, slashing a respectable yet unexceptional .282/.341/.449 on the month. He’s been hot again in August, though, with six hits in 14 at-bats, and is in a tight battle with the Mets’ Jeff McNeil for the MLB batting title.
5. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (Last Month: 6)
.320/.369/.562 (489 PA), 22 HR, 86 RBI, 8 SB (6 CS), 34 BB, 136 OPS+, 4.0 bWAR
Like a Statcast version of Midas, every ball Devers puts wood on is blistered: He’s tops in the majors in balls hit 95 mph-plus (181) and ranks 10th in average exit velocity (92.6 mph). He’s also tied for the AL lead in doubles with 37 and is first in the majors in hits with 144 amid a true breakout season.
6. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (Last Month: 8)
.306/.386/.565 (497 PA), 25 HR, 84 RBI, 3 SB (1 CS), 58 BB, 142 OPS+, 3.8 bWAR
Alongside Devers in the left side of Boston’s infield, Bogaerts has busted out with the season everyone expected of him, setting a new career high in homers. He’s also ripping balls with aplomb: He’s tied with Devers for the AL lead in doubles (37) and with Trout for the AL lead in extra-base hits (61).
7. Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins (Last Month: 3)
.299/.359/.506 (491 PA), 17 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB (3 CS), 41 BB, 126 OPS+, 4.6 bWAR
Polanco continues to slide down the MVP rankings after a July in which he hit a meager .230/.291/.440 (albeit with five homers in 23 games). His hot start is a fast-fading memory.
8. George Springer, CF, Astros (Last Month: 10)
.291/.380/.592 (368 PA), 25 HR, 62 RBI, 5 SB (1 CS), 44 BB, 153 OPS+, 4.0 bWAR
Back off the injured list on June 25 after missing a month with a hamstring strain, Springer hasn’t missed a beat, hitting .267/.368/.519 with eight homers over that span. Those lost four weeks cost him any real MVP shot, but he’s still in the down-ballot conversation.
9. Carlos Santana, 1B, Indians (Last Month: 7)
.281/.402/.526 (468 PA), 24 HR, 63 RBI, 4 SB (0 CS), 78 BB, 140 OPS+, 3.5 bWAR
Santana’s bounce-back season hit its first skid in July, in which he hit just .229. He drew more walks than strikeouts on the month, though—the fourth straight in which his whiffs haven’t out-paced his free passes.
10. Mookie Betts, RF, Red Sox (Last Month: Not Ranked)
.284/.389/.493 (530 PA), 19 HR, 59 RBI, 12 SB (2 CS), 78 BB, 127 OPS+, 4.5 bWAR
Betts hasn’t been able to replicate last year’s MVP-winning campaign, but his sterling defense and speed give him the edge for the last spot over a host of players, most notably Twins teammates Nelson Cruz and Max Kepler, as well as the red-hot Francisco Lindor (.330/.360/.578 with six homers in July).
Missed the Cut
Joey Gallo (Last Month: No. 9)
1. Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros (Last Month: 2)
15–4 (24 GS), 157 2/3 IP (6.3 IP/GS), 2.68 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 206 K, 33 BB (6.24 K/BB), 29 HR, 166 ERA+, 4.9 bWAR
Like Trout, Verlander gets the top spot because, well, he’s No. 1 in just about everything. He’s also rebounded quite nicely from a brief summer slump: Since allowing four runs in seven innings to the Angels on July 5—his third start out of his last four with four or more runs earned—he’s given up a grand total of five runs in 31 frames since. That includes four straight double-digit strikeout games, including his latest on Sunday, when he punched out 10 Mariners in six innings. The only blemish on his mark is the 29 homers allowed, but hey, even the Mona Lisa isn’t perfect.
2. Charlie Morton, RHP, Rays (Last Month: 3)
12–3 (23 GS), 136 IP (5.9 IP/GS), 2.78 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 165 K, 43 BB (3.84 K/BB), 10 HR, 163 ERA+, 4.0 bWAR
The Cy Young race is a battle of the elders, as the 35-year-old Morton tries to keep pace with the 36-year-old Verlander. The former trails the latter badly in innings and strikeouts, though allowing only 10 homers to 548 batters faced in the Year of the Rabbit Ball is borderline incredible, as Morton’s 0.66 homers-per-nine rate is the best mark in the AL. Not too shabby for an old man.
3. Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins (Last Month: Not Ranked)
10–5 (22 GS), 141 2/3 IP (6.4 IP/GS), 2.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 133 K, 30 BB (4.43 K/BB), 16 HR, 165 ERA+, 3.5 bWAR
A near miss on last month’s list, Berrios has exploded into the top three thanks to a month of July in which he allowed just nine runs (eight earned) in 29 2/3 innings and struck out 31. What’s keeping Berrios from climbing past Morton, though, is a mediocre strikeout rate of 22.8%, though he’s making up for that with a career-low 5.2% walk rate—12th best in the majors.
Jose Berrios - @JOLaMaKina - had arguably his best start of 2019 as he dominated MIA for 7 IP before being pulled with 81 pitches (likely due to the Twins 7-0 lead):— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) August 1, 2019
- 11 K's; his highest total in '19
- 42% CSW; his highest of '19
- 50% CSW on his CB pic.twitter.com/IL3b6HJioS
4. Mike Minor, LHP, Rangers (Last Month: 2)
9–6 (22 GS), 140 IP (6.4 IP/GS), 3.21 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 141 K, 49 BB (2.88 K/BB), 20 HR, 158 ERA+, 5.9 bWAR
Whether it was inevitable regression or the distraction of trade rumors, Minor came back to earth in a big way in July, with a 6.59 ERA on the month. He’s still in this race on the strength of his first three months, but he’s going to have a hard time catching up to the top dogs, if not holding off the rest of the pack.
5. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Astros (Last Month: Not Ranked)
13–5 (24 GS), 150 2/3 IP (6.3 IP/GS), 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 216 K, 39 BB (5.54 K/BB), 22 HR, 156 ERA+, 4.1 bWAR
Cole is the only man who has Verlander beat in strikeouts, leading the majors with 216 (and in strikeout rate at 36.4%). That helps him edge out Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, who were his top competition for the fifth and final spot.
Missed The Cut
Lucas Giolito (Last Month: No. 4)
Rookie of the Year
Brandon Lowe (307 PA, .276/.339/.523, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 126 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR)
Dan Vogelbach (411 PA, .229/.358/.500, 26 HR, 66 RBI, 130 OPS+, 1.7 bWAR)
Yordan Alvarez (173 PA, .340/.422/.693, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 190 OPS+, 1.9 bWAR)
New to this list is Alvarez, the hard-hitting Astros outfielder who has clobbered major league pitching at the tender age of 22, with Griffin Canning—who hit the IL with right elbow inflammation—falling off it. Lowe and Vogelbach still have the advantage here thanks to the extra plate appearances, but Alvarez is quickly closing the gap. (And look out for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who’s finally found his stroke.)
Missed The Cut
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.