After a long, winding season, the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season has finally come to an end. With the playoffs now underway, it is a good time to look back on the best overall performers of this past season. There were plenty of standouts, and we have an idea who the most likely contenders are for the American and National League Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and Cy-Young awards. It is a particularly difficult year, as there are very few runaways. There are several deserving players for each of the six major awards.
In the race for the American League MVP award, third-baseman Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays and outfielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels appear to be the two front-runners. Both had remarkable seasons. The twenty-nine-year-old Donaldson batted .297 with 41 home runs and led the majors with 122 runs scored. He also finished with the second-highest number of runs batted in (123), trailing fellow third-baseman Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies (130). Mike Trout, the young superstar, continued to wow baseball fans in his age-24 season—he hit .299, slugging 41 home runs (the first time the prolific Trout has reached 40 in a season), and scored 104 times. It is important not to forget the stellar season of Nelson Cruz, who has been largely overlooked due to his less-impressive Seattle Mariners team. The 35-year-old Cruz hit for a .302 average and hit 44 home runs. I predict that Trout will win the award. Down the stretch, Trout, along with teammate Albert Pujols, carried the offense on his back, while Donaldson had the luxury of the American League’s most powerful offense behind him.
In the National League, the recipient of the MVP award seems more certain. Bryce Harper had one of the best seasons in recent memory. The 22-year-old phenom slugged 42 homers and batted .330, finishing in the top five for both categories. He also drove in 99 runs and scored 118 himself. Had Harper not had such a stellar season, other contenders would be the Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (.278 AVG, 31 HR, 101 RBI), Kris Bryant (.275 AVG, 26 HR, 99 RBI), and Cy-Young frontrunner Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA, 236 SO), Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt (.300 AVG, 19 HR), and the New York Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes (.291 AVG, 35 HR, 105 RBI).
The American League Rookie of the Year Award is another tossup—two shortstops, Houston’s Carlos Correa and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, had impressive first seasons. Correa hit .279 with 22 home runs after being called up to the majors on June 8th. Lindor was called up on June 14th and batted .313 with 12 home runs. Although Correa would likely have mashed 30 home runs had he played the entire season, Lindor proved to be a talented sacrifice bunter and also appeared better defensively, showing that the Rookie of the Year award belongs in Cleveland.
As with the National League MVP race, the National League Rookie of the Year race is also fairly clear. Kris Bryant had a spectacular first season, batting .275 while hitting 26 homers and driving in 99 runs. Other National League rookies deserving recognition include San Francisco third-baseman Matt Duffy (.295, 12 HR, 77 RBI), who proved an effective replacement for Pablo Sandoval, and Pittsburgh third-baseman Jung Ho Kang (.287, 15 HR, 58 RBI).
The American League Cy-Young award will likely go to either the Houston Astros’ ace Dallas Keuchel, or the Toronto Blue Jays’ mid-season pickup, David Price. Keuchel, who was fantastic from start-to-finish, went 20-8, with a 2.48 ERA. His competitor went 18-5, with a slightly lower 2.45 ERA. Another lesser contender is Sonny Gray (14-7, 2.73 ERA), who found himself stuck with the basement-dwelling Oakland Athletics. The award will go to Keuchel due to his dominant performance at home—he went 15-0, with a 1.46 ERA and 139 strikeouts in Houston..
The National League Cy-Young race is the most exciting one of all.The Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitchers Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw both turned in historic seasons, as did the Chicago Cubs’ breakout star, Jake Arrieta, and the Washington Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer. Greinke led the majors in ERA at 1.66,, and won 19 games, losing only three. Kershaw, after an uncharacteristic rough beginning to the year, ended up with yet another great season. He became the first 300-strikeout pitcher since 2002, when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson both reached the mark. He finished 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA. Arrieta led the majors in wins, at 22, and lost just six games in addition to a 1.77 ERA. Scherzer, while he will not win the award, is worth mentioning. He made history during the last weekend of the season when he tossed his second no-hitter of the year. He finished 14-12 with a 2.79 ERA and 276 strikeouts. Greinke, in a close contest, will win the award.