2019 Award Voting Open: Players to Watch
2019 MLB Pro Award Voting Is Open
With the 2019 MLB Pro postseason set to begin this week, the start of the off-season is not far away. While the focus will quickly shift to 2020, the next few weeks will also be time to reflect on the remarkable seasons so many of our players had here at MLB Pro in 2019.
The following takes a look at just some of the contenders for the various awards.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The 2019 American League MVP race will be an interesting choice for voters. As of mid-September, it appeared Gary Copeland was well on his way to running away with his second MVP award. Copeland helped the Twins blow past the Indians in the final two months of the season. The Los Angeles Angels Kaleb Cowart finished the year red-hot hitting .402 with 10 HR and 27 RBI’s in September. Will Cowart split votes amongst his teammates Nomar Mazara and Masutaro Ohayashi? In Gincarlo Stanton’s first year in Toronto, the veteran slugger posted big numbers and helped lead the Blue Jays to an easy AL East title. Steve Winter’s batting title could draw votes and the pair of Astros Edgardo Arredondo and Jose Gonzalez could also be popular picks outside of the top two spots.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The National League MVP debate is pretty cut and dry. Colorado’s Jed McKinley should run away with the award. After back-to-back years posting a WAR in the 5’s, McKinley exploded in 2019 and posted a WAR of 8.6, the best in baseball. McKinley flirted with hitting .400 through the first two months of the year and finished the season as the clear best hitter in the National League.
The race for second place is wide-open. For starters, Ryobe Kamida has grown into one of the NL’s premier power hitters. In his second start in the big leagues, Kamida’s batting average rose .37 points and his slugging percentage rose over .100 points. Colorado’s Wil Myers entered 2019 on the final year of his contract and Myers’ production will lead to either a big extension or a big contract on the open market. Had it not been for McKinley, Myers might have had a case as the most complete hitter in the National League. Fellow catcher Ed Palmer joins McKinley as an opponent few pitchers wanted to see. Palmer finished the season hitting .325/.402/.475 in September.
- Braulio Pardo: A career high in at-bats helped Pardo produce a career-high and NL best 113 RBI’s in 2019. Pardo also finished the year in the top ten in SLG, OPS, and wOBA.
- Josh Wilcox: The 2018 NL MVP started slowly and picked things up en route to a season in which Wilcox hit 33 homers, drove-in 99 RBI’s, and scored 103 runs. Wilcox finished in the top ten in WAR, HR, RBI, R, and total bases.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG
In 2017, it was Felix Hernandez. In 2018, it was Nathan Eovaldi. In 2019, it will be Danny Hultzen. The Seattle Mariners are on the verge of having three consecutive Cy Young winners. This season Danny Hultzen was a machine. In 34 starts, Hultzen allowed 1 or fewer earned runs in 17 of those starts. When opposing teams came into Seattle to face Hultzen, opposing teams tended to go home with a loss. At home, Hultzen was a terrific 14-2 with an ERA of 1.95 in 147 2/3 home innings pitched. The league leader in nearly every pitching category, Hultzen should run away with the 2019 AL Cy Young award.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG
While the American League Cy Young race is cut and dry, the decision in the National League is anything but. Despite going 9-13, the Rockies Miguel Pineda led all NL pitchers in WAR. Pineda began the year as a member of the Nationals where the Nats scored 1 or fewer runs in seven of Pineda’s 20 starts with the club. After a shocking trade to the Rockies, Pineda’s number fell as his ERA with the Rockies was two runs higher than it was with the Nationals.
Only two of the National League’s top ten strikeout leaders helped their teams make playoffs (Tim Lincecum and Dave Smith). Strikeout champ Alberto Vega was one of eight NL starters with an ERA under three on the season. In addition, to leading the league in strikeouts, Vega also posted the best WHIP.
Kolby Allard of the Reds had the third best ERA and led the league in innings pitched, hits allowed per nine innings, and opponents average.
The Mets rotation also included veteran pitcher Jon Lester who led the NL in strikeout-to-walk ratio by more than a full strikeout over John Lamb. Lester walked just 1.2 batters per nine innings while striking out a career best 8.8 batters per nine innings.
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROY
The rookie class in the American League was not the deepest, but it provided plenty of quality players. On the mound, Justin Hooper and Rod Swift each excelled giving their fan bases plenty to be excited for the future.
Justin Hooper slid in behind Danny Hultzen as a force in the Mariners rotation. The AL rookie leader in most counting stats, Hooper is being called upon to pitch in the American League Wild Card game.
The Indians Rod Swift posted the best ERA amongst AL rookie pitchers. Swift helped lead the Indians to the top of the AL Central for the first few months of the year. Paired with Shawn Stephens, Swift will be a fixture in any conversation of best young arms in baseball.
After several years of not having much to celebrate, the Boston Red Sox and their fans were able to enjoy the play of young Todd Kuhn. Kuhn was a force with his bat and his speed. A member of the 20/30 club as a rookie, Kuhn helped the Red Sox finish the year at .500.
While White Sox fans were critical of the trade of Gincarlo Stanton in 2017, minds were turned in 2019 with the play of Roberto Torres who was acquired in that trade from San Diego. The 22 year-old outfielder is a hard-worker whose hard-work translated to success on the field. Torres had 192 hits as a rookie and stole 32 bases. If the young outfielder is able to cut down his strikeouts and improve his efficiency on the base-paths, he will help the White Sox for many, many years to come.
NATIONAL LEAGUE ROY
Much like the NL Cy Young race, the NL Rookie of the Year vote is tough to predict. Voters will have the option of quality batters and pitchers.
At the plate, the Cardinals Ronald Guzman had the best numbers. Guzman also did that in some 100 or more at-bats than other terrific rookies such as Ed Palmer and Jeremy Scott. Guzman finished amongst the top five in the National League in batting average, triples, RBI’s, extra-base hits, and total bases.
If it were not for Jed McKinley, Ed Palmer would be in the running for best catcher in baseball. The former 16th-round pick of the Braves in 2014 was released in 2016. While most teams did not see a future for Palmer, the Nationals signed him in 2017 and gave him a second chance. A 2018 trip to the Winter Developmental League seemed to change Palmer. As good as the young catcher was with his bat, he might have been better behind the plate where he helped the Nationals staff post the best team ERA in the National League.
2017’s #1 overall pick Jeremy Scott started the year at AAA and finished the year in the heart of the D-Backs lineup. In 402 AB’s, Scott mashed 21 homers and drove in 72, while also managing to swipe 28 bases. Scott proved the former #1 pick will be a key piece of Arizona’s future at the big-league level.
On the mound, the trio of Pedro Magana, Edward Reith, and Dave Smith all stood out in their first year in the bigs. Magana follows in the lines of former Phillies Cy Young winner Sean Gilmartin as a terrific young arm for the Phillies. After a brief stint in the bigs in 2018, in which Magana struggled mightily, he figured things out in 2019.
Similar to Magana, Ed Reith got a taste of the bigs in 2018. Unlike Magana, Reith was terrific. He went 6-0 in 7 starts last year. That said, there were concerns at the start of the year about his control. Reith showed improvements throughout the year.
Dave Smith of the Cardinals is a young pitcher with one of the league’s best changeups. The 6’7″ lefty struck fear in opposing batters. Smith struck out over nine batters per nine innings, With all of the injuries the Cardinals faced during the season, including the one to Clayton Kershaw, Smith was a key reason St. Louis was able to finish on top of the NL Central.