MVP and Cy Young Ballots Through Mid-June

MVP and Cy Young picks through mid-June


1. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH (LAA)

As long as Ohtani continues to both hit and pitch at a high level, he will always be atop the MVP leaderboards compared to his peers who just do one or the other. Ohtani’s past greatness has made us numb to a once-in-a-generation talent, as despite this season probably being his worst since 2021, it is still otherworldly. His .930 OPS ranks ninth in baseball,  and while his ERA has increased by over a run since last year, he still leads the American League in fewest hits per nine innings. There has never been anybody like him, and unless someone has a generational season, a la Aaron Judge in 2022, he should bring home the American League MVP


2. Wander Franco, SS (TB) 

As high as the expectations were for the former number-one prospect, Franco has somehow managed to exceed them en route to becoming one of the best players in baseball by his age-22 season. His 3.6 WAR is the best in the majors, a product of hitting nearly .300, converting on 22 of his 27 stolen base attempts, and playing Gold-Glove level defense. Franco is everything you want in a franchise player, but until he takes the mound, he will continue to be a step behind Ohtani.


3. Bo Bichette, SS (TOR)

Not to be overshadowed by Franco, Bichette has proved it is truly 1A and 1B in terms of AL East shortstops. He has emerged as one of the most unique and gifted hitters in the game, as despite a paltry walk rate, he leads the league with a .323 average, 91 hits, and 146 total bases. As the Blue Jays are in the midst of an up-and-down season, Bichette has been a staple at shortstop, suiting up for a league-leading 66 games and playing elite defense. The only reason he is a step behind Franco is that he is not nearly the same threat on the bases, as he has only totaled three stolen bases, but he is still squarely in the MVP conversation.


4. Aaron Judge, OF (NYY)

While there may not be a talent like Ohtani, there is no one who can go on a hot streak like big number 99. Through his first 30 games, Judge was slashing .255/.349/.481 with just six home runs. Those numbers would constitute a career year for most players, but they paled in comparison to his historic 2022 campaign. In his last 19 contests, however, Judge has homered an incredible 13 times while slashing .348/.483/.971, vaulting him to the top of the home run and OPS leaderboards. Yet as is the case with Judge, injuries are also a huge part of the story. The right fielder missed ten games with a hip strain at the beginning of May and landed on the IL again after he hurt his toe crashing into the Dodgers Stadium fence. If he misses a significant chunk of time, it will be really hard for Judge to have an MVP case no matter how many home run rampages he goes on.


5. Marcus Semien, 2B (TEX)

The Rangers have surprisingly been one of the best teams in baseball this season, and a large portion of the credit goes to the man who may hold the title of the most underrated player in baseball. Semien has all the characteristics of an overlooked star: He’s played in small markets (or in Canada), he isn’t flashy or a huge character, and he doesn’t put up crazy counting numbers. What he does do, however, is take the field nearly every day, play exceptional defense, run the bases well, and never give away an at-bat. All that has culminated in a 3.3 WAR that is tied for third-best in the majors. It’s about time Semien gets some recognition, and an exceptional personal season for a true title contender may be what finally thrusts him into the spotlight.

Rest of Ballot
6: Randy Arozarena, OF (TB)
7: Luis Robert Jr., OF (CHW)
8: Yandy Díaz, 1B (TB)
9: Mike Trout, OF (LAA)
10: Adolis García, OF (TEX)


1. Ronald Acuña Jr.,  OF (ATL)

If there is any doubt that Acuna. Jr. would ever be the player he was before he tore his ACL in July of 2021, his performance this year has silenced the questions with authority. The tentative nature with which Acuna approached his middling 2022 season is a thing of the past, as Acuna has been full steam ahead in every phase of the game. His 28 stolen bases lead the National League, while his .333 average and 160 OPS+ are both career highs. His performance on the field remains a work in progress, but he has already totaled a league-leading six outfield assists thanks to an arm that leads the league with 96.5 mph average velocity. As much talent as there is in the National League, this one isn’t even close: Acuna Jr. has been the NL MVP so far.


2. Freddie Freeman, IB (LA)

Judge might have the most power and Luis Arraez might have the highest average, but Freeman holds the honor as the best overall hitter in the game. The dude just flat-out rakes no matter what the situation or what you throw at him. He has a .347 average against righties and a .313 mark against lefties. He hits .356 at home and .319 on the road. He even hits .301 when he has two strikes on him. Don’t think he’s just a slap hitter either: His .575 slugging percentage is fourth in the majors. It’s difficult to win MVP as a slow-footed first baseman, especially when paired up against a five-tool player like Acuna Jr., but if anyone can do it, it’s Freeman.


3. Corbin Carroll, OF (ARI)

Despite Judge and Mike Trout coming close, it has been a remarkable 22 years since Ichiro Suzuki became the most recent player to win both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the same season. This speaks to the gap between Triple-A and the majors being larger than ever, but don’t tell Carroll that. From his impressive callup at the end of last season, Carroll has looked completely comfortable at the game’s highest level. Whether it be his .301/.385/.565 slash line, 13 home runs 18-for-20 conversion rate on stolen bases, or 92nd percentile ranking in Outs Above Average, Carroll has proven there isn’t anything he can’t do on his baseball field. It’s scary to think that he isn’t anywhere close to his prime yet because this version of Carroll that is still “figuring it out” is already one of the best players in the game.


4. Mookie Betts, OF (LAD)

The 2023 version of Mookie Betts is quite a bit different from his MVP season of 2018. His batting average is down nearly 100 points from that historic campaign, marking the third straight season Betts has batted between .260 and .270, while his stolen base total has decreased from 30 all the way down to three. Yet Betts has compensated for the lack of skills by tapping more into his power, already homering 17 times and posting a .537 slugging percentage which is his highest since his 2018 season. That, along with his usual Gold-Glove defense and exceptional plate discipline, has allowed Betts to remain squarely in the MVP conversation.


5. Luis Arraez, 2B (MIA)

In an era of home runs, strikeouts, and launch angles, Arraez is a total throwback. Dispersed among his 12 strikeouts and lone home run has been a truckload of singles and doubles, helping Arraez post a .401 average despite a sub-.500 slugging percentage. Has he gotten a bit lucky this season, given that his hard-hit percentage ranks in the second percentile among all MLB hitters? Undoubtedly. Yet Arraez has shown throughout his career that he is one of the best hitters in the game despite his unique profile, and the shift ban has allowed him to take his all-field approach to the next level. Arraez’s hitting has been so remarkable, in fact, that he ranks fourth in the NL in WAR despite subpar defense and baserunning, and has been the biggest reason why the Marlins are off to a surprising 36-29 start.

Rest Of Ballot
6: Sean Murphy, C (ATL)
7: Juan Soto, OF (SD)
8: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (STL)
9: Pete Alonso, 1B (NYM)
10: Will Smith, C (LAD)



AL Cy Young

1. Shane McClanahan (TB)

After posting a 4.44 ERA in the last two months of 2022, there were some doubts about whether McClanahan could return to the Cy-Young-level form that he showed in the first half of the season. I think we have our answer. The big lefty leads the AL with 9 wins and a 2.02 ERA while ranking fifth with a 10.3 K/9 mark. There are a few red flags, however: His 3.4 BB/9 and 3.50 FIP are both career highs, while his 3.00 K/BB ratio is a career low. That and his history of second-half struggles are things to keep your eye on, but as of now, McClanahan is the clear frontrunner for AL Cy Young.


2. Kevin Gausman (TOR)

Last season, Gausman had a case as one of the unluckiest pitchers in the game. He posted elite walk and strikeout rates and a league-leading 2.38 FIP, but his ERA was only 3.35. This season, Gausman has yet again posted a league-leading 2.28 FIP and actually improved on his strikeout rate, but now his ERA is a much-more reflective 2.63 ERA. In fact, besides two blow-ups against the Red Sox and Astros in which he allowed a combined 15 runs, Gausman has probably been the best pitcher in baseball. With McClanahan having slightly worse underlying numbers, don’t be surprised if Gausman overtakes him by the end of the season.


3. Nathan Eovaldi (TEX)

For the most part, Eovaldi is the same pitcher he was last season. His pitch velocities, whiff, walk, and strikeout rates are largely unchanged from his mediocre, injury-riddled 2022 campaign. The one biggest difference is a dramatic shift in his home run rate: After allowing 24 longballs in just 109.1 innings last year, he’s cut the number down to four in a league-leading 86 innings. It remains to be seen if he can keep that total so low, but Eovaldi is doing the same thing he’s always done when healthy: throwing strikes, working deep into games, and pitching at an All-Star level.


4. Framber Valdez (HOU)

If this award was for the Most Valuable Pitcher, Valdez might be the top choice. With Justin Verlander signing with the Mets and Luis Garcia and José Urquidy going down the injuries, Valdez had stepped his game up even further and emerged as a true ace. His 2.36 ERA is a career-high while ranking in the top seven in innings pitched, strikeouts, and WAR. Throwing strikes, generating whiffs, and keeping the ball on the ground is a lethal combination, and Valdez looks to be mastering his craft.


5. Gerrit Cole (NYY)

For a while, it looked like this would be the season where Cole would finally win a Cy Young award. Over his first seven starts, Cole had a sparkling 1.35 ERA while holding batters to a .176 batting average without a home run. Since then, however, Cole has pitched to a 4.62 ERA while allowing a .802 OPS. The overall product is still very good, but with the strong competition in the AL this year, a 2.84 ERA is likely not going to cut it. Until Cole gets back into another grove, he will likely be in an unfamiliar position of looking up at other AL Cy Young contenders.

Rest of Ballot
6: Sonny Gray (MIN)
7: Eduardo Rodriguez (DET)
8: Luis Castillo (SEA)
9: Jon Gray (TEX)
10: Joe Ryan (MIN)


NL Cy Young

1. Marcus Stroman (CHC)

Compared to the gauntlet in the American League, the competition for NL Cy Young is decidedly weaker. Ten of the top 13 pitchers in ERA and seven of the top nine in WAR lie in the junior circuit. The one exception has been Stroman, who tops all pitchers in WAR and quality starts. His strikeout rate is below average, but his 61% ground ball rate allows the elite defense behind him to go to work. His pitch-to-contact approach also has allowed him to throw more innings than all but three pitchers this season. Sandy Alcantara proved last season that you don’t need gaudy strikeout numbers to win a Cy Young, and Stroman is following that formula to perfection.


2. Zac Gallen (ARI)

Emblematic of the Diamondbacks as a whole, Gallen showed flashes of stardom last season before taking another step forward this year. The 27-year-old has improved on his already stellar strikeout and walk rate en route to a league-leading 2.22 FIP. Like Stroman, Gallen has been able to succeed without elite velocity, leaning instead on one of the best curveballs in the game to generate whiffs and his heavy sinker to generate ground balls. Stroman may be in the lead right now, but Gallen’s underlying numbers prove he is as good a choice as anyone to take home the hardware.


3. Spencer Strider (ATL)

Strider was everyone’s hot pick for NL Cy Young after posting a 13.8 K/9 during his rookie season, and for the most part, he has lived up to the hype in his sophomore campaign. On one hand, he has actually improved on his strikeout rate, as he currently leads the majors with 121 punchouts. On the other hand, he’s allowed nine home runs in his 13 starts, and a recent blowup start against the Mets has his ERA at 3.79, the 14th-best mark in the National League. It’s easy to forget that Strider is still learning how to pitch at the big league level, and though the stuff is already there, it might be a few years before he fulfills his Cy Young potential.


4. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)

You are watching a master at work. Despite now being in his mid-30s and seeing a series of injuries zap much of the life out of his fastball, Kershaw continues to find a way to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s compensated for the lack of fastball by throwing his slider more and more frequently, and the pitch continues to generate whiffs at a 40% rate despite the increased usage. And when the hitter is sitting on the slider, he goes back to ol’ reliable: the curveball, a pitch that hitters have managed just one extra-base hit against all year. The result is another remarkable campaign that has seen Kershaw posting his highest K/9 rate since 2015. It may not be peak Kershaw, but the big lefty has proved that father time hasn’t caught up to him yet


5. Mitch Keller (PIT)

The Pirates have been looking for a top-line starting pitcher since the days of Gerrit Cole, and it looks like they have finally found one in Keller. The right-hander has eaten innings like few others in the game, throwing at least six innings in 11 of his 14 starts. Don’t think he’s just a soft-tosser either: His 101 strikeouts are fourth in all of baseball. If not for a couple of recent blowups against the Mariners and A’s (of all teams) that ballooned his ERA, Keller could be at the top of these rankings. Regardless, Keller has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the National Leagues, a position he is unlikely to relinquish for the foreseeable future.

Rest of Ballot
6: Bryce Elder (ATL)
7: Logan Webb (SF)
8: Justin Steele (CHC)
9: Corbin Burnes (MIL)
10: Alex Cobb (SF)

Daniel Fox

Since attending my first Red Sox game in 2009 at the age of seven, Daniel has been obsessed with all things baseball. Over time, he has learned to combine his love for writing, debating, and performing with his love of baseball. As a junior at Ithaca College, Daniel has been involved with both the TV and radio stations as an on-air personality while also continuing his passion for writing.

One response to “MVP and Cy Young Ballots Through Mid-June”

  1. mario says:

    come on… Elly will win NL MVP this year, and every year going forward

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