Gonzalez takes home an award; could Harper be next?

The results of the National League Cy Young award voting won't be released until the postseason has come to a close, but Gio Gonzalez has already earned himself some hardware.

Gonzalez was named the winner of the 2012 Warren Spahn Award today, an award given out to the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball based on a pitcher's wins, strikeouts and earned run average.

"I'm honored to even be mentioned in the same breath as Warren Spahn and the past winners of this award. I truly am humbled by this recognition," Gonzalez said in a press release.

The release states that this year's race for the Spahn Award was the closest in the history of the award, with Gonzalez barely edging out the Rays' David Price.

A number of awards could be coming to various Nationals in the next handful of weeks. Davey Johnson is considered a favorite for NL Manager of the Year, Gonzalez is in the discussion for NL Cy Young, and a few Nats (Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa) have a chance to earn a Gold Glove. General manager Mike Rizzo is a leading contender for The Sporting News NL Executive of the Year, as well.

harper-white-diving-catch-sidebar.jpgThen there's Bryce Harper.

If you had asked me six weeks ago whether Harper had a legitimate shot at the National League Rookie of the Year award, my answer would have been no.

On Aug. 15, Harper was batting just .245 for the season and had seen his OPS (which was in the mid- to upper-.800s in his first two months in the big leagues) drop to .718. Harper was scuffling, having trouble laying off off-speed pitches out of the zone away and struggling against left-handed pitching.

If you asked me today whether Harper has a legitimate shot at the NL Rookie of the Year, my answer would be: heck yes, he does.

Harper finished the season batting .270 with an .817 OPS, 22 home runs, 59 RBIs, 98 runs scored and 18 stolen bases, and he did all that while playing in a playoff race with all the pressure that comes along with meaningful September baseball.

Here's where Harper ranks in various categories among all the teenagers to ever play in the majors: first in total bases, first in extra-base hits, second in home runs, second in runs scored and third in stolen bases.

While Harper had a stretch in the middle of the season in which he struggled offensively, his defense and baserunning stayed consistently at a high level. He also surged down the stretch, batting .338 with 10 home runs, 22 RBIs and 31 runs scored over his final 35 games.

There are a few other strong contenders for the award, including Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33 ERA, 144 Ks in 194 2/3 innings), Reds infielder Todd Frazier (.273, .829 OPS, 19 home runs, 67 RBIs and 55 runs scored) and Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario (.270, .843 OPS, 28 homers, 71 RBIs, 67 runs scored).

If you toss the ever-controversial WAR (wins above replacement) statistic into the discussion, here's how the players rank: Harper (4.8), Miley (4.8), Frazier (2.9) and Rosario (1.8).

The voting should come down to the wire, but I'd be a little surprised if Harper - who won NL Rookie of the Month twice this season - didn't come away with the award.

A quick programming note: Be sure to tune into MASN at 7 p.m. tomorrow night for "Nats Xtra: Playoff Preview," hosted by Byron Kerr and Ray Knight. They'll be breaking down the Nationals' opening playoff series against either the Braves or Cardinals.

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