Tagged: Lance Lynn

The “Slightly Early” MLB Awards

July is in the books with Mike Trout of the Angels and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates taking home player of the month honors. Was it enough though to stay atop my MVP rankings? Let’s find out. Keeping with the Olympics theme as a protest to baseball and softball still not being included. All statistics are through play of August 1st.

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Todd Frazier, Reds

Update: Our sources tell us Lance Lynn, though not reaching the minimum innings total in 2011, was on the active roster for more than 45 days and is therefore NOT eligible as a rookie in 2012, awkward because MLB had him on the “Top Rookies Tracker” for a while.

Lucky for Reds fans, that means Todd Frazier gets the nod as the bronze medalist for NL Rookie of the Year. A first time appearance on the medal stand is largely due to his .275 average, 13 homers and 40 RBI this season. Frazier has basically rendered Scott Rolen useless for the Reds, especially in July when Frazier hit over .300 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI. Besides, how can we not include a guy who hits home runs by throwing his bat at the ball?

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

I was THIS close to dropping Harper to the bronze for this month. Harper quite frankly looked like a 19 year-old this past month hitting just .222 in July with one home run and seven RBI in 99 at-bats. I’m giving Harper some credit for the intangibles that he brings to Washington and helping keep them in first in the N.L. East. Most pundits will have Harper winning Rookie of the Year, but at this moment I don’t think it’s the case. Harper is closer to dropping down than overtaking my leader. Take a close look at the numbers and you could even say Reds Todd Frazier has been a better rookie hitter than The Chosen One. It’s a great 19 year-old season, just not the best rookie season in the N.L. right now.

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Where would the Diamondbacks be without Wade Miley? He’s just been so consistently good. Lance Lynn has had better months, but Miley hasn’t gotten blown up at all like Lynn has. July was just another ho-hum month for Miley going 3-2 with a 3.31 and 1.13 WHIP. Miley is 12-6 on the year and 2nd among NL rookies in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, plus 1st among N.L. rookies in WHIP. Miley is the real deal.

Just off the Podium: Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Michael Fiers, Brewers, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, and Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

Blind resume time! Player A: 11-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 ratio, and 2.07 K/BB ratio. Player B: 9-5 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, and 3.93 K/BB ratio. You’d rather have player B right now, right? Congrats, you just picked Scott Diamond over Rangers Yu Darvish, welcome to the club. We have a meeting every 5th day when he makes a start.

Silver Medal: Yoenis Céspedes, Athletics

A new addition to the rankings. I had been hesitant to add him due to his injury early in the season and players being ahead of him still. Since returning on June 1st, Céspedes is hitting .347, with 9 homers, a .391 OBP, and a .984 OPS. The Athletics are 29-15 over that span and are the biggest surprise in the American League in playoff contention. He’s 2nd among A.L. rookies in home runs, slugging, OPS, batting average, and runs scored. The only problem? Céspedes is 2nd in all those statistics to this next player.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

All of those numbers that I said Céspedes is 2nd in among A.L. rookies, Mike Trout is first in and it’s not even close. Tack on leading not just A.L. rookies, but the entire American League in stolen bases as well and we can move on to the next award. We’re going to Trout again in this blog I promise you.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Tommy Milone, Athletics, Tyson Ross, Athletics (not really on Ross, but you get the picture), Yu Darvish, Rangers, Jose Quintana, White Sox, Addison Reed, White Sox, Matt Moore, Rays, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Quintin Berry, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

If you thought the A.L. rookies was deep just now, wait until you see the National League pitching pool. For as amazing as R.A. Dickey was in June, he was that bad in July with a 5.13 ERA. That’s the life of a knuckleballer. Dickey goes from 1st to “just off the podium” and we welcome Jordan Zimmermann to the top three. When you think Nationals pitching you think Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but it’s Zimmermann that’s been the best of the three so far. His 8-6 record doesn’t reflect it, but he’s 2nd in the N.L. in ERA (I’m excluding Ryan Dempster), 5th in WHIP, 2nd in WAR and has shown great control in 4th in BB/9 and 9th in K/BB ratio. You’re more than welcome to make the case for Strasburg and it’s a great one, but Zimmermann deserves this spot.

Silver Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

Cueto takes another step up the podium in his pursuit of becoming the first Reds pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. Cueto leads the National League in pitcher WAR and is tied for the league lead in wins. He’s great at all times, but he’s a spectacular 9-0 in day games for the Reds. What’s the most impressive statistic on Cueto this season though? He is tops in the National League in home runs allowed per 9 innings at just 0.32. That’s incredible considering he pitches his home games in one of the easiest parks to hit a bomb.

Gold Medal: Matt Cain, Giants

Cueto moved up a spot, so I might as well move Matt Cain up another rung. Cain didn’t have the greatest July, but it was good enough to keep his overall numbers looking spectacular. He leads the league in WHIP at 1.00, 4th in ERA, 2nd in innings pitched, 1st in shutouts, and 7th in strikeouts. Cain becomes the 4th different pitcher in four months to be at the summit of my N.L. Cy Young rankings. With how wide open this race is, we could see a 5th at the start of September.

Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, R.A. Dickey, Mets, Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Madison Bumgarner, Giants, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Cole Hamels, Phillies, and A.J. Burnett, Pirates (Yes, that A.J. Burnett)

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Remember on MTV’s “Total Request Live” when the band Korn was always 3rd behind the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC? Alright you probably don’t, but like how #3 was the Korn spot, in these rankings #3 is the Sale spot. He’s there for the 3rd straight month. The young White Sox ace is 2nd in the American League in ERA and pitching WAR, 3rd in wins, WHIP and HR/9 ratio. It’s just not enough to get above the next two pitchers, one who has better numbers in a similar amount of innings and a pitcher with slightly worse numbers, but has tossed an extra 36 innings.


Co-Gold Medals: Jered Weaver, Angels and Justin Verlander, Tigers

Am I copping out this month? You bet I am. Last month, I said that the difference between the two pitchers was razor thin, but I gave the edge to Verlander because of the extra innings he’s thrown. Weaver answered by going 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in July. Verlander was “only” 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP last month. Overall numbers are pretty close too. Weaver leads in wins, ERA, and WHIP. Verlander leads in WAR, innings pitched, and complete games. Verlander also is 2nd in strikeouts by just one to Felix Hernandez and has great peripherals. Give me another month and we’ll discuss again.

Just off the Podium: David Price, Rays, Jake Peavy, White Sox, C.J. Wilson, Angels, Fernando Rodney, Rays, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, and Matt Harrison, Rangers

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Matt Holliday, Cardinals

No player made a bigger jump in the rankings for any award this month than Holliday. He went from not even “just off the podium” to bronze medal position. Holliday hit .363 with 7 home runs, 22 RBI and an eye-popping 1.130 OPS in July. The best hitter in the Cardinals lineup is now 1st in RBI, 3rd in offensive WAR and runs, 4th in OBP and 6th in batting average, slugging, and OPS and 5th in HR. He’s kept St. Louis alive in the wild card race.

Silver Medal: Ryan Braun, Brewers

Blind resume part two time! Player A hit .332 with a .397 OBP, .597 slugging, .994 OPS, 33 home runs, 109 runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Player B hit .313, with a .398 OBP, .604 slugging, 1.002 OPS, 45 home runs, 112 runs, 114 RBI, and 30 stolen bases. You’d lean towards player B again I think. Player A is Ryan Braun in his MVP season of 2011. Player B is Ryan Braun current projection for this season and is leading the league in runs and home runs. I know the Brewers aren’t in playoff contention like last season, but Braun isn’t the reason why. He’s been remarkable with the distractions of the offseason and no Prince Fielder protection in the lineup. Braun’s numbers are better this season, but he’s denied by one player who’s been even better.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

McCutchen had grabbed the gold medal in my N.L. MVP rankings last month and was even better in July. McCutchen his .446 with a crazy 1.249 OPS in taking home N.L. Player of the Month honors. McCutchen leads the league in offensive WAR, batting average (.372), slugging, total bases, and runs scored. He’s 3rd in home runs and chips in another 14 stolen bases. He’s the most complete hitter in the National League at this moment. Plus, having the Pirates in contention for the playoffs makes him the N.L. MVP hands down.

Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Joey Votto, Reds, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Buster Posey, Giants, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Yadier Molina, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, and Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Remember when Josh Hamilton was “running away” with the A.L. MVP and was a threat for the triple crown. Hamilton’s terrible June and atrocious July have officially knocked him from my top three. Cano has been the best hitter on the best team. He’s tied for 3rd in offensive WAR, tied for 5th in runs scored, 7th in slugging and OPS, and 9th in batting average and home runs. Add in his usual gold glove defense and Cano’s a contender for his 1st MVP.

Silver Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

I think it’s kind of funny that I have the guy Prince Fielder left and the guy Prince Fielder joined both at runner-up for MVP right now. Moving to 3rd base wasn’t a distraction at the plate as Cabrera has been his usual, fantastic self hitting .323, good for 2nd in the A.L. El Miggy Poco is 1st in RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases, 2nd in offensive WAR, 3rd in OPS, 4th in slugging, tied for 5th in runs, and 8th in OBP and home runs. He won’t win a Gold Glove any time soon, but his offensive firepower makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

When I put Mike Trout in the top spot for A.L. MVP last month I thought it was going to have some backlash. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any. Like McCutchen, Trout took over the top spot and was even better in July also winning Player of the Month honors while hitting .392, with 10 homers and 9 stolen bases. Trout has turned the fortunes around after a 6-14 start, sparking them to a 49-33 record and a wild card playoff spot at this writing. Trout leads the A.L. in batting average, stolen bases, runs scored and offensive WAR. He’s also top 3 in OBP, slugging, and OPS. We’re witnessing the greatest season by a 20 year-old in the history of baseball.

Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Adam Jones, Orioles, Mark Trumbo, Angels, Jered Weaver, Angels, Justin Verlander, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Curtis Granderson, and Josh Reddick, Athletics

Can’t believe we’re already through July of the 2012 season. With the 2nd Wild Card added the playoff races are crazy tight as it seems like more teams than not are still alive for a playoff spot. I don’t think any one will or should completely agree with my rankings, so let me know in the comments what you think!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The “Early” MLB Awards

Another month of of the MLB season in the books!  Means it’s time to knock another adjective off and dub this the “Early MLB Awards”.  I waited til the All-Star break to reveal my awards.  There was some movement compared to last month’s as we’ll have our third different player in three months leading for National League Cy Young.  With the Olympics coming up in a few weeks, going to do this in medal fashion once again.  Let’s get to the awards!

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Lance Lynn, Cardinals

A drop for Lynn in the rankings as he was in the top spot after both April and May.  June was not kind to the Cardinals rookie as he went 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA to bring his ERA up to 3.41 on the season.  Still solid numbers with the eleven wins on the year, but he’s been surpassed by the next two players.

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Another month, another step up the ladder in the N.L. Rookie of the Year rankings for Harper.  Harper was named the youngest position player All-Star in history replacing Giancarlo Stanton.  He’s been as advertised for the Nationals hitting .282, with eight homers and ten stolen bases.  Can he take one more step up the ladder in the 2nd half of the season?

Gold Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Who’s holding back Bryce Harper from being Rookie of the Year?  It’s not a clown question, bro.  The answer is Wade Miley.  Miley leads all National League rookies in ERA and is 2nd in wins behind Lance Lynn.  Miley’s numbers are more impressive when you realize he’s pitching in hitter-friendly Chase Field.  Will his season end up like 2011’s Ian Kennedy or Josh Collmenter?  That’s the clown question that decides if he can hold off Harper for the top spot.

Just off the Podium: Andrelton Simmons, Braves, Norichika Aoki, Brewers, Wilin Rosario, Rockies, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Scott Diamond, Twins

This was a tough call for 3rd place, but I’m going to mix it up since last month and give the nod to Scott Diamond over Ryan Cook.  Cook got the All-Star Game so we’ll call this even then.  Diamond is 7-3, with a 2.62 ERA and has been a bright spot for a Twins team that has really struggled this season.  Even more impressive has been Diamond’s control, just 1.4 BB/9 innings so far this season.  He’s been a diamond in the in rough for Minnesota.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Silver Medal: Yu Darvish, Rangers

Just like in the National League, the leader for Rookie of the Year the first two months of the season has been knocked off at the midway point in the season.  Darvish is 10-5 on the season with a 3.59 ERA.  Those numbers are higher than his 3.21 ERA after May.  Where Darvish is helped is by his tremendous strikeout numbers, he’s 4th in the American League with 117 and has 21 more punch outs than the next highest rookie in all of MLB.  (Matt Moore)

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

There is no holding Mike Trout back any more.  This is his award to lose and it’s not even close.  Trout didn’t even play the first month of the season and leads the American League in stolen bases.  Could we see him in this blog post again?  Keep reading.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Cook, Athletics, Robbie Ross, Rangers, Jarrod Parker, Athletics, Addison Reed, White Sox, Yoenis Cespedes, Atheltics, and Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Johnny Cueto, Reds

There is incredibly deep pitching depth at National League starting pitcher this season that players like Cueto and James McDonald who have delivered for their teams don’t even make the All-Star team.  Hopefully being 3rd in my rankings will make Cueto feel a little bit better.  This easily could have gone to any one that I’ll list on “just off the podium”, but Cueto leads the N.L. in pitcher WAR along with R.A. Dickey.  He’s 4th in ERA while throwing the 2nd most innings so far this year, just .1 IP behind Clayton Kershaw.  Cueto does lead in adjusted ERA, when you factor in he pitches in Great American Ballpark.

Silver Medal: Matt Cain, Giants

The Giants are looking like geniuses after signing Cain to an extension at the start of this season.  Cain is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP, while again throwing the same amount of innings (120.1) as Johnny Cueto.  I have no qualms with him getting to start the All-Star Game for the National League as he has been magnificent.  Cain is 2nd in innings, WHIP, complete games, 4th in strikeouts and leads in shutouts and K/BB ratio.  Plus, I haven’t even mentioned the perfect game he pitched on June 14th, the first in Giants history.  How isn’t he #1 in the Cy Young rankings then?

Gold Medal: R.A. Dickey, Mets

R.A. Dickey, that’s how.  What’s more impressive that a perfect game?  Back-to-back one-hitters is.   There have been twenty-two perfect games in MLB history, but only seven occurrences of back-to-back one-hitters, the last by Dave Stieb in 1988.  Dickey leads the senior circuit in wins, WHIP, pitcher WAR, complete games, and shutouts.  He’s also 2nd in strikeouts, while maintaining a nifty 2.40 ERA.  Not bad for a 37 year-old knuckleballer.

Just off the Podium: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, James McDonald, Pirates, Zack Greinke, Brewers, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Ryan Vogelsong, Giants, Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Kyle Lohse, Cardinals, Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals and Craig Kimbrel, Braves

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Sale stays in the bronze medal position for now.  You can make a case he should be #2 or even #1 as he is 2nd in the American League in ERA (2.19), pitching WAR (4.2), plus 3rd in wins (10) and WHIP (0.96).  It will be a huge 2nd half story line for the White Sox as Sale already has pitched about innings this season (102.1) as he had in 2010 and 2011 combined (104.2).

Silver Medal: Jered Weaver, Angels

Weaver has been an absolute dream for Angels fans in 2012.  He leads the A.L. in ERA (1.96) and WHIP (0.90), while having a 10-1 record for the Halos.  Just mind-boggling numbers in the much better hitting American League.  There’s only one thing holding me back from putting him in the top spot at this juncture.  The three weeks he missed at the end of May/start of June with back spasms.  Luckily for Weaver he has the entire 2nd half to chase down the pitcher in the top spot.  If he stays healthy, I have a feeling he will.

Gold Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

If you want to be the American League Cy Young Award, you have to knock the king from his throne.  Verlander’s peripheral numbers aren’t as good as Weaver’s, with a 2.58 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.  However, factor in that Verlander has pitched 35 more innings than Weaver, you can’t argue who has been more valuable to their team at this juncture of the season.  Verlander leads the A.L. in strikeouts (128), innings pitched (132.2), complete games (5) and pitcher WAR (4.3).  They should just rename him Justin Bullpensaver.

Just off the Podium: David Price, Fernando Rodney, Rays, Jim Johnson, Orioles, Jake Peavy, White Sox, Matt Harrison, Rangers, C.J. Wilson, Angels, Felix Hernandez, Mariners, and Ernesto Frieri, Angels

National League M.V.P.

Bronze Medal: David Wright, Mets

The man who should be starting at third base for the National League (thanks again, Giants fans).  Wright leads the N.L. in WAR, while being in the top 5 in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.441), OPS (1.004), and doubles (27).  He’s also 5th in runs batted in with 59.  He’s come through time after time for the surprising Mets.  Here’s just one example.

Silver Medal: Joey Votto, Reds

When I put Joey Votto in the top spot last month I thought I wouldn’t remove him from that top spot for the rest of this season.  Here we are just a short month later and Votto is dropped to number two.  It’s not Votto’s fault, he’s still been fantastic, leading the National League in on-base percentage (.471!), OPS (1.087), doubles (35), and is hitting a robust .348 (only good enough for 5th).  The difference in value between Votto and the player I have in the gold medal position is Votto’s teams is in second place, while this next player sits atop his division’s standings.

Gold Medal: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Has there been a better player since June 1st than Andrew McCutchen?  The numbers say no.  He’s hit .401, with 30 runs, 35 runs batted in, and 10 home runs in 137 at-bats.  Even more importantly, the Pirates are 23-11 in that span, and have taken over 1st place in the N.L. Central.  McCutchen leads the National League in batting average (.362), offensive WAR (4.9), total bases (193) and slugging (.625).  He is top 3 in OPS, hits, runs, AND RBI.  McCutchen has blossomed and could lead the Buccos to their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.

Just off the Podium: Ryan Braun, Brewers, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Ruiz, Phillies, Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, R.A. Dickey, Mets

American League M.V.P.

Bronze Medal: Robinson Cano, Yankees

The Yankees have the best record in baseball, so there has to be someone from that team in the top 3.  None have been better than Robinson Cano.  He leads the American league in total bases and is top eight in offensive WAR, OPS, batting average, slugging, OPS, runs, hits, doubles, and home runs.  All the while playing a Gold Glove-caliber second base.  He’s evolved into the next great Yankee.

Silver Medal: Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Similar to Joey Votto, I thought Hamilton was going to go wire-to-wire in taking home his 2nd A.L. M.V.P. award.  Not so fast.  Since June 1st, Hamilton is hitting just .217 and has struck out 37 times in 117 at-bats and opened the door for someone to pass him.  Hamilton’s season numbers are still great as he leads the A.L. in slugging, OPS, and home runs for a team that is in 1st place.

Gold Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

Trout was called up April 28th, essentially missing the first month of the season.  The Angels record was 6-14, they were falling quickly behind the surging Texas Rangers.  Since then, the Angels are 42-24, the best record in baseball in that span.  Trout has been the reason why.  He’s been amazing on the basepaths leading the A.L. in stolen bases with 26.  He’s hitting .341.  He’s 6th in the A.L. in runs scored with 57 in 64 games.  He’s top six in OBP, slugging, and OPS.  He leads the American League in offensive WAR at 3.8.  Now imagine those numbers if he had played in the first 20 games of the season!  He’s played a superb center field and has the defensive play of the season.

He’s probably been the best player in the league, but there’s no doubt to me that he’s been the most valuable.

Just off the Podium: Paul Konerko, White Sox, Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, David Ortiz, Red Sox, Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, and Adam Jones, Orioles

There they are.  My midseason picks for the MLB awards.  Quick hit picks on the Managers of the Year.  I would take Clint Hurdle over Davey Johnson and Terry Collins in the N.L. and Buck Showalter over Robin Ventura, Ron Washington, and Joe Girardi in the A.L.  Let me know who you should be in line for some hardware at this point in the MLB season.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Projecting the NL All-Star Roster

Yesterday, I gave you my projected A.L. All-Star roster that can be found down below this post. Today with the final voting update being released for the National League, let’s see if I can figure out what the N.L. roster will look like. I’m really glad that Tony LaRussa retired and has a ton of time on his hands to figure out the roster, because this thing is pretty tough. Especially trying to put a Padres representative on the team.

Catcher

Starter: Buster Posey, Giants

Reserves: Yadier Molina, Cardinals and Carlos Ruiz, Phillies

This will be a close battle all the way to the end as Molina may still end up starting the game. Posey could be in danger of not making the game if not named the starter as Molina and Ruiz are the two clear-cut top catchers this season. LaRussa could decide that two catchers are enough and go with an extra back-up somewhere else.

First Base

Starter: Joey Votto, Reds

Reserve: Martin Prado, Braves

This is where I had to get creative. No offensive position has gone without a backup since Derrek Lee in 2005 for the N.L. In that game, Morgan Ensberg who was designated as a 3B moved over to replace Lee in the game. In 2002, Alfonso Soriano was the only 2B for the American League and Omar Vizquel switched over from SS to play 2B. There is precedent to not have a backup 1B and I don’t think there should be. The only one I can make a case for is the Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt, but it would be bad if he becomes Arizona’s lone representative over a deserving Wade Miley. Prado is a versatile player that plays outfield, third base, and first base for the Braves. He’s a deserving All-Star, but N.L. outfield is so deep (we’ll get to that soon) that this is a way to get Prado on the team. I’m still figuring out why there are 873,526 wasted votes on Ryan Howard who hasn’t played this season.

Second Base

Starter: Dan Uggla, Braves

Reserve: Jose Altuve, Astros

Uggla has fallen off hitting just .179 in the month of June, but Braves fans have continued to vote for him. He has a healthy lead on Brandon Phillips going into the final stage of voting. Altuve has been a find for the Astros hitting over .300 and being 5th in the league in hits. Phillips gets bumped to the Final Vote as the only infielder represented.

Shortstop

Starter: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals

Reserve: Starlin Castro, Cubs

The injury woes of Troy Tulowitzki will allow Furcal to make his 3rd All-Star team in 13 seasons and it’s deserved. Furcal looked done after last season, but has bounced back to hit .287 and be solid atop the Cardinals lineup. Castro is the Cubs lone representative for the 2nd straight year. Pretty impressive for a 22 year-old.

Third Base

Starter: David Wright, Mets

Reserves: Chipper Jones, Braves and David Freese, Cardinals

I’ve made it clear previously that I think that Chipper Jones should be starting the All-Star Game in his final season. Here’s my solution. The National League will need a designated hitter, so who better than Chipper Jones? He could have his moment like Cal Ripken did in 2001 and David Wright still gets to start at 3B like he deserves. I’m sure Chipper’s knees would also appreciate not having to play the field. Freese has been solid for the Cardinals as he’s top 10 in the league in HR’s and RBI. I’m sure LaRussa will bring him along after his postseason heroics in 2011.

Outfield

Starters: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, and Ryan Braun, Brewers

Reserves: Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers

This is by far the deepest position in all of the Majors. Not making the team includes Michael Bourn, Matt Holliday and Hunter Pence who have all been fantastic. Mike Trout was able to make my A.L. squad, but the deepness at the position here blocks Bryce Harper from making the initial squad at 19 years old. There is still a tight battle for the final starting spot between Braun and Cabrera, but both will make the team. Gonzalez and Stanton are being snubbed by voters, but will be the solo representatives for the Rockies and Marlins respectively. Ethier sneaks in the final outfield spot as he’s helped keep the Dodgers afloat in Matt Kemp’s absence. Kemp’s injury will hopefully open up an extra spot for Bourn, Holliday, or Pence.

Starting Pitcher

Starter: R.A. Dickey, Mets

Reserves: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto, Reds, James McDonald, Pirates, Lance Lynn, Cardinals, Chris Capuano, Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

The battle to be the starting pitcher couldn’t be any closer between Dickey, Strasburg, and Cain. I just think that Dickey is such a wonderful story that it would be amazing to have him start the game, so I gave him the edge. My American League roster had eight starters, but there are so many options in the N.L. that I upped it to ten. Even that wasn’t enough as Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke get snubbed. I believe that LaRussa will err on the side of the Cardinals and take Lance Lynn for the last pitching spot. Wade Miley is rightfully Arizona’s only representative.

Relief Pitcher

Reserves: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Aroldis Chapman, Reds, and Huston Street, Padres

Kimbrel has been lights out all season. Chapman had been perfect up until recently, but they are the two fireballers that the senior circuit needs to close out the game. Street goes to the game because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a Padre on the roster. I couldn’t have Carlos Quentin take a spot from one of the outfielders, Chase Headley over David Freese, or have Yonder Alonso be the back-up 1B. Street missed time with an injury, but has a 1.50 ERA and 0.78 ERA when healthy this season.

Final Vote

Michael Bourn, Braves, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Brandon Phillips, Reds, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, and Bryce Harper, Nationals

When I originally wrote out my roster Harper making the Final Vote didn’t even cross my mind. Then I had an epiphany, there is no way MLB doesn’t put Harper in, just to stir up some excitement for it. There are great voting fan bases represented in this final vote and I sadly couldn’t put in Zack Greinke. Greinke and Hamels will hopefully make the team on the “pitcher pitching Sunday” rule. Bourn has been wonderful leading off the Braves lineup and is among the league leaders in WAR. Brandon Phillips might make the All-Star game as a starter still, but him being in the Final Vote let’s him use his social media skills to the fullest.

Team Breakdown

Cardinals-5

Dodgers and Braves-4

Giants and Reds-3

Mets, Nationals, and Pirates-2

Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, and Marlins-1

Unlike the American League, I feel like there are a ton of snubs on my National League team. Joel Hanrahan, Tyler Clippard, Kenley Jansen, Zack Greinke, Hunter Pence, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jed Lowrie just to name a few. Who would make your National League roster? Let me know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The Too Early MLB Awards

At the beginning of May I unveiled my Way Too Early MLB Awards” to show who’s in the pole position for each award at this juncture of the season. Another month is in the books so let’s knock off an adjective and dub this the “Too Early MLB Awards”. Going to mix up the format with the Summer Olympics coming this summer and have a top three for each award in medal order. Sadly, there is no baseball at the London Olympics, so I have to make a connection to bring it back for 2020. Please note this is not a “player of the month” post. This is cumulative from the start of the season until now. The May Player of the Month awards have already been handed out by MLB. Josh Hamilton and Giancarlo Stanton were the top hitters, Chris Sale and Gio Gonzalez were the top pitchers, and Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were the top rookies. Where do they land in my awards?

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Bryce Harper, Nationals

No better place to start than the May NL Rookie of the Month. The 19 year-old phenom has been everything Nationals fans hoped he would be since getting called up. Harper is hitting .288 thus far and has provided some consistency in the middle of the Washington lineup. His .922 OPS leads all MLB rookies. He still has time to track down the two rookies I have ahead of him for the award.

Silver Medal: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks

Miley took home top NL rookie honors in April and didn’t slow down very much in May. Miley leads Arizona with six wins and has the best ERA in the rotation at 2.72. Unfortunately for Miley, one player has even better statistics.

Gold Medal: Lance Lynn, Cardinals

Lynnsanity has hit St. Louis with full force. Lynn leads not just rookies, but is tied for the MLB lead with eight winsalong with Cole Hamels and R.A. Dickey. Lynn’s 2.63 ERA is the best among eligible starting rookie pitchers, while holding batters to a paltry .213 batting average over 68.1 innings. Lynn has been the anchor on a pitching staff still missing Chris Carpenter and waiting for Adam Wainwright to be 100%.

Just off the Podium: Yonder Alonso, Padres, Steve Lombardozzi, Nationals, and Kirk Nieuwenheis, Mets

American League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Ryan Cook, Athletics

Yoenis Cespedes was the big name rookie for Oakland coming into this season. Jarrod Parker was the big get in the Trevor Cahill trade with Arizona in the offseason. But who has outperformed both so far this season in the Bay Area? Ryan Cook. Cook has appeared in 23 games for Oakland and has only given up a run in one appearance for an exquisite 0.75 ERA. He’s the Athletics closer of the future if they decide to deal Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour at the trade deadline.

Silver Medal: Mike Trout, Angels

I think when we reach the end of this season Mike Trout will end up as you 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. For now though, he’ll have to settle for the silver. Trout has been even better than Bryce Harper since they got called up on the same day. Trout leads all rookies in batting average at .315 and stolen bases with nine. He’s second among all rookies in OPS and OBP (behind Harper) and in slugging (behind Will Middlebrooks). More importantly he’s been the spark plug for a languishing Angels team that has surged since his call-up.

Gold Medal: Yu Darvish, Rangers

Darvish keeps his top spot in my rankings, for now. Darvish leads American League rookies in wins (7) and strikeouts (71) while keeping together a solid 3.21 ERA. Darvish’s .230 batting average against has been great, but when you add in his wildness thus far, his WHIP is at a 1.44. With the way Trout has come out of the gate, Darvish’s days on the top of the rookie heap may be numbered.

Just off the Podium: Jesus Montero, Mariners, Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox, and Drew Smyly, Tigers

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Brandon Beachy, Braves

There is a ton of great pitching in the National League right now as evidenced by the NL leader in ERA being just 3rd in my Cy Young rankings right now. Beachy also leads in adjusted ERA and adjusted pitching wins, plus is 3rd in WHIP and tied for 2nd in WAR among NL pitchers. The pitcher that never pitched a game before getting drafted has adjusted tremendously to the mound.

Silver Medal: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

This will be a controversial pick I’m sure, but how can I not include a player who hasn’t given up a run in 28 innings and has 50 strikeouts this season. Let me repeat that AROLDIS CHAPMAN HAS NOT GIVEN UP A RUN IN 28 INNINGS AND HAS 50 STRIKEOUTS. I didn’t even pitch that well in video games when I was little. He’s done it in a set-up role and now as the closer for Cincinnati. He leads the NL in K/9 ratio, base-out runs saved, and win probability added. Chapman just has jaw-dropping numbers right now.

Gold Medal: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Another month, another Nationals pitcher atop my rankings. Gonzalez has been arguably the best offseason acquisition in the Majors as he’s adjusted beautifully to the NL. Gonzalez sports a nifty 2.04 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, both numbers 2nd best in the senior circuit. He also his tied for 2nd with teammate Stephen Strasburg in strikeouts, but leads the NL in K/9 ratio. The best case for Gonzalez as NL Cy Young right now is that he leads NL pitchers in WAR at 2.4. Four pitchers are behind him a 2.0 including the aforementioned Beachy who Gonzalez beat head to head on the road on Memorial Day eve. Gonzalez and Strasburg have formed the best current 1-2 pitching punch in MLB.

Just off the Podium: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Johan Santana, Mets, R.A. Dickey, Mets, James McDonald, Pirates, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Anibal Sanchez, Marlins and Cole Hamels, Phillies (told you NL pitching was deep)

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Chris Sale, White Sox

Is Sale a reliever? Is Sale a starter? I think after his 15-strikeout performance that the White Sox have figured out Sale belongs at the top of the rotation for a long time. Sale currently leads the American League in ERA and adjusted ERA. He’s gotten better it seems with each start since rejoining the rotation going from 5 IP and 3 ER to 5.1 IP and 1 ER to 7 shutout innings to the amazing 15 strikeouts in 7.1 IP against the Rays. He’s even started June off on the right foot with his first career complete game against the Mariners.

Silver Medal: Jake Peavy, White Sox

As good as Chris Sale has been, he hasn’t eclipsed his teammate Jake Peavy. Peavy was in the number one spot after April but slips back to #2 this month. Peavy’s numbers are still great with a 3.05 ERA and 2nd in the AL 0.93 WHIP. He’s also 2nd in WAR and situational wins saved. Peavy is 2nd of course to the guy in the #1 spot right now.

Gold Medal: Justin Verlander, Tigers

What’s weird is before I started digging into the numbers I didn’t think Verlander had been all that great. Before his 6/2 start against the Yankees, he led the American League in WHIP, strikeouts, WAR, and complete games. He had his first career one-hitter against the Pirates after losing a no-no in the top of the 9th. Even more impressive he’s gone 6 innings or more in 54 consecutive starts. The man is a workhorse, the best pitcher in the game right now, and my “too early” pick for AL Cy Young.

Just off the Podium: Jered Weaver, Angels, David Price, Rays, CC Sabathia, Yankees, Jim Johnson, Orioles, CJ Wilson, Angels and Fernando Rodney, Rays

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Melky Cabrera, Giants

Please don’t spit your drink out at your computer upon reading this. I decided pretty quickly who my #1 is for this award and then there was a cluster of about five to seven players than had a case for second and third. I went with Cabrera for now just because he’s leading the league in batting average, hits, and triples. Plus, he has helped tremendously with an anemic Giants offense scoring 40 runs atop that lineup, good for 2nd best in the NL. It was really tough to not give David Wright this spot or even the next one.

Silver Medal: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies

I can’t get blamed for being a biased Braves fan and anti-David Wright if I put Carlos Ruiz second and leave off Michael Bourn right? Chooch has been everything for the Phillies in 2012. He’s had his normal brilliance behind the plate with the pitching staff, but it’s at the plate where Ruiz has shined this season. He’s just behind Cabrera in batting average at .371, while being 4th in OBP, SLG, and OPS. He is the only player in either league to be in the top 6 in both offensive AND defensive WAR. He deserves to start the All-Star Game.

Gold Medal: Joey Votto, Reds

When the season started with Votto’s long, expensive extension people thought it might have been the wrong move. I was ridiculed when I made him the first pick in my jersey draft early this season. Votto has been nothing short of brilliant thus far for the 1st place Reds. Votto is tops in the NL in WAR, OBP, OPS, walks, doubles, and extra-base hits. Matt Kemp’s injuries assured Votto the top spot, but Votto might have taken it anyway.

Just off the Podium: David Wright, Mets, Michael Bourn, Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Adam Jones, Orioles

This was probably the simplest of the awards for me. There are three clear-cut guys for AL MVP right now to me and they sort out nicely. Jones definitely earned his 85.5 million extension from Baltimore and it’s clear that this is his team. Jones has been a dual threat as he has 16 home runs (tied for 5th) and has nine stolen bases (tied for 6th) and should soon become the 1st player in the ALto double digits in both categories. Jones is 2nd in offensive WAR, plus adding his usual Gold Glove defense. Jones has evolved into a complete five-tool player. He’s one of the major reasons the Orioles are the biggest surprise in the AL.

Silver Medal:Paul Konerko, White Sox

If it wasn’t for the guy at #1, Konerko would have a legit chance at his first MVP award. You know what? He still might. Konerko currently is in the lead in batting average and OBP, while runner-up in slugging, OPS, and offensive WAR. He even finished 2nd on this week “MLB Player Poll” in which the question was “Who is the most underrated player in MLB?” One of these days he’ll be on top, probably when he sneaks across 500 home runs without anyone noticing.

Gold Medal: Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Was there any doubt who would still be number one? Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better he adds a FOUR HOMER GAME to his resume in May in taking home his 2nd Player of the Month award this season. Let’s just knock out all the categories he leads the American League in for the first-place Rangers and call it a blog post. Ready? Hamilton is 1st in WAR, slugging, OPS, home runs, total bases, runs batted in, extra-base hits, and even sacrifice flies. He’s the best player by far on a first place team, it’s his award to lose.

Just off the Podium: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays, Jason Kipnis, Indians, Derek Jeter, Yankees, Adam Dunn, White Sox, Mark Trumbo, Angels, David Ortiz, Red Sox and Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

What do you think I missed on? Should I really have had Melky Cabrera top 3 for NL MVP? Or Aroldis Chapman who spent most of the year in middle relief 2nd for a Cy Young? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The Way Too Early MLB Awards

May is upon us!  Let’s hand out the awards if the MLB season was only one month long.  Thankfully, it’s not.  All stats are as of May 2nd.

American League Rookie of the Year

Yu Darvish, Rangers

I strongly dislike the rule that allows Japanese players to be eligible for Rookie of the Year, but I digress.  Darvish has been nothing short of phenomenal after a rough first start against the Mariners.  Darvish completed April 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA.  Darvish also is not doing this against weak competion, three of his five starts have come at Detroit, vs. New York, and at Toronto.  This is his award to lose.  There are other rookies that have had a great start including the Mariners Jesus Montero (.294 BA, 4HR), Athletics Yeonis Cespedes (5HR, 20 RBI, 4SB) and don’t sleep on call-ups A’s Jarrod Parker and Angels Mike Trout to get themselves into the race.

National League Rookie of the Year

Lance Lynn, Cardinals

You’d be shocked if I told you that there was a rookie that had been even more impressive than Yu Darvish.  However, in the National League Cardinals Lance Lynn has been everything and more for St. Louis.  Thrust into the rotation with Chris Carpenter’s injury, Lynn finished April 4-0 with a scant 1.33 ERA.  Lynn also has a solid 24/6 K/BB ratio.  Lynn is 4th in the NL in ERA and 2nd in WHIP.  Those stats are among all players, not just rookies.  Reds Zack Cozart and Diamondbacks Wade Miley are on the radar after good April’s, but the real contender is if Bryce Harper can be impressive enough to wrestle the award away from Lance Lynn.

American League Cy Young

Jake Peavy, White Sox

Idon’t expect Peavy to be the AL Cy Young winner when the season is over, but at this moment he has been the most impressive pitcher in the American League.  Peavy leads the league in ERA (1.67), WHIP (0.69) and complete games (2).  He’s erased the questions marks that came into the season and looks back to his prime days in San Diego where he won the 2007 NL Cy Young.  There is no shortage of contenders for this prize.  Mariners Felix Hernandez (1st in win probabilty added and strikeouts), Angels Jered Weaver (3-0, 2.02 ERA) and defending champion Tigers Justin Verlander (2nd in WHIP, 4th in strikeouts), and the adformentioned Yu Darvish lurking.

National League Cy Young

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

This was the closest call so far.  Matt Cain has been great for the Giants leading the NL in WHIP (0.68) and has a 2.35 ERA, but the 1-2 record unfortunately is enough of a detractor for me.  Journeymen pitchers DBacks Joe Saunders, Cardinals Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook, and Dodgers Ted Lilly have far exceeded expectations thus far.  However, the award right now would go to Stephen Strasburg.  Strasburg has been the anchor of the best starting rotation in the NL supporting a 1.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, while sporting a 9.6 K/9 ratio.  Even more impressive is Strasburg has yet to allow a home run this year.  Strasburg is in no way a sure thing to win this as his innings limit might let others come up to his level, especially Roy Halladay who may end up throwing 70 more quality innings than Strasburg.

American League MVP

Josh Hamilton, Rangers

A tight four-way race right now for the AL MVP between Hamilton, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Paul Konerko.  Hamilton gets the leg up for leading in what I think is one of the most important statistics, OPS at 1.182.  Hamilton also leads the AL in home runs, runs batted in, total bases, while maintaining .395 batting average good for 2nd in the AL.  The question as always with Hamilton is his health, but if he can get in 130+ games like he did in his 2010 MVP season.  Hamilton is well on his way to joining Juan Gonzalez as Texas Rangers with multiple MVP’s.  Don’t let Hamilton’s domination let you sleep on the older guys.  Derek Jeter is still hitting .400 into May and leads the AL in OBP (.440) at 37 years old.  David Ortiz at age 36, is 2nd in the AL in OBP, slugging, hits, while hitting .386.  Paul Konerko, also 36 years old, is the White Sox offense and is just a notch behind the other three in most statistical categories, but is doing it all with a weaker offense around him.  This should be an exciting race all season.

National League MVP

Matt Kemp, Dodgers

I’ll end it with the easiest of the easy calls.  Kemp has been otherworldly thus far for the Dodgers.  Should I start with the .409 batting average or the .864 slugging percentage, or the 1.349 OPS, or the 12 home runs, or possibly the 76 total bases?  Those are all categories that Kemp not just leads in, but is blowing away the rest of the competition.  Kemp has the Dodgers sitting in 1st place as we speak, which might be the most impressive out of everything.  Matt Kemp is on pace for a season for the ages.

Who do you think should be taking home the hardware after April?

-Bryan Mapes