Finalists for the four major Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year) were revealed this evening, setting the stage for the announcements of all the winners next week.
Voting among active BBWAA members (two from each National League and American League city per award) was completed before the start of the postseason, so the winners actually have already been determined, just not made public. For now, we’re left to speculate who emerged victorious among the top three finishers for each award, and whether either of the Nationals’ representatives are going to be able to pull it off.
Of the two, Soto appears to have the better chance of winning. The rookie outfielder, who didn’t turn 20 until after season’s end, produced one of the greatest offensive seasons by a teenager in major league history.
His 22 home runs matched teammate Bryce Harper for second-most-ever by a teenager, trailing only Tony Conigliaro’s record of 24. His 70 RBIs ranked fourth and were the most by any teenager since 1935. His .923 OPS was the best ever by a teenager with at least 450 plate appearances.
Soto finished his rookie campaign with a .292 batting average, .406 on-base percentage and .517 slugging percentage. He fell just eight plate appearances short of qualifying for the league leaderboard, but lower the threshold to include him and he would have ranked second in the NL in on-base percentage (behind Joey Votto) and third in OPS (behind Christian Yelich and Nolan Arenado).
So how come Soto isn’t a shoo-in to win Rookie of the Year? Because his primary competitor, Ronald Acuña Jr., had a remarkable season in his own right.
Acuña, who turns 21 next month, hit .293 with 26 homers, a .366 on-base percentage, .552 slugging percentage and .917 OPS. The Braves outfielder also excelled defensively and on the bases, which explains his edge over Soto in WAR (4.1 to 3.0 according to Baseball-Reference.com, though they each finished at 3.7 in FanGraphs.com’ formula).
The winner will be announced next Monday while both Soto and Acuña are playing in Japan as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star squad.
The Cy Young Award recipient will be named two nights later, and though Scherzer made a compelling case for his fourth overall and third consecutive win, the Nationals ace is probably going to finish second to the Mets’ Jacob deGrom.
Scherzer improved in several statistical categories from his Cy Young-winning 2017 season, striking out 300 batters, tossing 220 2/3 innings, winning 18 games and posting a 5.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He led the NL in each of those departments, as well as WHIP (0.911). And his 2.53 ERA was only two-hundredths of a point higher than it was the previous year.
But deGrom is expected to win based on his overwhelming 1.70 ERA, even though he finished with a 10-9 record and trailed Scherzer in innings, strikeouts and WHIP.
No other Nationals wound up as top-three vote-getters in other award categories this season, but they should have multiple players who received top-10 MVP votes (Scherzer, Soto, Anthony Rendon).