With the World Series in our rearview mirror — though the champion Astros are surely still reveling in their victory — the 2022 season is all but done, with one final piece left: awards!
The winners of MLB’s four major end-of-season awards — Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player — will be announced starting at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network each day this week.
Unlike last year, when none of the MVP candidates reached the postseason, five of this year’s six finalists made the playoffs — with last year’s American League MVP, Shohei Ohtani, once again left out of October. Of the six, just one appeared in the Fall Classic (and won) — Yordan Alvarez. The AL’s MVP race is, unsurprisingly, led by none other than Aaron Judge, while the National League’s race features two teammates — Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado — vying for the honors.
And the fun doesn’t stop there, as there’s lots to be excited about in the other races too. At 39 years old, Justin Verlander could secure the third Cy Young of his career on Wednesday, while on the other hand, Sandy Alcantara could make Marlins franchise history if he wins the Cy Young in the NL.
We have everything you need to know for awards week — previewing each award in addition to our ESPN MLB experts’ predictions for who should take home the hardware. Be sure to check back throughout the week as this page is updated with results and analysis as each award is handed out.
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Rookie of the Year: AL | NL
Manager of the Year: NL | AL
Cy Young: NL | AL
MVP: NL | AL
American League Rookie of the Year
Winner: Julio Rodriguez (Seattle Mariners)
Final tally: Rodriguez 148 (29 first place votes); Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles 68 (1); Steven Kwan, Cleveland Guardians 44; Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals 7; Jeremy Pena, Houston Astros 2; George Kirby, Mariners 1
Experts’ picks: Rodriguez (12 votes), Rutschman (1)
Doolittle’s take: Rookie classes are ultimately judged on what the first-timers do in addition to their inaugural seasons, as one year alone does not make a baseball career. But this year’s AL rookie class has already established itself as something special — and its winner, Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez, is already poised to become one of baseball’s biggest stars. No matter who took home this award, the allure of this group is likely to only grow over the years.
But 2022, by itself, was pretty special in its own right for AL rookies. Consider that Pena, who posted 4.8 bWAR and went on to win to win MVP honors in both the ALCS and the World Series for the champion Astros, was not a finalist. Kwan, whose 5.5 bWAR would have topped AL rookie classes in 59 of the 74 seasons since the Rookie of the Year vote was split between the leagues in 1949, finished third in the voting behind Rodriguez and super-rookie catcher Rutschman.
Rodriguez, whose 6.2. bWAR was the most by an AL rookie since Aaron Judge in 2017, is going to do special things in this game, and he was the clear-cut top choice in the balloting. That he was able to set himself apart in this particular rookie class is just another testament to how special a talent J-Rod already is.
One note on the voting: It’s possible that in 20 years, Witt turns out to be the best player in this class. He certainly has the raw ability to be. But based on what we saw in 2022, it’s a head-scratcher that he got a second-place vote and finished ahead of Pena.
Here’s how my AXE leaderboard had it:
1. Rodriguez (133.8)
2. Rutschman (128.4)
3. Kwan (124.6)
4. Pena (121.6)
5. Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins (117.1)
Note: AXE is an index that creates a consensus rating from the leading value metrics (WAR, from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference) and contextual metrics (win probability added and championship probability added, both from Baseball Reference).
ROY must-reads: How Julio Rodriguez became the Mariners’ $470 million man
National League Rookie of the Year
Winner: Michael Harris II, CF, Atlanta Braves
Final tally: Harris 134 (22 first-place votes); Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves 103 (8); Brendan Donovan, Cardinals 22; Jake McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks 4; Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds 3; Nick Lodolo, Reds 2; Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates 2.
Experts’ picks: Harris (8 votes), Strider (5)
Doolittle’s take: Entering the last couple of weeks of the regular season, trying to come up with a coherent argument about whether the Braves’ star rookie hitter (Harris) or the Braves’ star rookie pitcher (Strider) was the most deserving contender for the award was a maddening exercise. Their metrics were just that close. Ultimately, Strider suffered an oblique injury and didn’t make a regular-season appearance after Sept. 18, when Atlanta was still locked in a torrid battle with the Mets for the NL East. That, as much as anything, might have been the decider.
Either way, it has seemed clear for months that one of the pair was set to become Atlanta’s second Rookie of the Year in five seasons, joining Ronald Acuna Jr. in 2018. Harris kind of came out of nowhere to record a 5.3 bWAR, easily the highest figure among NL rookies, but my AXE ratings still saw it as pretty close between the two. In the end, Harris was the whole package, hitting for average and power, flashing impact speed on offense and posting terrific metrics on defense at a premium position. The voters nailed it, and the Braves are set up nicely for years to come.
Here’s how my AXE leaderboard had it:
1. Harris (126.5)
2. Strider (124.7)
3. Donovan (117.6)
4. McCarthy (111.2)
5. Diaz (110.8)
Michael Harris’ baseball life has always been in Braves Country
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National League Manager of the Year
Experts’ picks: Showalter (6 votes), Snitker (5), Roberts (1), Philadelphia Phillies’ Rob Thomson (1)
What to know: This looks like a toss-up, especially given that Roberts’ Dodgers won 111 games — most in the National League since 1906 — and he rates as third favorite on the board. It was the fourth time Roberts has won at least 104 games, although his one Manager of the Year award came in 2016, when the Dodgers won just 91 games.
He probably won’t win this year, because as dominant as the Dodgers were in the regular season (remember, voting is done before the playoffs), the Mets and Braves perhaps had more compelling storylines. Showalter took over a Mets team coming off a 77-85 season and guided it to 101 wins and its first playoff trip since 2016. He brought some professionalism to a team that needed it, cleaned up the defense and the little things, and had all that success even though Jacob deGrom didn’t start a game until August. Snitker, who won this award in 2018, guided the Braves to their fifth straight division title — rallying from 10.5 games down on June 1 and sweeping the Mets the final week of the season to wrap up the division. — Schoenfield
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American League Manager of the Year
Terry Francona, Cleveland Guardians
Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners
Experts’ picks: Hyde (6 votes), Francona (6), Houston Astros’ Dusty Baker (1)
What to know: Baker, of course, finished as the real manager of the year after ending his personal World Series drought in his 25th season as a manager, but he’s not even a finalist. This is a two-man race between Hyde and Francona, as the Orioles and Guardians were perhaps the two biggest surprises of 2022.
In his fourth season with the Orioles, Hyde’s team improved from 52 wins to 83, one of the biggest single-season improvements in history, staying in the playoff race until late in the season. Wins over expectation is usually a guiding principle in this award, and that should help Hyde. Francona’s advantage is the Guardians did make the playoffs, winning the AL Central with a 92-70 record — a 12-game improvement, impressive for a team that had both the youngest lineup and the youngest pitching staff in the majors. Francona’s ability to work with young players continues to be an impressive strength and could win him his third MOY award. — Schoenfield
How the Guardians turned the AL Central race into a one-team sprint
How the Orioles — yes, the Baltimore Orioles — became the hottest team in MLB
National League Cy Young
Experts’ picks: Alcantara (13 votes) (unanimous choice)
What to know: This looks like a possible unanimous victory for Alcantara. He went 14-9 with a 2.28 ERA and led the majors with 228 2/3 innings and six complete games. No, those last two numbers wouldn’t stand out even a decade ago, but that was the most innings by a starter since David Price in 2016 and 23 innings more than any other pitcher in 2022. Alcantara went at least eight innings in 14 of his 32 starts, and his 8.0 bWAR gave him a sizable lead over Aaron Nola’s 6.0, the second-highest total among NL pitchers.
Urias did end up leading the NL with a 2.16 ERA, but he pitched just 175 innings in 31 starts — a good example of how many more innings Alcantara delivered than even a Cy Young finalist like Urias. Alcantara’s season is also even more impressive since 23 of those 32 starts came against .500-or-better teams. Fried, by comparison, made 17 of his 30 starts against winning teams, while Urias made 16 of 31 — although he was an impressive 11-3 with a 1.45 ERA in those 16 games. Still, this one is all Alcantara, who will become the first Marlins pitcher to win a Cy Young Award. (Kevin Brown finished second in 1996.) — Schoenfield
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American League Cy Young
Experts’ picks: Verlander (12 votes), Cease (1)
What to know: This is what you call a comeback season. After blowing out his elbow one start into 2020 and undergoing Tommy John surgery, Verlander returned at age 39 after missing two seasons and went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, leading the AL in wins and ERA. You lead the league in those two categories and you’re the heavy favorite to win the Cy Young Award, but Verlander also led the majors in lowest batting average allowed (.186), lowest OBP allowed (.227) and lowest slugging percentage allowed (.270).
Cease (14-8, 2.20 ERA, 227 strikeouts) and Manoah (16-7, 2.24 ERA, 196 2/3 innings) are certainly two of the up-and-coming young starters in the game. Indeed, there are arguments to be made for both. Cease led AL pitchers with 6.4 bWAR, although Verlander and Manoah weren’t far behind at 5.9 (and non-finalist Shohei Ohtani was at 6.2). Manoah pitched 21 more innings than Verlander, which is important, and did it pitching in the league’s toughest division (and had a 1.90 ERA in division games). Still, this looks like Verlander’s year and his third Cy Young Award, after wins in 2011 and 2019 (and three runner-up finishes in between). — Schoenfield
Cy Young must-reads:
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National League MVP
Experts’ picks: Goldschmidt (6 votes), Machado (4), Arenado (3)
What to know: Goldschmidt had been the heavy favorite after hitting .404/.471/.817 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in May and remaining hot … at least until September, when he finally slumped, hitting .245 with two home runs. By then, however, the Cardinals were cruising to a division title and the Goldschmidt MVP storyline seemed etched in stone. But as our expert picks suggest, maybe it isn’t such a sure thing. Arenado (7.9) actually topped Goldschmidt (7.8) in bWAR, although the difference there is insignificant. Machado (7.4), meanwhile, led in FanGraphs WAR over Arenado’s 7.3 and Goldschmidt’s 7.1.
Goldschmidt was the best hitter in the NL, finishing at .317/.404/.578 with 35 home runs and 115 RBIs, so support for Arenado and Machado centers around the value their defense brings and those WAR totals that ended up pretty even. Goldschmidt led the NL in win probability added (Machado was second) while Arenado wasn’t in the top 10, but some of the other clutch numbers favor Arenado: He had a .988 OPS in high-leverage situations (Goldschmidt was at .895) and .864 in “late and close” situations (Goldschmidt was at .789).
MVP voters have certainly focused on a player’s WAR more and more over the past decade, so that should make this a split vote, but in a close race, it usually seems to go to the best hitter and that’s Goldschmidt. He has had two runner-up MVP finishes and one third place, but at 34 years old, I think he finally wins. — Schoenfield
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American League MVP
Experts’ picks: Judge (12 votes), Ohtani (1)
What to know: You might have heard about this one. Ohtani went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts as a pitcher. As mentioned above, his 6.2 pitching bWAR was second in the AL and he’ll probably finish fourth in the Cy Young voting. As a hitter, he hit .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs, good enough for the fifth-highest OPS in the AL. So you have a top-five pitcher and a top-five hitter. That is a superhero season.
And somehow not epic enough. Judge’s season was also historic: 62 home runs, 131 RBIs, 133 runs, .425 OBP, .686 slugging. He led the AL in all those categories, most in dominant fashion, doing it in a season when offense was at its lowest levels since 2015. It was the best offensive season since peak Barry Bonds, and if you don’t want to include Bonds, you have to go back to Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams in the 1950s. Judge finished with 10.6 bWAR compared to Ohtani’s pitching-plus-hitting total of 9.6. Of course, the way WAR is constructed, it gives Ohtani a positional penalty, since he was a DH. Maybe you can argue that isn’t fair, since Ohtani obviously plays another position — pitcher.
Still, we can add up the numbers and leave position out of this: Ohtani produced an estimated 31 runs more than an average hitter and saved 40 runs compared to an average pitcher, for a combined total of 71 runs; Judge produced an estimated 80 runs more than average hitter. That’s how good he was at the plate: Better than the combined value of Ohtani the pitcher and Ohtani the hitter. And that’s why Judge’s MVP award will be a deserving honor. — Schoenfield
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