The MLB offseason just got underway with the World Series ending last week. Baseball fans are eager for the big free agent signings and blockbuster trades that happen every year, but before that, we have the awards for the 2023 season. The Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers have already been given out, but the major award winners will be revealed next week. With three finalists for each award set to make their case, let’s go through the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year, and see who I think is worthy of winning it.
AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani
Who else would win the AL MVP award than the generational talent of Shohei Ohtani? He already won MVP two years ago, and was second behind Aaron Judge’s historical season last year; but he arguably had the best season of his career thus far. His season was cut short in the middle of September due to an elbow injury, limiting him to 135 games and 23 starts. His numbers were still unprecedented though. He had a career-best .304 batting average, an AL-leading 44 home runs, and the MLB’s best OPS at 1.066. He also stole 20 bags, marking the second 40 HR-20 SB season of his career. His pitching was also dominant throughout the season, with a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings. He struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings and was the Angels ace while being their best hitter the whole season. There’s simply no one else doing what Shohei has accomplished, and his combined 9.0 WAR shows he’s the most valuable player in the league. Now we wait to see what team he’ll sign for in the offseason.
NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr.
While it was an unbelievably tight race between Acuna and Mookie Betts, I think Ronald will be the winner of the NL MVP award. Acuna is the first player to achieve a 40 home run- 70 stolen base season in MLB history, showing the historic power and speed threat that he is. He also recorded a .337 average and the best OPS in the NL with a 1.012. Betts and Acuna are deadlocked in WAR with an 8.3 each as Mookie definitely has the defensive advantage, but Acuna is better in almost every other major statistic. It’s amazing to see what Ronald has overcome in the past few years after suffering a gruesome knee injury back in 2021. His 2022 numbers were down compared to his usual performance, but 2023 is easily his best season. This should be his 1st, and probably not his last, MVP award.
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
At last, after five consecutive seasons being in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting (four straight in the Top 5 from 2018-2021), Gerrit Cole is finally on track for his 1st Cy Young award. While it may not be his best season statistically, it was definitely his best season as a New York Yankee through four seasons. Cole led the AL in ERA with a 2.63, and was a workhorse for the pinstripes this season, recording an AL-best 209 innings and 33 starts. His K/9 dropped drastically to a 9.6, as he was in the 11-13 K/9 range the past five seasons. He still struck out 222 batters, marking his five straight full seasons with over 200+ Ks. It’s also worth noting he had the best WHIP in the MLB, a statistic that shows how many batters get on-base per inning against a pitcher. Cole recorded a 0.981 WHIP for the season. The lack of strikeouts is a big flaw, but there isn’t much competition with the other candidates, Kevin Gausman and Sonny Gray.
NL Cy Young: Blake Snell
Padres starter Blake Snell had one of the most interesting, but dominant seasons in recent MLB memory. A former Cy Young award winner back in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays, Snell is once again in the driver’s seat to win with an MLB-best 2.22 ERA. He also struck out 11.7 batters per nine innings, and kept the ball in the park with a 0.8 HR/9. Detractors will look at his glaring control issue throughout the season, with a 5.0 BB/9, and recording the most walks in the MLB with 99. He also doesn’t go deep into his starts, recording 180 innings in 32 starts, averaging 5.2 innings a start. The other candidates, Zac Gallen and Logan Webb, both provided more longevity, with 210+ innings each. In terms of ERA and strikeouts though, Snell is superior. While he only gave about five innings a night and walked a ton of batters, Blake simply didn’t give up runs and also struck out 234 batters throughout the season.
AL Rookie of the Year: Gunnar Henderson
I would love to be biased and pick the Red Sox candidate in first baseman Triston Casas, but I admit Gunnar Henderson is the superior choice for ROTY. Casas does have the advantage in some offensive categories, including OPS (.856) and On-Base Percentage (.367), but Henderson has been consistent throughout the whole season and the counting numbers are impressive. Henderson hit 28 home runs, with 29 doubles, and nine triples, giving him 66 extra-base hits in 2023. His .814 OPS is also great, and he has the best WAR among AL Rookies with a 4.6. Casas did have a scorching hot second half to the season, but Henderson was the better player for the whole season, as he played 150 games.
NL Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll
I can’t decide if this is the easiest pick so far, or the Shohei MVP pick, but Diamondbacks outfield Corbin Carroll should win the NL ROTY by a landslide. From Opening Day, Carroll made an instant impact on the D-Backs with his dual-threat ability of power and speed. He hit 25 home runs, 30 doubles, and an NL-best 10 triples. He’s one of the fastest players in the league, as he stole 54 bags. His speed also helped his defensive ability, giving him 4 outs above average in right field. His .868 OPS is 2nd best among NL rookies, only behind Rockies outfield Nolan Jones, but he played far fewer games (Carroll’s 155 to Jones’ 107). His 6.0 WAR, which led all rookies this season, perfectly shows why he should win. His impact brought Arizona to a bottom team in the NL all the way to a World Series berth.
AL Manager of the Year: Brandon Hyde
Admittedly, I’m not going to go too in-depth with the Manager of the Year picks, but I think Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde should win the award. Bruce Bochy is an intriguing candidate as the Rangers won the World Series, but I feel like Baltimore still exceeded their expectations more than Texas this season (in the regular season that is). The Rangers went into this year with some huge free agent signings, including pitchers Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi, and they had previous blockbuster signings with Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. Baltimore has built their success through the farm, and has slowly but surely set itself up for years of competitiveness. Baltimore went from 52 wins to 83 last season, and Hyde finished 2nd in MOTY behind Terry Francona. Then, they went from 83 wins to a 101-win season. This two-season transformation is just too good to ignore. Hyde should get a ton of credit, with his excellent bullpen management.
NL Manager of the Year: Skip Schumaker
This is another similar situation to the case for AL MOTY, as I’m going for the manager who exceeded preseason expectations rather than the manager with the best team. In his first season as manager for the Miami Marlins, Schumaker led the team to their first non-shortened winning season since 2009 with 84 victories, a 15-win increase from the previous season. The Marlins also made their first Postseason appearance in a non-shortened season since 2003. I think that speaks for itself, Schumaker did a tremendous job with a poor franchise, and they have plenty of young talent that will be competitive for the next few seasons. The other candidates, Craig Counsell and Brian Snitker, always seem to be in the NL MOTY conversation because of their team’s prolonged success. I would give the award to the manager who led a team that no one expected to be good.