Awards Race Update

Who's in the running for the hardware at the halfway point?

We’re about halfway through the MLB season, so I figured it’s a good time to check in on the major awards.

Who’s the favorite? Who’s in the running? Are there any sleepers worth keeping an eye on?




It’ll be hard to overtake Judge in the AL MVP race. It’ll be near impossible not to vote for the Bronx Bomber if he produces another 60-homer season – which seems somewhat likely considering his historic 30% barrel rate.

That said, it’s hard to ignore Henderson’s production. Over the past two weeks, the young O’s infielder has slashed .346/.414/.692 with five homers and a league-leading 1.1 fWAR. He unloaded on a few balls against Cleveland.

He’s the only guy keeping remote pace with Judge in the home run race (27), but he’s doing so with elite defense at premier positions (+7 Outs Above Average, 97th percentile) while swiping a few more bags (13).

FanGraphs On-Pace projections put these two very close.

2024 On-Pace Metrics

For what it’s worth, the last player to post a 12-fWAR season was Barry Bonds in 2001. FanGraphs has tracked only nine 12-fWAR seasons since 1900, with four coming from Babe Ruth.

Then again, Judge smacked 40 barrels in a 40-game span during the past two months. He’s posted a 1.360 OPS with 26 homers in 56 games since May 1st. How do you beat that?

While Henderson sits atop the fWAR leaderboards over the past fortnight, not far behind sits Jarren Duran, Boston’s young, relatively unknown, uber-athletic outfielder who has put all his tools together this season.

Duran is out of control, slashing .314/.340/.588 with four homers over the past two weeks. But his bat is only a third of his game, as his unbelievable speed (29 feet per second) and athleticism provide unique advantages in the outfield (+6 Outs Above Average) and on the basepaths (21 stolen bases).

Put it all together, and Duran has quickly snuck up the leaderboards. He now ranks sixth among all MLB players in fWAR (3.6), trailing only Henderson, Judge, Juan Soto, Bobby Witt Jr., and Steven Kwan. That’s an elite list.

Duran walked off the Blue Jays recently, hopefully bringing more national attention to his season.

But is Duran’s production sustainable? Yes and no.

The bad news is that he’s posted a .500 BABIP during his crazy hot streak, which is simply unsustainable. It’s hard to think that Duran could hang around the league’s best players without some fortunate ball-in-play luck.

But the good news is that Duran’s quality of contact numbers back up his production. His expected wOBA (.352) isn’t much lower than his actual (.357), and his batted-ball profile looks decent (47% hard-hit rate, 79th percentile; 37% launch-angle sweet-spot rate, 71st percentile). Additionally, his speed will always play, giving him a high WAR floor based on defense and baserunning.

Don’t be surprised if Duran is in the mix come MVP voting time. His all-around game is so fun to watch, and it eventually shows up in the WAR numbers.




Speaking of red-hot hitters, Ohtani is on a tear. He’s slashing .308/.451/.795/1.210 over the past two weeks with six home runs, 11 RBIs, and 11 walks to 16 strikeouts. He recently recorded an RBI in 10 straight games.

It makes one wonder: who has a better chance of earning the triple crown?

The answer is probably Ohtani, given the NL competition isn’t as harsh. The injury to Mookie Betts has severely hindered the NL MVP race, leaving Bryce Harper, Elly De La Cruz, and Ketel Marte as the most prominent challengers.

That’s not a very imposing list. Although Harper is always liable to get white hot – he’s posted a 196 wRC+ since May 1st. Meanwhile, De La Cruz ranks second among NL position players in fWAR (4.0).

Dark Horses Francisco Lindor and Marcell Ozuna are the more intriguing candidates.

Lindor had a brutal start to the year, slashing .197/.280/.359 through April. But somehow, someway, he’s snuck up to sixth among NL players in fWAR (3.3). Part of that is thanks to his improved offensive production (147 wRC+ since June 1st), but much of it is thanks to his still elite defense (+9 Outs Above Average, leading all shortstops).

In stark comparison, Ozuna is useless on the basepaths and doesn’t field as a DH, but he’s among the best hitters in baseball at his best. Among NL hitters, he trails only Ohtani, Harper, and Jurickson Profar in wRC+, and his batted-ball profile is similarly pretty.

Only three NL players have smacked more than 20 homers in the first half, and Ozuna’s 21 is among them.

The one similarity between these two is underperformance. Lindor’s expected wOBA (.359) is 30 points higher than his actual (.328), while Ozuna’s expected wOBA is 20 points higher (.420) than his actual (.399).

Lindor’s all-around game makes him a threat to finish in the top five in MVP voting. Ozuna’s hitting prowess makes him a threat to finish in the top five in MVP voting. But both should gain ground in the race during the second half.

Will it be enough to catch Ohtani? Doubtful. FanGraphs On-Pace metrics project him for 50 homers, 118 RBIs, 31 stolen bases, and 8.7 fWAR. His batted-ball profile is immaculate – he leads all qualified players in five major statistical categories.

How do you catch that? Especially when the league’s second-best player is nursing a hand fracture.


AL Cy Young


Skubal is the best. I wrote about him in depth during the preseason, highlighting his incredible sequencing and decision-making. Dotting high-and-inside fastballs for early strikes while forcing two-strike low-zone chases and whiffs is how Skubs beats every hitter.

So far, so good. My preseason analysis of Skubal’s incoming 2024 season makes me look like an intelligent lad right about now.

Still, heavy lies the head that wears the crown. I’m unsure if Skubal can sustain his dominance across another 80-to-100 innings, especially since he’s never thrown more than 150 in a single season. He’s overperforming his expected run indicators a tad (2.45 ERA, 2.89 xERA, 2.94 xFIP), and he’s encountered serious regression recently, allowing 11 earned over his past 23 innings (4.24 ERA). And there are plenty of guys nibbling at his heels for the coveted award.

For example, as long as Corbin Burnes is in his prime, he’ll always be in the running. He’s heated up toward the break, posting a 1.94 ERA across his past 10 starts, averaging 6.5 innings per outing.

But he lags behind Skubal in the expected run indicator (2.89 xERA, 3.35 xFIP) and strikeout-minus-walk rate (18%) categories. He’s a Stuff+ darling (116) but hasn’t converted too many strikeouts (24%).

I am curious about Garrett Crochet and Tanner Houck for different reasons.

Crochet is a strikeout machine, posting 141 through his first 101 innings (35%), propelling him to expected run indicators in the low twos (2.38 xERA, 2.33 xFIP). While he doesn’t grade out excellent by the Stuff+ model (103), he earns so many whiffs with his fastball combination via elite extension, and just as many whiffs with his 15-inch glove-side-breaking slider.

Crochet has the highest upside of any ALCY candidate, but I’m worried that he’ll start to wear out in the second half – he’s never pitched more than 50 innings in a full season.

I have similar usage worries regarding Houck, who just passed his prior season-long innings count last week against the Padres (107). He has better stuff than Crochet, including a sweeping slider that reminds me of a mirror-imaged Chris Sale.


As part of Andrew Bailey’s grand-master plan, Houck ditched his four-seam fastball in favor of more sinking, cutting, and splitting fastball action, and it’s helped his batted-ball profile. But I think he’s overperforming too much on contact, and while he avoids walks like the plague (4%), he doesn’t strike out enough batters (24%) to negate the quality-of-contact worry.

The best Dark Horse to watch in this race is Jack Flaherty, who continues punching out batters at an unreal rate. He ranks above the 95th percentile of qualified pitchers in whiff rate, strikeout rate, and walk rate, thus explaining his 2.30 xFIP – the only reason for his considerably higher 3.05 FIP is due to home-run unluckiness (18.3% HR/FB rate).

Flaherty has recorded 115 strikeouts in 89 innings (33%), posting a double-digit strikeout start twice. He’s posted 52 strikeouts across his past seven starts, recording a 2.45 ERA during the stretch.

I’d also keep an eye on Logan Gilbert. He’s thrown the most innings in the AL (117) with a sub-three ERA and elite Stuff+ marks (119). His expected run indicators aren’t quite there (3.31 xERA, 3.52 xFIP), but he could get hot quickly, especially when tossing in the league’s most pitcher-friendly park.


NL Cy Young


Zack Wheeler is hunting for his first Cy Young award, which would be much deserved after a half-decade of dominance – he’s amassed four more fWAR than any other NL pitcher since 2020 (22), with teammate Aaron Nola in second place (18).

Certainly, Wheeler should be considered, considering his 2.74 ERA across 111 innings. But I’m starting to believe Chris Sale is the deserved favorite.

Since April 26, Sale has tossed 75 frames across 12 starts with a 2.16 ERA and 100 strikeouts to 13 walks, with the Braves winning nine of those affairs. Take away an eight-run blowup across four innings against the A’s, and those numbers improve substantially.

Sale has re-found his slider, re-turning it into the league’s best. He’s recorded a ridiculous 41% CSW rate on the pitch, yet hitters have posted a measly 10% hard-hit rate when they rarely make contact. The +11 Run Value on the pitch is tied for eighth among any single MLB offering this year.

But Sale’s changeup and splitter have also produced, helping him neutralize righties, who crushed him in his final injury-riddled seasons in Boston. He’s finally an all-around, Cy Young worth pitcher again.

Tyler Glasnow is among the league’s elite Stuff+ members (118), and Ranger Suárez is putting together an unreal batted-ball year (56% ground-ball rate, 35% hard-hit rate, 5% barrel rate). Still, I worry about the former’s injury history, and I’m uncertain about the latter’s ability to sustain production without whiffs (22%).

Logan Webb has thrown more innings than anyone (119), keeping his ERA and xFIP around three. Still, I’m a non-believer. He’s seen a drastic decrease in his batted-ball profile, with an uber-high hard-hit rate and a steadily decreasing ground-ball rate. He can sustain elite production with lackluster quality-of-contact results in the friendly confines of Oracle Park (2.13 home ERA) but struggles when forced to pitch anywhere else (4.06 road ERA).




Luis Gil is the most vulnerable of any award Clubhouse Leader. Among qualified AL pitchers, Gil pairs the second-lowest BABIP (.216) with the 19th-highest strand rate (75%). Regression is bound to come.

And the regression train has pulled into Gil Station. He’s stranded only 39% of runners across his past three starts, allowing 16 earned runs in 9 ⅔ innings. Given his xFIP is well north of four, I have little faith he’ll earn the AL ROY award in October.

Your best bet in this award category is likely Colton Cowser. Among the top three AL Rookie fWAR leaders, he’s the only one underperforming at the plate, making his AL Rookie-leading 2.2 fWAR even more impressive.

AL ROY Hitters

Can Wyatt Langford make a run after his unimpressive start? Absolutely! His OPS dropped to a season-low .582 on June 2nd, but he’s slashing .307/.381/.525 since, which is suitable for a 159 wRC+. He also adds elite speed, which often translates to elite outfield defense.




I have a hot take.

I don’t think Paul Skenes is the runaway favorite for NL ROY.

Here’s my case.

We know Skenes is an elite stuff guy, and his command is surprisingly great for a rookie pitcher. Still, can he sustain a near-two ERA with a 92% strand rate? His batted-ball profile isn’t perfect, although that matters less when you strike out 34% of batters.

The more significant issue is usage. How many innings will the Pirates let him pitch? How much leash will they give him if they fall out of the Wildcard race? Based on which projection system you ask, the Pirates have between a 4% and 7% chance of making the playoffs, so why risk your prized prospect’s young arm on a long-shot bet?

For what it’s worth, no pitcher has won the ROY award with fewer than 140 innings pitched that season. Can Skenes reach that mark? And even with elite production, will the voters overlook season-long usage in favor of per-inning production?

Past Pitching ROY Winners

Regarding other contenders, the voters can’t go wrong with Jackson Merrill, Joey Ortiz, or Shota Imanaga.

Among those three, I’m exceedingly high on Ortiz, who leads all NL Rookies in fWAR (2.5). His plate discipline is spectacular (14% walk rate, 16% strikeout rate), and he has solid bat speed (75 mph, 84th percentile), indicating he could be a power-discipline rookie in the second half. He’s also an elite third baseman, gobbling up every grounder at a primer position (+6 OAA, 95th percentile).

FanGraphs’ on-pace metrics project him for the fourth-most fWAR among Milwaukee position players (4.6), a monster accomplishment on the potential NL Central champions.

Yet, I’m all in on another NL ROY candidate.

I believe Gavin Stone will be a top-three NLROY option by season’s end. He wasn’t supposed to start for the Dodgers this season, given the room was already crowded – if you remember, they were thinking about running a six-man rotation.

But Walker Buehler went down. Then Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Bobby Miller has been disastrous in his six starts (6.13 ERA across 25 innings). James Paxton has lost two ticks of velocity in his age-35 season, leading to troublesome underlying metrics (5.16 xFIP, 4.6% strikeout-minus-walk rate). They’re starting to lean on Landon Knack more and more in the dog days.

Glasnow has been everything you could wish for from a free-agent signing, but the Dodgers still needed innings. Stone is the rookie who stepped up.

Only two Dodger pitchers are currently qualified: Glasnow and Stone. The latter has tossed a whopping 92 innings with a 3.03 ERA, so the Dodgers are 12-4 in his starts. Among NL rookies, Stone has amassed the third-most fWAR (1.7), trailing only Imanaga (1.9) and Yamamoto (2.1).

Stone has impacted his team more than any NL rook, especially considering the Dodgers’ situation. Obviously, that last point sounds silly, because the Dodgers obviously have talent in droves.

But I disagree. Stone has been LA’s second-best pitcher to this point in the season, and his role toward the top of the rotation means a ton with half the staff shelved.

The Pirates still have Jared Jones and Mitch Keller at the top of their rotation. So, who needs their guy more: the team with two other good starting pitchers and a slim shot at making the postseason, or the title contender suffering a rotation crisis?

FanGraphs’ On-Pace metrics project Stone for a 17-4 record and 3.1 fWAR across 170 innings. Those same metrics project Skenes for 3.0 fWAR across 98 innings and Yamamoto for 3.9 fWAR across 135 innings.

Imagine if Stone throws 40 more innings than any other NL ROY pitching candidate as a vital and quality innings-eater for a Championship Contender in need of quality innings. Imagine he sustains a low-three ERA while doing it. Imagine Yamamoto continues to struggle with injuries while the Pirates shut down Skenes in September.

Stone isn’t the most talented horse in this race. But he could be the most dependable.

I don’t love his stuff (97 Stuff+) or expected run indicators (3.74 xERA, 4.09 xFIP). However, the Stuff+ model struggles to quantify accurately changeup-heavy pitchers, and Stone’s changeup-heavy approach has helped him to a solid batted-ball profile (33% hard-hit rate, 5% barrel rate).

Inducing weak contact is the best way to become a workhorse, and Stone profiles as one of those guys, especially considering his half-decent command (102 Location+, 7% walk rate).

Stone is also getting better. He’s posted a 2.31 ERA across his past 12 starts, including a tough outing against the Diamondbacks last time out (4 ER across 3 IP).

Photos courtesy of Icon Sportswire. Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@kurtwasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram).

One response to “Awards Race Update”

  1. Mike says:

    No mention of Ceddanne Rafaela as a potential AL ROY winner? Been lighting it up after a rough May

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