Talking about the races for the four major MLB awards in each league when no team has even played 50 games would normally be ridiculous. But we have less than three weeks to go in the sprint of a 2020 season. Talking about awards on Sept. 8 has always been fair game and that’s where we are. Let’s do it. 

Please note, I’m not talking about how I would vote. I’ve been studying voting trends of the BBWAA body for well over a decade. 

AL MVP

Let’s start with the White Sox. Get this, per Baseball-Reference, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert and Tim Anderson are the top three position players in WAR. For real. Anderson is second in batting average, sixth in slugging and fourth in OPS. Abreu is fifth in slugging and OPS. Abreu is also leading in hits, total bases and RBI while being tied for fourth in home runs. I think Abreu has to be the top option here, but don’t sleep on the other two. 

Shane Bieber has been so good on the mound, he has to be a consideration, though generally speaking it’s much harder for pitchers to win MVP.

Nelson Cruz is probably the top Twins’ candidate, slashing .329/.416/.643 (all three in the top three of the AL). He’s tied for fourth in homers and tied for eighth in RBI. 

The A’s and Rays should have some down-ballot candidates, but they’ve mostly been more a sum of their parts than been riding MVP candidates. For the Blue Jays, let’s throw out Teoscar Hernandez.

Oh and if the Angels can stay hot and climb within contention, Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout are the top two AL position players in Fangraphs WAR. Trout, who has never finished lower than fourth in AL MVP voting in his eight full seasons, leads the AL in slugging, OPS, runs, home runs and is second in RBI. 

This seems like the most wide-open award race right now with such a range of candidates. 

NL MVP

The biggest player to watch here is Mookie Betts. The only player in MLB history to win the MVP in both leagues is Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. Betts, of course, won the AL MVP in 2018 and is right in the mix for the NL version of the award here in 2020. It would also give the Dodgers back-to-back MVP, as Cody Bellinger took the honors last year. 

Betts leads the NL in position player WAR (Baseball-Reference version; he’s third on FanGraphs). 

The best competition here is also out west in Fernando Tatis. He’s second in Baseball-Reference WAR and first on FanGraphs. He’s also second in slugging, third in OPS and first in OPS+, total bases, extra-base hits, home runs, runs and RBI. My hunch is he would beat out Betts right now. 

Past the two favorites, Juan Soto would be leading in OPS by a mile if he had enough at-bats to qualify. But the Nationals are lousy and he’s still only played in 27 games. 

How about Ian Happ? Yes, Ian Happ, of all the people we might’ve predicted from the Cubs heading into the year. Among qualified hitters, Happ is fifth in OBP, second in slugging and first in OPS. He’s the biggest position-playing reason the Cubs have held first place with so many others struggling. 

Freddie Freeman is once again killing the ball, right now slashing .317/.446/.570 and anchoring his first-place team’s offense. 

Trevor Story and Mike Yastrzemski merit mention as well. 

AL Cy Young

Bieber has a nearly one-run lead in ERA, a 19-strikeout lead, a vast lead in both versions of WAR, is second in WHIP and we can just stop. It’s a runaway right now. 

Others to watch for down-ballot votes: Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Bundy, Lance Lynn and Kenta Maeda. 

NL Cy Young

A few days ago, it looked like a four-man race, but Zac Gallen got knocked around a bit and Max Fried is now on the injured list. That means it’s most likely coming down to Yu Darvish and Jacob deGrom, who is looking to three-peat. 

Darvish: 7-1, 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 63 K, 8 BB, 50 IP, 2.4 bWAR, 2.1 fWAR
deGrom: 3-1, 1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 70 K, 11 BB, 48 IP, 1.8 bWAR, 2.0 fWAR

Looks like Darvish right now, no? 

Gallen and Fried are still in the discussion and keep on eye on the likes of Dinelson Lamet, Trevor Bauer and Zack Wheeler. He’s only made six starts, but keep an eye on old friend Clayton Kershaw here, too. 

AL Rookie of the Year

My guess is it’s Luis Robert, but he’s got company in Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis. Lewis is hitting .310/.402/.510 with nine homers, 23 RBI and 32 runs scored. It’s likely a two-man race here. 

NL Rookie of the Year

As things currently stand, this would probably be a runaway for Jake Cronenworth of the Padres. In 37 games, he’s hit .325/.378/.561 for an upstart playoff team. Luis Guillorme of the Mets has a huge slash line, but it’s only in 21 games. I suppose Alec Bohm could get hot since the Phillies have been on the move and have a good number of games left. 

AL Manager of the Year

Remember, fair or not, the Manager of the Year awards generally come down to which manager either most exceeds expectations, takes over a not-good team and makes a playoff run just has such a dominant team you can’t look away. Believe it or not, the most rare is the latter. For example, Dave Roberts won the award over Joe Maddon in 2016, but hasn’t won it since. 

This means I feel like White Sox skipper Rick Renteria would take this thing right now over Kevin Cash of the Rays and Bob Melvin of the A’s. Also keep an eye on Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays. 

NL Manager of the Year

Note the above criteria, and I believe Jayce Tingler of the Padres will win this. Also, there are first-year managers David Ross (Cubs in first place) and Joe Girardi (Phillies in playoff position) in the mix. If the Marlins do hold on as a playoff team, surely Don Mattingly gets some love as well. 

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