MLB 2023 Award Rankings for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year in AL, NL
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Los Angeles' Shohei OhtaniRon Jenkins/Getty Images
Not a single Major League Baseball team has clinched a playoff spot or been mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but even with 40-plus games yet to come, there's not much drama in the MVP, ROY or Cy Young races in either league.
NL Cy Young is the only one of the six that doesn't have a favorite listed at -200 or better on DraftKings.
AL MVP is off the board altogether.
But with a quarter of the season left to be played, plenty can change.
Favorites could enter a slump or suffer injury. (See: Josh Jung's AL ROY candidacy less than two weeks ago.) Conversely, top challengers to the favorites could go on an absolute tear over these next six weeks to storm back into the race.
Even if things don't change at the top of these respective mountains, though, our goal is to project not just the winner but also the top five vote-getters for each of MLB's six major individual awards.
Current betting odds (as of Thursday morning) for the top tier of candidates will be listed (if still available) at the beginning of each section, and our projected top five will come at the bottom of each section.
We'll tackle rookies first, Cy Youngs in the middle and MVPs at the end.
National League Rookie of the Year
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Arizona's Corbin CarrollDavid Berding/Getty Images
Current* NL ROY Odds:
Corbin Carroll -5000
Matt McLain +2000
Elly De La Cruz +2500
Francisco Alvarez +4000
Kodai Senga +5000
Andrew Abbott +6600
Spencer Steer +8000
*Odds were captured Tuesday morning. NL ROY is no longer listed on DraftKings.
There sure is a lot of Cincinnati on that list, isn't there? Could reasonably throw Will Benson into the conversation, as well.
Of the many options from the Reds, though, De La Cruz should rank ahead of McLain as the first runner-up to Carroll.
Don't get me wrong. McLain has had the statistically superior season. But De La Cruz is absolutely destroying McLain as far as highlight reel moments and national recognition are concerned. The 21-year-old phenom stole second, third and home in a single at-bat last month. He's going to steal second place for NL ROY. And if the Reds drop out of the playoff picture, McLain might drop out of this top five altogether.
Either way there's no catching Carroll, even though he has been in quite the slump over the past three weeks. The young star of the Diamondbacks still has 21 home runs and 37 stolen bases, both slugging and running at the top of this year's NL rookie class. He would have to really bottom out over the next month-and-a-half to blow this lead.
Of the two Mets on the above list, give me Senga ahead of Alvarez. The 21 home runs are nice, but Senga has provided more overall value, particularly over the past two months as he has slashed his walks from 40 BB in his first 64.2 IP to 19 BB in his last 58.0 IP.
One player not listed above who absolutely should be is Colorado's Ezequiel Tovar. He should at least be a finalist for a Gold Glove at shortstop, if not the front-runner for it. And after a brutal first few weeks at the dish, he has hit .278/.308/.467 with 13 home runs in 95 games played dating back to April 23. Not many reasons to watch the Rockies this season, but Tovar has been a beacon of light in a sea of darkness.
Also, where the heck is the love for Los Angeles' James Outman? He got out to an incredible start to the year, posting a 1.122 OPS while playing in each of the team's first 22 games. He then cooled off in a hurry for about 10 weeks, but he has heated back up in a big way, batting .320 with five home runs dating back to July 4.
Outman now has 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases, meaning a 20/20 season is within reach. And you're telling me the starting center fielder for maybe the best team in the majors is maybe going to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases and not finish top five for NL ROY? Oh OK.
Projected Top Five for NL ROY:
1. Corbin Carroll
2. Elly De La Cruz
3. James Outman
4. Kodai Senga
5. Ezequiel Tovar
American League Rookie of the Year
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Baltimore's Gunnar HendersonG Fiume/Getty Images
Current AL Rookie of the Year Odds:
Gunnar Henderson -215
Masataka Yoshida +330
Triston Casas +400
Tanner Bibee +1500
Josh Jung +7500
Esteury Ruiz/Royce Lewis/Edouard Julien +10000
Throughout June and July, AL ROY was Jung's trophy to lose. He actually did his best work in April and May, but it took some time for him to emerge as the betting favorite. And by August 6, he was on the verge of running away with this thing with 22 home runs and more than respectable defense at the hot corner for possibly the best team in the majors.
But then Jung suffered a fractured thumb and absolutely flipped this betting market on its ear. He'll be out of sight and out of mind until around September 20 and has no realistic chance of winning anymore. (He'll certainly still get some down-ballot votes, though.)
In Jung's stead, Henderson quickly re-became a sizable favorite.
Baltimore's shortstop/third baseman opened the season as the top candidate for AL ROY but was hitting just .170 through the team's first 38 games. Had he struggled for much longer than that, the O's might have demoted him at the same time that they sent Grayson Rodriguez back down to Norfolk to figure things out. But Henderson flipped a switch and hit .304 with a .938 OPS over his next 36 games, later adding a four-hit, two-homer game in a 14-1 blowout of the Yankees.
Henderson's only legitimate competition resides in Boston, where Yoshida has been solid all season, entering Wednesday with a .300 average, and where Casas stormed out of the All-Star break like a bat out of hell, batting .342 with 10 home runs in his first 25 games of the second half.
From a purely offensive perspective, it's a close call between those three AL East rookies. But it's Henderson's value added on defense—and the value subtracted on defense by both Yoshida and Casas—that makes Henderson the much better candidate.
Beyond that trio, there are a bunch of intriguing pitchers worth considering. Bibee is the only one listed above, but there's also Houston's tandem of Hunter Brown and J.P. France, Baltimore's All-Star set-up man Yennier Cano and Seattle's Bryce Miller, who got out to a scintillating start to his MLB career in May.
Projected Top Five for AL ROY:
1. Gunnar Henderson
2. Masataka Yoshida
3. Yennier Cano
4. Josh Jung
5. Tristan Casas
National League Cy Young
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San Francisco's Logan WebbLachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Current NL Cy Young Odds:
Zac Gallen +175
Blake Snell +300
Logan Webb +300
Spencer Strider +600
Justin Steele +700
Zack Wheeler +2000
Corbin Burnes +2200
Clayton Kershaw +7500
Welcome to the lone award that doesn't have a clear favorite.
Entering play Thursday, Snell was leading all qualified NL pitchers in ERA. Strider was running away with the strikeout lead and first place in FIP. Gallen had the best WHIP. Steele was leading the way in ERA+. And Webb was the top dog in bWAR, IP and K/BB.
So, which matters most?
Or which pitchers have the most unforgivable warts on their resume?
Snell has a stellar ERA, but his walk rate is atrocious, issuing at least three free passes in eight straight starts before a slightly more economical two-walk outing Wednesday against Baltimore. He has pitched into the seventh inning just once all season. However, a similar profile didn't stop Dylan Cease from finishing second in last year's AL Cy Young vote.
Strider has struggled to keep the ball in the yard, at one point allowing 16 home runs in the span of 76.1 innings pitched. As a result, he has a 3.75 ERA, and the last NL pitcher to receive so much as one Cy Young vote with an ERA that high was Bronson Arroyo (3.88) getting one vote in 2010. But if he ends up leading the majors by 50-plus strikeouts, that's got to count for something.
Steele has strong all-around numbers but is lacking in the "wow factor" department. Fifteen of his 22 starts have been of the quality variety, but his best game score of the season was a 73 in his season debut. Comparatively, Strider, Snell and Gallen have each made four starts with a score of 75 or better.
Gallen also has strong all-around numbers but did most of his damage back in April when he reeled off 28 consecutive scoreless innings. Since May 1, he has a modest 3.58 ERA and 1.16 WHIP—and has been perhaps a bit forgotten about as Arizona collapsed to the tune of a 7-25 from July 2 through August 11.
Webb is probably the best candidate, boasting 14 starts in which he lasted at least seven innings, including a shutout of the Rockies and a remarkable outing against Texas' loaded offense this past Sunday in which he came one pitch away from another shutout. But he certainly hasn't done enough to run away with this award and isn't even the betting favorite.
And with such a wide-open field, don't you dare sleep on Kershaw down there at +7500. He spent his standard, annual 4-6 weeks on the IL, but he's back now with impressive marks across the board (2.48 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 3.3 bWAR). It's highly unlikely he'll log enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, but if he doesn't miss any more time, he should get to 26 starts. That just might be enough for some serious consideration, though we'll keep him just outside our top five for now.
Josh Hader (unlisted) should also sneak into the mix with a 0.84 ERA. He hasn't allowed an earned run since the end of May and is almost unarguably the best reliever in the majors. If he can keep that scoreless streak going for another six weeks, he might even get some first-place votes.
Projected Top Five for NL Cy Young:
1. Logan Webb
2. Blake Snell
3. Zac Gallen
4. Spencer Strider
5. Josh Hader
American League Cy Young
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New York's Gerrit ColeMegan Briggs/Getty Images
Current AL Cy Young Odds:
Gerrit Cole -380
Kevin Gausman +450
Framber Valdez +950
Luis Castillo +2000
Shohei Ohtani +4000
George Kirby +5000
Nathan Eovaldi +5000
As far as Baseball Reference (BR) is concerned, this race is effectively over. Cole has a bWAR of 5.1, while no other pitcher (neither AL nor NL) checks in north of 4.0.
But if any Cy Young voters prefer FanGraphs (FG) when gauging the value of a pitcher, it's a much different story. Gausman is leading the AL with an fWAR of 4.3. Minnesota's tandem of Sonny Gray (+10000) and Pablo López (+20000) are at 4.0 and 3.6, respectively. Kirby is tied with López at 3.6. And then Cole is in fifth place at 3.5.
Why the big difference?
Mostly because FG leans heavily on fielding independent pitching, while BR focuses more so on runs allowed. FG takes more of a "How good would the pitcher be with a league-average defense behind him?" approach. BR goes the "How much more productive than a league-average starting pitcher has this starting pitcher actually been?" route.
Both are perfectly valid (and more detailed than I could dream of designing) approaches to assigning value added to a pitcher, but BR loves Cole because he leads the league in innings pitched and darn near leads the league in ERA, whereas FG loves Gausman because he leads the league in xFIP, thanks in large part to much better K and K/BB rates.
However, recent history has shown that Cy Young voters clearly prefer bWAR to fWAR.
Take last year's race for instance. The vote was basically split between Dylan Cease, Alek Manoah and Shohei Ohtani for second, third and fourth place behind unanimous victor Justin Verlander. They were the four league leaders in bWAR, while fWAR was much less enthused with both Cease and Manoah, who each had xFIPs at least 1.3 runs higher than their ERA.
Meanwhile, Gausman had the highest fWAR aside from Verlander, and he got one measly fifth-place vote for Cy Young. (Gausman should get considerably more love this year, though, as he is leading the league in strikeouts.)
Long story short, bWAR and ERA for the win, which makes Cole the overwhelming favorite right now.
And if you're wondering why Gray is all the way down at +10000 despite the second-best bWAR (3.8) and the third-best ERA among qualified AL pitchers (3.04), buddy, so am I.
Gray has allowed more than three runs in just two of his 24 starts, relenting five home runs through 136.1 innings of work. And save for seven games against the Rangers, the Twins have just about the easiest remaining schedule in the majors. Gray could rack up quite a few more quality starts against the likes of Cleveland, Colorado, Oakland and Pittsburgh.
If Cole stays healthy and effective, he's going to win. But of all the possible long-shot bets among these six awards, Gray is the most intriguing.
Félix Bautista was the most intriguing long-shot option when he had a 0.85 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP and a 17.4 K/9 just 10 days ago. But allowing five earned runs while recording just five outs in a recent series against Houston likely relegated him to fifth place, at best.
And let's not forget about Valdez, who has tossed both a no-hitter and a four-hit shutout this season. He hasn't been quite as consistent in the quality starts department as he was last year, but he does have 15 of them as the undisputed ace of Houston's staff.
Projected Top Five for AL Cy Young:
1. Gerrit Cole
2. Framber Valdez
3. Kevin Gausman
4. Sonny Gray
5. Félix Bautista
National League MVP
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Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. and Matt OlsonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Current NL MVP Odds:
Ronald Acuña Jr. -750
Freddie Freeman +600
Matt Olson +1700
Mookie Betts +3500
Sean Murphy/Will Smith/Luis Arráez +10000
While AL MVP is all but certain to go to a certain two-way star on what is currently a sub-.500 team, the race for NL MVP is a who's who of the two teams jostling for home-field advantage.
Of the seven players listed at +10000 or better, you've got three from Atlanta, three from Los Angeles and a likely batting champ from Miami.
But the current top four, in that order, sure feels right.
Acuña is leading the majors in runs (109), on-base percentage (.422) and stolen bases (55), and clubbed his 27th home run of the season Tuesday night. Barring injury, he's going to be the first ever player with 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a single season, and he's roughly on pace to get all the way up to 35 and 75, respectively.
But were it not for Acuña out here just making up new clubs for future players to aspire to, Freeman would be in the driver's seat for NL MVP with his .337 batting average and .997 OPS. He has been solid all season, but he was particularly outstanding both over the final three weeks of May (.457 AVG; 1.341 OPS) and during the 21-game stretch from July 17 through August 9 (.471 AVG; 1.347 OPS). And with stolen bases such a big selling point for Acuña, it bears mentioning that Freeman is leading the Dodgers with 16 swipes in 17 attempts.
The fly in the ointment, though, is Olson, who could be a late arrival as NL MVP favorite if he continues to mash. Atlanta's everyday first baseman is leading the majors with 43 home runs, and is very much not showing signs of slowing down. From June 15 through August 13, Olson hit 25 home runs in 49 games. That's a 162-game pace of 83, and he would get to damn near 70 homers if he continues that pace down the stretch. No one realistically expects 70 here, but 60 could be in the cards and could propel Olson to the top of the pecking order.
And while I would personally put Betts at No. 2 because of the way he has thrived while bouncing back and forth between right field and middle infield, he'll probably end up in fourth place unless he ratchets up the home run pace a bit and gets to 45.
For fifth place, got to be Arráez, right? Depends on where his batting average ultimately lands, but if he finishes north of .350 and somewhat convincingly edges out both Acuña and Freeman for the batting title, he's going to get some love for that. He might even leapfrog both Betts and Olson if the Marlins also make the playoffs.
Projected Top Five for NL MVP:
1. Ronald Acuña Jr.
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Matt Olson
4. Mookie Betts
5. Luis Arráez
American League MVP
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Los Angeles' Shohei OhtaniTim Heitman/Getty Images
Current AL MVP Odds: No longer listed
This one is as much of a runaway as can be. With six weeks remaining in the regular season, Shohei Ohtani is so far ahead of the pack for AL MVP that most sites (including DraftKings) won't even let you bet on it anymore.
Here's a fun hypothetical question, though: If Ohtani suffered a season-ending injury tomorrow, would he still be named AL MVP?
Ohtani presently has a 9.3 bWAR, which is roughly where he finished each of the past two seasons—8.9 in 2021; 9.6 in 2022. The only player (batter or pitcher) to even reach 8.0 bWAR in either of the past two seasons was Aaron Judge, who had a preposterous 10.6 mark during his 62-homer campaign.
Surely, Baseball Reference's wins above replacement calculator isn't everything when it comes to deciding an MVP race. But it seems pertinent to the discussion that Ohtani has already produced as much value as he did while winning the award in 2021 and while finishing second only to a historical run last year.
It also seems pertinent that no one else is anywhere close to him right now.
Even if you entirely disregarded Ohtani's pitching, he would still be leading the AL in WAR.
The only players remotely in the same zip code as Ohtani in value added are Texas' Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, New York's Gerrit Cole, Chicago's Luis Robert Jr. and Tampa Bay's Wander Franco—the latter of whom is certainly out of the running amid the ongoing investigation into his alleged relationship with a minor.
Of that bunch, Seager has the best argument for AL MVP, even though he does not have enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title, as he has missed 43 games. When he has been able to play, however, he has triple-slashed .348/.411/.661 and has a 189 OPS+ that leaves every AL hitter not named Ohtani (186) in the dust.
Two other players worth mentioning as viable top-five candidates are Houston's Kyle Tucker and Baltimore's Adley Rutschman. The former has been Houston's rock, keeping the team afloat while basically every other main character in that lineup has endured slumps and/or injuries. The latter hasn't been anywhere near as individually valuable as he was last season, but Baltimore is a whole heck of a lot better and he is already the face of that franchise at just 25 years young.
Projected Top Five for AL MVP:
1. Shohei Ohtani
2. Corey Seager
3. Adley Rutschman
4. Kyle Tucker
5. Gerrit Cole