Major League Baseball announced its finalists for its top seasonal awards on Monday, with three members of the Cleveland Indians’ organization finding their names among the candidates for some end of the year hardware.
Three candidates were announced from each league for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, and Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Indians’ outfielder Tyler Naquin was one of the three new recruits selected for the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award. He is joined by pitcher Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers and late season catching call-up Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees.
Naquin’s candidacy lost some of its steam as the season played on, but his combined output still granted him inclusion on the list. The 25-year-old center fielder bounced back and forth between Cleveland and Triple-A Columbus in the early portion of the year, but the Texas A&M product logged 116 games in the Indians outfield over the course of the season. He hit .296 during his debut campaign with a .372 on-base percentage and .514 slugging mark. He scored 52 runs and drove in 43 from the bottom of the order and added 18 doubles, 14 homers (including six blasts in the months of June and July), and five triples. He feasted at home, slashing .333/.405/.592 over the course of the schedule at Progressive Field with half of his doubles and nine of his homers. He hit .304 for the season when in the starting lineup.
The 23-year-old right-hander Fulmer went 11-7 in his first season in the Bigs, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 26 starts and 159 innings. Sanchez, also 23, returned to the Majors after a two-game preview at the end of the 2015 season. In just 53 games for the Yankees, he blasted 20 homers and drove in 42 runs while putting together a strong .299/.376/.657 slash line at the plate.
Corey Kluber will look to claim a second Cy Young Award in the last three seasons. The 30-year-old right-hander maintained his ace status at the front of the Indians rotation and was needed to shoulder the heavy burden of the staff as Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were lost for stretches and Josh Tomlin struggled early in the second half of the year. The six-year vet made 32 starts before being shut down with a right quad injury late in September, but still accumulated 215 innings in his outings. He went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while throwing three complete games and a league-best two shutouts. He racked up 227 strikeouts and was tops in the league in peripheral stats ERA+ (149) and FIP (3.26). He was also named an All-Star midseason for the first time in his Major League career.
Boston’s Rick Porcello and his former Detroit Tigers teammate Justin Verlander are the other two finalists for the AL Cy Young. Porcello, 27, saved the Boston pitching staff and helped guide them to the AL East title as the club edged Toronto and Baltimore late to gain entry to the postseason. Porcello led the Majors with 22 wins and lost just four times in 33 starts. He had a 3.15 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while throwing three complete games. His 223 innings and 33 starts were career highs. The 33-year-old right-hander Verlander makes his fourth appearance on the top three list for the award and his first since finishing second in 2012. He brought home the hardware back in 2011 when he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. This season, he held the Tigers in the AL Central race with a 16-9 record, 3.04 ERA, and a league-leading 1.00 WHIP in his 34 starts. He also owned the top spot in the AL with 254 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings of work.
Both pitchers were tops in the AL with a WAR (fangraphs.com) of 5.2, with Kluber ranking fourth at 5.1. The Baseball-Reference.com WAR rankings list Verlander as the top pitcher in the AL at 6.6, with Kluber second at 6.5 and Porcello fifth at 5.0.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona will also look to bring home his second AL Manager of the Year Award as a member of the Indians. He helped guide the Tribe to a 94-67 record and the club’s sixth World Series appearance in the 116-year history of the AL franchise.
Francona’s path to the postseason took a major hit during the early portion of the season, when his team lost a former AL MVP candidate in Michael Brantley. Over the course of the season, several members of the starting rotation missed time due to injury, as well as the team’s starting catcher, Yan Gomes. Despite all of the hurdles, Francona’s squad claimed the second-best record in the American League, swept his former Boston Red Sox club in the American League Division Series, knocked off the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the American League Championship Series, and took the Chicago Cubs to seven games in the World Series before an agonizing defeat last Wednesday night.
Francona, with four straight winning seasons under his belt in Cleveland and 12 in a row dating back to the beginning of his Boston tenure, is up against Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister and Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. Banister finds himself on the finalist list for the second consecutive season. The second-year manager won the award in 2015 when his Rangers went 88-74 before losing in five games to Toronto in the ALDS. The club again won the AL West under his leadership, winning an AL-high 95 games, but exited the postseason in a three-game sweep by Toronto in the ALDS once again. Showalter makes yet another appearance as a finalist for Manager of the Year. The 18-year managerial veteran finishes in the top three for the award for the sixth time in his career and the first time since winning the award in 2014. He also won in 1994 with the Yankees and 2004 with the Rangers. His Orioles went 89-73 this year in his fifth straight winning season in Maryland, but they were eliminated in the AL Wild Card play-in game by the Blue Jays.
The NL candidates for Manager of the Year include Francona’s opponent during the World Series, Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs, as well as former Indians outfielder and first year Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Washington Nationals veteran manager Dusty Baker.
The league also announced the three respective finalists for the MVP Awards. Outfielders Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) and Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox) are joined by second baseman Jose Altuve (Houston Astros) in the AL. NL finalists include Chicago third baseman Kris Bryant, Los Angeles shortstop Seager, and Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy. It is the fifth consecutive season that Trout has been named a finalist for the MVP.
Awards will be announced beginning next week at 6:00 PM ET on MLB Network Monday through Thursday. The BBWAA Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards will be unveiled on Monday, November 14. The Manager of the Years Awards will be announced Tuesday, with the Cy Young Awards revealed on Wednesday and the MVP Awards given out on Thursday night.
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