Two months into the season should be way too early to start talking about MVP races or Cy Young conversations, but that’s never stopped baseball fans before.
So let’s take a look.
These are the players who we think would win the award if the season ended yesterday, not who we think will wind up with the award at the end of the season.
NL Cy Young
Jacob deGrom, Mets: Even by deGrom standards — as lofty as lofty gets — the two-time Cy Young winner’s 2021 numbers are just jaw-dropping. He’s made eight starts, and his ERA sits at 0.71. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) is 1.08. In 51 innings, he’s allowed just 22 hits and seven walks, while striking out 82 batters. His 11.7 K/BB ratio is a career best, as is his 14.5 K/9 ratio. He’s yet to allow more than one run — or even five base runners — in any start in 2021. He’s the easy choice, but that’s a ridiculous thing to say because lots of pitchers are having stellar seasons to date.
The others: It’s crazy to think that Kevin Gausman and Brandon Woodruff have each made 11 starts, with 1.40 and 1.27 ERAs and 3.5 and 3.9 bWARs, respectively, but neither is the front-runner. One of Woodruff’s rotation mates in Milwaukee, Corbin Burnes, has a 1.15 FIP, to go with a 2.24 ERA and 11.6 K/BB ratio, and another one, Freddy Peralta, has a 2.38 ERA with a 13.1 K/9 ratio. Neither is up top. And we have yet to even mention Miami’s Trevor Rogers (1.87 ERA, 2.46 FIP), Los Angeles’ Trevor Bauer (2.24 ERA, NL-best 96 strikeouts), Washington’s Max Scherzer (2.34 ERA, 95 strikeouts) or San Diego’s Yu Darvish (2.16 ERA). Oh, and Taijuan Walker of the Mets and John Gant of the Cardinals both still have sub-2.00 ERAs (1.84 and 1.60, respectively) and they’re really not even in the conversation.
Fernando Tatis Jr.: The Padres’ young superstar is not leading NL position players in WAR either by FanGraphs’ calculation (that’s Nick Castellanos of the Reds) or by the Baseball-Reference formula (that’s Max Muncy of the Dodgers), but he’s having an incredible season, despite playing only 39 of the Padres’ 56 games so far. He’s one off the MLB lead with his 16 home runs, and he’s tied for the NL lead with 12 stolen bases. He also leads the NL with a .693 slugging percentage and has a stellar 199 OPS-plus.
The others: Muncy and Castellanos have been outstanding, and either would be a worthy choice. Kris Bryant is having a big comeback season (.317/.398/.598 and 12 homers) that’s basically lifted the Cubs into contention in the NL Central. Ronald Acuña Jr.’s having an incredible season for Atlanta (he’s basically alone on that Georgia island), and Jesse Winker is batting .341 with 13 homers and a .621 slugging percentage for the Reds. And what about Buster Posey, the ageless one, topping .300 with double-digit homers to lead the story-of-the-year Giants?
NL Rookie of the Year
Trevor Rogers, Marlins: The 13th overall pick of the 2017 draft reached the majors in 2020, but his debut season was (let’s be kind) not good. In seven starts, the lefty posted a 6.11 ERA. In his Age 23 season, Rogers seems to have figured things out. Through 11 starts, he has a 1.87 ERA, with only three home runs allowed and 76 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings.
The others: Ian Anderson (3.27 ERA in 10 starts) is picking up where he left off last postseason for Atlanta, and Adbert Alzolay (3.66 ERA in 10 starts) is having a fine season for the Cubs. Dylan Carlson is having a fine season for the Cardinals, batting No. 2 ahead of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
AL Cy Young
Gerrit Cole, Yankees: No, he doesn’t have a no-hitter, but we’re still going with Cole and his 1.78 ERA and 12.4 K/9 for the two-months-into-the-season Cy Young nod in the AL. He’s been, again, everything the Yankees could have hoped for in what’s mostly been a roller coaster season for the franchise thus far. The most notable thing? He’s become incredibly stingy handing out walks. Cole has always had good control — his “worst” BB/9 was 2.9 — but through 11 starts this year, he’s only walked nine while striking out 97. In one particular five-start stretch, he had 49 Ks and 0 BBs. He has four top-five Cy Young finishes in his career, and it would not be at all surprising to see him wind up with his first first-place finish in 2021.
The others: Carlos Rodon of the White Sox and John Means of the Orioles both have no-nos and ERAs right around 2.00 — 1.98 for Rodon, 2.05 for Means — and that puts them near the top of the list. Lance Lynn’s missed a few starts for the White Sox, but that 1.37 ERA in nine outings deserves attention. In a season when everyone is striking out everyone, Shane Bieber is running away with the strikeout title in Cleveland.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays: With all due respect to the amazing Shohei Ohtani, I’ve got to give the nod to this young Jays superstar. Here’s a partial list of the categories he leads (or is tied for the lead) in the AL: home runs (17), hits (64), average (.337), on-base percentage (.447), slugging (.663), OPS-plus (203) and total bases (126). In his first taste of big league action in 2019, he struck out 91 times and walked 46 times; so far in 2021, he has 32 walks and 32 strikeouts. It’s crazy to remember that he just finally turned 22 years old in March, because it feels like we’ve been hearing about him forever. Well, you’ve been hearing about him forever because it’s long been known that he has the potential to do exactly what he’s doing right now.
The others: Shohei Ohtani is so very much fun to watch. Y’know what? Just watch this. Xander Bogaerts is having an outstanding season, and he’s a big reason the Red Sox have exceeded expectations. Guerrero’s teammate, Marcus Semien, finished third in the 2019 AL MVP race and he’s heading toward a similar finish in 2021.
AL Rookie of the Year
Adolis Garcia, Rangers: It’s not just the 16 homers and 41 RBIs — both numbers are top five in the AL — but Garcia’s knack for coming through in the biggest situations. He has three — THREE — extra-inning homers already this season. Two put the Rangers ahead in the top of the 10th inning, and one was a walk-off (with the Rangers trailing by a run) in the bottom half of the 10th inning.
The others: Yermin Mercedes’ story has been pretty incredible, but he’s struggled lately. His ChiSox teammate, pitcher Michael Kopech, has 45 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings in a hybrid role. Randy Arozarena hasn’t been quite “playoff Randy” but still pretty good, with seven homers, 36 runs scored and eight stolen bases. In Cleveland, Emmanuel Clase has nine saves and a stellar 1.14 ERA.
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