MLBPro Cup o’ Joe: 2023 Award Races, Part I

Note: We’ll try to update awards every week from now on. However, we won’t do this piece again until late July. Here’s hoping you enjoy a snapshot of player awards, and where we think things stand, to this point in the season.

All-MLB Pro Through May 25

  • C: Jerry MacDonal, LA Dodgers
  • 1B: Taylor Sparks, Atlanta
  • 2B: Juan Morin, Arizona
  • 3B: Alonso Martinez, Colorado
  • SS: Millard Thomas, Atlanta
  • OF: Elliott Jenkins, Tampa
  • OF: Nomar Mazara, LA Angels
  • OF: Martin Lopez, Minnesota
  • DH: Gary Copeland, Minnesota
  • SP: Chris Scalise, Detroit
  • SP: Danny Hultzen, LA Dodgers
  • SP: Paul Erickson, LA Angels
  • SP: Pedro Magana, Philadelphia
  • SP: Juan Davila, Houston
  • RP: Ben Toder, Baltimore
  • RP: Klaas Bongers, Toronto
  • RP: Brendan Kline, Miami
  • CL: Kirshawn Holley, Colorado

Notes: There absolutely is an argument for Oakland’s Cesar Lopez over Morin at second base. Lopez has more homers and RBI, and has 2.3 WAR, compared to Morin’s 1.8 WAR. Lopez has also been the face of an Oakland team having its best season since 2013. We went with Morin, who has a higher AVG, OBP, OPS, and more runs and steals. Realistically, they are interchangeable, and arguments are valid for both players.

We also went with Holley over Dennis Moore (LAD), Jon Roberts (TB) and Pasqualino Carosi (TB). While Holley only has seven saves, he has only had seven save opportunities. He also has a 522 ERA+, which is insane. Yes, small sample sizes cause for severe variance, but Holley has been the league’s best reliever since the beginning of last season. Don’t believe us? Fun fact: Somehow, Holley has lowered his ERA from last year. His ERA last year?

Zero point nine four. (Or 0.94, for visual info-gatherers.) His ERA this year is 0.86. Insane.


  1. 1B Taylor Sparks, Atlanta
  2. 3B Alonso Martinez, Colorado
  3. C Jerry MacDonal, LA Dodgers
  4. DH Ryobe Kamida, Philadelphia
  5. SS Millard Thomas, Atlanta

Notes: This is pretty self-explanatory, no? Sparks is having an incredible season, and Atlanta has the best record in the National League. The same goes for Martinez, who is on track to have a 10.4 WAR season (.352-42-156, 16 SB). 

MacDonal (.347-11-35) is playing way above his weight, according to his own history; he’s on pace to hit 35 homers and drive in 111. His highs to date are 20 (2021) and 78 (2022).

The real surprise here is Kamida at 4th. Millard Thomas fans (and Thomas himself) are probably shouting INJUSTICE, and they have every right to do so. Sparks soaks up the majority of votes, though, and this isn’t a case where the two would split votes. Sparks has been that much better than everyone else. But Kamida, who has become the full-time DH in Philly, thanks to the ubiquitous DH rule in MLBPro, is hitting .310/.402/.580/14/36. He is second in all of those categories except RBI (5th), which is mainly because Philly has Anthony Hale and Andrew Vaughn also crushing, and taking some RBI opportunities away. Hale is deserving of being on this list, but right now, Kamida gets that nod.


  1. OF Elliott Jenkins, Tampa
  2. OF Martin Lopez, Minnesota
  3. DH Gary Copeland, Minnesota
  4. OF Nomar Mazara, LA Angels
  5. 2B Cesar Lopez, Oakland

Sure, throw bias around all you want. We’re Jenkins fans, always have been. This is justified. Jenkins is hitting .382/.412/.652/10/28, while hitting leadoff every day for the Rays. He leads the league in average and slugging, as well as hits (78), triples (6), and total bases (133, 15 more than Sparks). He has also risen to the challenge when Tampa has needed him. He had the game-winner in last night’s 2-1 extra-inning win over Toronto. In what is considered High Leverage situations, Jenkins is hitting .481/.531.815; he’s 13-for-27 with ten RBI, and just five strikeouts. He’s cut down his K% from 22.0% in 2021, to 17.9% last year, to 12.9% this season. In May, that’s down to 8.4%.

All of that in a garbage ballpark. Make no mistake, as of TODAY, Jenkins is the AL MVP.

At the end of the season, though, it’s more likely to be one of the next three guys. We’re all familiar with Copeland and Mazara, who had the award wrapped up heading into August, before he went went cold, and .324/.432/.592 on August 2nd ground down to .301/.401/.557. 

Mazara will be in the mix again…but the one we’re most interested in is Martin Lopez. Lopez is having a hell of a walk year. The 28-year-old is hitting .323/.426/.582/12/30, along with a 37-33 K-BB ratio. He’s also leading the league in runs scored (45), something he’s done three times already. He’s on pace for 146 runs scored, which is an absurd number. He’s third in average, fourth in OBP, and fourth in slugging (yet fifth in OPS).

The real fun will be when he sits down with the Twins to negotiate his next contract, and the Twins try to convince him that he won’t do as well without Gary Copeland, who will very likely be in a different uniform come next year. While they may be right…good luck with that take, Twins.


  1. C Matt Hanson, Arizona
  2. OF Esteban Hernandez, St. Louis 
  3. OF Josh Lowe, Cincinnati
  4. DH Keston Huira, Colorado
  5. OF Curt Franklin, LA Dodgers

Notes: Hanson has been terrible. Is he looking over his shoulder at Adley Rutschman (or, really, next to him, since Rutschman is one locker over now)? Hanson’s gone from .321/.385/.502/17/76 to .219/.264/.298/1/7. Seriously. He’s on pace for THREE homers this year. While the Diamondbacks have mostly righted their ship after their dreadful start, Hanson is the one person who got marooned back on Garbage Island.

One note: There may be guys who are performing worse than these players. But these players are all guys who A) have a history of success and B) are supposed to be key parts to contending teams. At least in the cases of Huira and Franklin, the Rockies and Dodgers are contending in spite of them.

This is not the case for Lowe and Hernandez. Lowe (.213/.295/.343/4/17) continues to flounder. We believe he’ll turn this around all the way; he’s a proven hitter, and may very much be suffering from having…*checks notes*…

…ahem, Felicio Roxa…hitting third behind him. Shouldn’t those two spots be switched? Probably.

Esteban, however…he’s ‘gone from .279/.346/.430/13/58 to .151/.225/.205/0/4. This is so bad, in fact, that we moved him from third on this list to second, and am tempted to slide him up to first. We won’t, though, because Hanson went from All-Star caliber to “all catchers not named Jerry MacDonal), where as Hernandez has gone from “slightly above average” to “oh no look at that contract we’re going to get fired”.


  1. 3B Evan Longoria, Baltimore
  2. 2B Austin Tait, LA Angels
  3. OF George Cuyuo, Houston
  4. 3B Kody Clemens, Kansas City
  5. OF Paul Robbins, NY Yankees

Notes: Longoria has gone from feel-good MVP–even more amazing considering he wasn’t even an All-Star last year–to the face of what’s wrong in Baltimore. Sure, he’s 37. But did anyone expect .161/.311/.236/1/9 so far? 

The same goes for Tait, though we guess a sophomore slump can get people. The 2022 AL Rookie of the Year has rebounded in the second half of May–he was hitting .198 on May 14–but he’s still hitting .240/.282/.286. This has fueled considerable discussion about him being sent to AAA in favor of top prospect Adam Smith.

Cuyuo was a part-timer last year, but he was one of the most valuable bench bats in the league, hitting .312/.362/.484/8/33. This year, he’s hitting .217/.321/.261, with no homers, and just two RBI. Cuyuo being on this list is evidence, though, that the AL is generally performing better at the dish than the NL, or at least, generally to expectations.

Clemens and Addison Reed are the faces of KC’s 2023 season; Reed is 0-8, and Clemens was sent down to AAA. That hasn’t slowed down his quest for 200 strikeouts this year; he’s on pace for 201. Paul Robbins, a Rule V pick gone good last year, scoffs at those pitiful strikeout totals, though. He’s on pace for 206.

NL Cy Young

  1. Danny Hultzen, LA Dodgers
  2. Pedro Magana, Philadelphia
  3. Alberto Vega, Colorado
  4. Brudsar Graterol, Colorado
  5. Richard Dean, Pittsburgh

Notes: Superficially,  Hultzen got off to a meh start in his new digs. However, his 0.92 WHIP said otherwise. He’s been fantastic in May, going 4-0 with a 2.64 ERA. He leads the league in strikeouts, and looks like he’ll be every bit what the Dodgers hoped for when they signed him.

The interesting one here is Vega. If you look at Vega’s numbers away from Citi Field, that would be enough to give one pause. Case in point: He has a 304 ERA+ at home, and a 77 ERA+ on the road. Of course, that’s thrown off a bit, as his first start in his new, and very unlikely, digs (Coors Field) was incredible. He tossed eight shutout innings, giving up just three hits, and striking out eleven. We do find Vega in Colorado to be a puzzling fit, even if his contract is paid for. Moving Shea Langliers for him raised some eyebrows, but the way Cam Gallagher is playing, Langliers became a tradable asset.

We believe that Graterol will be more of a player for this award than Vega, when it’s all said and done. Still, though…the first impression was, well…impressive.

We should recognize Dean here, because Pittsburgh has been undergoing renovations, and they’ve been tough to look at at times. One could look at Dean’s inclusion on this list and say, “Well, the NL is unimpressive and depressing. It’s undepressive.” You may be right; the NL seems to be trying to figure out its identity right now. A lot of very good pitchers this year are performing at a very average rate.

That doesn’t take anything away from Dean, however. He’s 3-3 this year, but with a 2.50 ERA, and a 1.09 WHIP. His ERA+ is 165. That’s definitely worth inclusion on this list.

AL Cy Young

  1. Paul Erickson, LA Angels
  2. Juan Davila, Houston
  3. Chris Scalise, Detroit
  4. Ryan Weathers, Houston
  5. Keyvius Sampson, Minnesota

Notes: Everyone after Erickson is fascinating. Davila (5-2, 2.18, 1.12 WHIP, 190 ERA+) and Weathers (5-3, 3.00, 0.85 WHIP, 138 ERA+) have seemingly willed Houston back into the AL West race. Scalise is a hard-luck 4-5; however, since his getting crushed by Tampa in his opening start of the year, he’s pitched to a 2.49 ERA. Since April 24, that ERA is a 0.91.

Sampson, meanwhile, is having the best start of his career. For a guy who was seemingly ready to take the MLBPro world by storm in 2015 after going 15-10, 3.45, Sampson has never hit that ace status that many thought he would…until now, his age-32 season. He’s pitched to a 1.04 WHIP and a 146 ERA+, both career-best figures. Sure, it’s just May, but he’s worthy of being on this list.

NL Cy Yuck

  1. Lance McCullers, Arizona
  2. Cody McCutc, Milwaukee
  3. Mashiro Tanaka, NY Mets
  4. Dane Grier, Miami
  5. Nick Lodolo, NY Mets

Notes: These stats are considered NSFW. We’ll spare you. It’s particular obscene in Queens, where Tanaka and Lodolo are a combined disgusting.

McCullers, meanwhile, probably was not last year’s 6-3, 2.45 ERA. He pitched to a 1.25 WHIP, which does not necessarily scream 2.45 ERA. But he’s gone from a 165 ERA+ to a 75, and his ERA has added only FOUR RUNS TO IT (6.27). The culprit? Walks. He’s walked 21 this year, in 51.2 innings. He walked 21 last year, in 62.1 innings (in Arizona).

McCutc…we just don’t know. He’s a mess (60 ERA+). At least with Dane Grier, who is transitioning from reliever to starter, we can understand (he’s worthy of being on this list, make no mistake). But McCutc…we think he left his changeup wherever he dropped the rest of his last name.

AL Cy Yuck:

  1. Hunter Johnson, Tampa
  2. Sixto Sanchez, Baltimore
  3. Todd Collins, Texas
  4. Quiterio Gavio, Texas
  5. Hector Hernandez, NY Yankees

Notes: Hunter Johnson has been more Hunted Johnson all year. He’s 2-4, 6.75 ERA (and that’s down from the 7.13 it was before his last start). Teams are batting .336 against him. He has a 61 ERA+. For someone who is supposed to be an ace, he’s been the fourth-best starter on his own team.

Meanwhile, the patience on Sixto Sanchez has to be running out. This was to be the year where he put it all together. Yet he’s 2-5, 5.83, 1.45 WHIP so far. He’s giving up more homers than last year (2.3/9), which is newsworthy, since he LED THE LEAGUE IN HOMERS ALLOWED LAST SEASON.

The Texas duo hasn’t learned a thing from James Kaprielian, clearly. And Hector Hernandez is, well, a Yankee. (This is another indication that the AL is performing better than the NL in general.)

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. OF Grant Delpit, Miami
  2. RP Edward Cabrera, Colorado
  3. OF KJ Costello, Philadelphia
  4. 1B Brady Vanderbilt, St. Louis
  5. OF Mark Blalock, Washington

Notes; Delpit is a big surprise this year, given how difficult it is to hit consistently in Miami. It’s an even bigger surprise when one learns that Delpit skipped AAA and came straight to the bigs. He’s hitting .317/.349/.517/8/31, and is on pace for 100 RBI.

Cabrera, though, may be the one to watch. Batters are hitting .130 (16-for-118) against him this year. They’re hitting to a .504 OPS. Oh, and he has struck out FIFTY-SIX out of those 118. That’s only a 15.9 K/9 rate. He’s only walked ten. Seriously, he’s been unbelievable.

Vanderbilt, another AA-to-MLB guy, has been the only one in St. Louis hitting with any consistent power (12 HR, 5 in May) and run production (34 RBI). Could you imagine where St. Louis’ offense would be without Vanderbilt’s production? Oof.

Blalock (.302/.349/.474) has performed well, but realistically, this list is pretty thin right now.

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. OF Gilberto Jimenez, Boston
  2. OF Hunter Bishop, Baltimore
  3. SS Bobby Witt Jr., Tampa
  4. 3B Josh Gray, Texas
  5. 3B Brendan Shewmake, Minnesota

Notes: Jimenez leads all rookies in AVG (.317) and OBP (.369), and is third in SLG (.522). He also leads in hits (59), triples (4), total bases (97), and runs scored (32). For all of the hype Bobby Witt got preseason (and a lot of it has proven to be deserved), more should have been given to Jimemez. He did hit .312 across three levels last season, after all.

Hunter Bishop was expected to be a flash-in-the-pan, according to some in the media. He’s another one who jumped straight from AA to the pros. Yes, he’s cooled off some, power-wise (8 HR in April, 5 in May). But his average is up (.286 vs .268). He still leads all rookies in homers and in OPS (.929). While his average has been swingy, his OBP has generally stayed around .350. For a kid who skipped AAA, that’s very encouraging.

Witt rose on this list after a recent hot streak. He was someone who got progressively better in his first go in AAA this year. If he does that this year, the Rays, and their fans, are in for a major treat…and perhaps baseball in mid-October for the first time in a while.

The last two are solid, though unspectacular, additions. Gray has come down from his ridiculously unsustainable hot start, while Shewmake has been solid for Minnesota. Not someone who will crack those top three…but that top three would be tough to crack in nearly any season.

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