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MLB midseason awards: Who takes home MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, more

As the 2023 MLB season hits the All-Star break, here’s who’d get our vote for MVP, Cy Young and more.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels at bat 2during the third inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 05, 2023 in San Diego, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Hard as it is to believe, we’ve just about reached the All-Star break, the unofficial line of demarcation in the 2023 MLB season. While the sport’s biggest stars get set to square off in Seattle and the rest of the league gets a few much-deserved days off, let’s take this time to reflect on the first half that was — by handing out some midseason awards. Because while there’s still plenty of baseball left to be played, who doesn’t love fake hardware? So, without further ado:

AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Runner-up: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays

I mean, come on. Here is an incomplete list of statistics in which Ohtani leads the Majors: Homers, slugging, OPS, RBI, total bases, lowest opponent batting average, lowest opponent OPS, strikeout rate. It’s not just that we’ve never seen a player be as great as Ohtani is as a hitter and a pitcher. It’s that we haven’t seen any player even attempt what Ohtani has done this season — even Babe Ruth excelled as a pitcher, then excelled as a hitter in the second half of his career. Pro-rating his stats on the mound and at the plate out over the rest of the season, Ohtani is basically on pace to fuse prime Ruth with prime Justin Verlander.

In the interest of being fair, we should really divide this award for the next half-decade or so into the Ohtani MVP and the MVP for Normal Humans. The competition for the latter has been stiff — and injuries to Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez muddied the waters — but we give Franco the nod here over the likes of Bo Bichette, Luis Robert Jr. and Adolis Garcia for his all-around contributions. He’s the best defensive shortstop in all of baseball, all while being 25 percent better than league average at the plate and leading the team with the best record in the AL — at 22 years old.

NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

Runner-up: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

A thought experiment: If the Braves were suddenly moved to the American League, would Acuna Jr.’s ridiculous season be enough to overtake Ohtani for MVP? Probably not, but the fact that it’s even a conversation highlights just how otherworldly the outfielder has been For example: He’s on pace to become the first 40/70 player in the history of the game. He’s also racked up 41 steals, 21 homers, 46 extra-base hits and 78 runs scored, the first time anyone has ever hit those marks before the All-Star break. He’s been far and away the best hitter in baseball this season, a power/speed combination the likes of which comes around maybe once in a generation. Enjoy it while it lasts.

While the gap between Acuna Jr. and the rest of the NL isn’t quite as large as Ohtani vs. the AL, it’s still pretty wide. Betts, though, is third in WAR behind only Acuna and Ohtani, slashing .271/.373/.557 while playing just about everywhere on the diamond for a Dodgers squad that’s battled a ton of injuries this season. They’re still afloat in the NL West in large part thanks to Betts, who narrowly gets the nod here due to Corbin Carroll’s shoulder issues.

AL Cy Young: Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays

Runner-up: Framber Valdez, Houston Astros

Obviously this isn’t how the world works, but Gausman allowed 15 runs in eight innings across two early-season starts against the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. If you remove those outings from the equation, the righty’s dominance comes into clearer focus: a 7-2 record with a 1.95 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He’s nip and tuck with Ohtani for the title of baseball’s strikeout king, with the most K’s of any player and the most starts (seven) of six innings or more and double-digit strikeouts. That dominance of the one thing a pitcher can control — combined with a brutal schedule that’s featured just three games against teams below .500 — separates him from a crowded field. When in doubt, the most untouchable guy should win.

Valdez doesn’t get quite the whiffs that Gausman does, but he’s been a god-send for an Astros team whose rotation has been decimated by injury. His 2.49 ERA leads the American League, and while that could regress in the second half, he’s a workhorse.

NL Cy Young: Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks

Runner-up: Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

The NL Cy Young picture is similarly clouded, with no one seeming to want to separate themselves from the pack. Even Strider, the guy with probably the most electric stuff in the game, went through a several-start swoon that’s mucked up his numbers a bit. So why not Gallen, who — in a year full of unpredictability — has been just about the most predictable pitcher in the sport. The D-backs righty is either first, or tied for first, in the NL in the following: most starts of seven-plus innings and one run or fewer (five), two runs or fewer (six), 10 strikeouts or more (three) and one walk or none (six). He’s struggled a little recently, giving up eight runs across 13 innings in his last two starts, but he also struck out 16 and allowed a WHIP of 1.00.

The rest of the field is full of question marks, from Clayton Kershaw and Justin Steele’s health to Bryce Elder’s lackluster batted-ball numbers to Marcus Stroman’s recent slump. In the end, I went with Strider, the guy who I most trust to dominate on any given night.

AL Rookie of the Year: Josh Jung, Texas Rangers

Runner-up: Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles

First, a word about Masataka Yoshida: It’s always struck me as a sign of disrespect that we slap the rookie label on seasoned stars who just happen to not have played in the States just yet. Yoshida was an all-world player in Japan, and when the race is as close as this one is, I default to the guys making a significant leap in competition for the first time.

Which brings us to Jung, who’s on pace for 32 homers with an .809 OPS and some very solid defense at third base. If Henderson had started the year the way he’s played over the past month or two, he may have overtaken the Rangers third baseman, but Jung’s body of work — 70 extra plate apperances, and the advantage with the glove — gives him the nod here. Jung whiffs a ton, but so does Henderson, and the Texas rookie makes more hard contact than just about anyone in baseball.

NL Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks

Runner-up: Matt McLain, Cincinnati Reds

Carroll is closer to winning MVP than he is to any other NL rookie, slashing a ridiculous .290/.365/.559 with 18 homers and 24 steals while propelling the D-backs to the NL West lead. His 3.7 WAR is nearly two full wins above any other first-year player on the Senior Circuit, and there’s simply no one else in his league offensively — he’s 14 points clear in wRC+ of his next closest competitor, McLain, who’s been sensational for Cincy but has played in only 47 games. McLain has also had some real BABIP luck in that stretch, which is sure to come down to Earth in the second half, but his bat and glove seem very much legit. He gets the runner-up nod over teammate Elly De La Cruz simply because the latter has only accrued 122 plate appearances so far.

AL Manager of the Year: Bruce Bochy, Texas Rangers

Runner-up: Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

There are a lot of possibilities here, including Cash (juggling positional platoons and injuries in the rotation) and Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde (managing a very young clubhouse in the heat of a pennant race for the first time). But the Rangers have been the AL’s — and arguably baseball’s — biggest surprise so far this season, with a lineup primed to set records, and Bochy deserves at least some of the credit for that with his calm demeanor and decades of experience. It’s hard not to see the confidence and credibility around Texas this year — despite years in the wilderness before he got there — and see the three-time world champion’s fingerprints, a marriage of new-school numbers and old-school grit.

NL Manager of the Year: Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

Runner-up: Skip Schumaker, Miami Marlins

Again, there are other worthy nominees. Schumaker has guided the Marlins through more close games than any team in baseball and has them in the catbird seat in the NL Wild Card chase. David Bell has the Reds’ merry band of youngsters playing with unending confidence, even when they get knocked down. But the D-backs have had the most success of any of these three teams, just two years after losing 110 games. Lovullo kept the clubhouse from collapsing during those dark days, and his team is playing with abandon right now — the most aggressive baserunners in the sport, with unexpected contributors up and down the roster.