Even if we’re not even to the all-star break yet, it’s still not too early to start looking at the MLB awards leaders in 2022. All of the major MLB award races remain wide open, although it’s hard to deny that several favorites have emerged in each race.
MLB awards leaders 2022
That means at the moment, the MLB award rankings are still tight. With that in mind, let’s forget about all previous MLB award winners and break down the serious contenders to win the Cy Young, MVP, and Rookie of the Year in both leagues for the 2022 season.
NL Rookie of the Year
Like most years, the NL Rookie of the Year race is wide open, in part because it’s filled with some unfamiliar names. If there is a frontrunner early in the year, it’s San Diego’s MacKenzie Gore. The lefty has made 10 appearances thus far, posting a 2.50 ERA. On top of that, he’s averaging over a strikeout per inning, which is impressive for a rookie with no previous experience in the majors before this year.
Outside of Gore, the only pitcher who appears to be a serious contender is Atlanta’s Spencer Strider. He pitched well for the Braves out of the bullpen early in the season and has made a smooth transition to the rotation, pitching to a 2.35 ERA over three starts and 11 relief outings. But when it comes to the MLB awards leaders for Rookie of the Year, pitchers are sometimes at a disadvantage because they sometimes tire out late in the year. Plus, both Gore and Strider need to remain in the starting rotation all year.
Among position players, Nolan Gorman of the Cardinals and Seiya Suzuki of the Cubs have both made the best impression thus far. Gorman was raking at triple-A before getting called up for his debut in mid-May. He’s shown a surprising amount of pop and is pushing an OPS of .800, which should keep him in the Rookie of the Year discussion.
As for Suzuki, the Japanese transplant was posting similar numbers and had showcased a little bit of power before going on the IL in late May. Obviously, he’ll have to come back healthy and be productive following the injury. But his power potential should make him a serious Rookie of the Year contender.
AL Rookie of the Year
Right off the bat, the AL Rookie of the Year race is already a two-horse race between Seattle outfielder Julio Rodriguez and Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena. Rodriguez has tools that are off the charts and has shown that through 60 games, hitting 10 doubles, eight home runs, and stealing 17 bases. His strikeout numbers are a little concerning, but other than that, the 21-year-old looks like the real deal and one of the most exciting among MLB awards leaders.
Meanwhile, Pena has had the task of filling Carlos Correa’s shoes in Houston. He’s somehow managed to do the impossible, batting .277 with an OPS of .804 and nine home runs when he went to the IL on June 15. Of course, the injury raises some questions, but if he can pick up where he left off when he’s healed, Pena will be a serious Rookie of the Year contender.
Meanwhile, it’s too early to forget about some of the dark horse candidates in the American League. Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. and Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman are two players to watch closely. Witt started slowly, but the no. 2 overall pick in 2019 has started to show improvement and display his incredible talent. Likewise, Rutschman has shown some growing pains after getting called up in May, although he has the tools to put together a strong second half and get in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
NL Cy Young
Typical MLB awards leaders like Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer likely won’t play a role in the NL Cy Young race this year, which means the award is wide open. Scherzer was at least pitching well early in the season, but he likely won’t return until July, at which point he’ll need to pitch lights-out the rest of the way to win another Cy Young.
In his place, Miami’s Sandy Alcantara has turned himself into the early leader of the pack. Alcantara has been outstanding for the Marlins, averaging seven innings per start while pitching to a 1.68 ERA and a WHIP of 0.96 over his first 13 starts. In today’s game, the innings that Alcantara is racking up are nearly as impressive as his ERA.
But the race is far from over with Joe Musgrove and Corbin Burnes right behind Alcantara. Musgrove has been nearly as good as Alcantara, going 7-0 with a 1.50 ERA over his first 11 starts for the Padres.
At the moment, Alcantara’s extra innings are giving him a slight edge over Musgrove. Burnes, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to win as many games with Milwaukee as expected. Among NL pitchers, Burnes has already started to run away with the strikeout lead, which will put him in the Cy Young conversation. Of course, with more than half of the season left to play, keep an eye on Pablo Lopez, Max Fried, Carlos Rodon, and even Tony Gonsolin as potential Cy Young contenders.
AL Cy Young
In a way, Robbie Ray winning last year is a sign that anybody can win this award and that the AL Cy Young race is there for the taking. At the moment, Justin Verlander has to be looked at as the favorite as one of MLB awards leaders of the past. Verlander has name recognition and the fact that the 39-year-old is fresh off Tommy John surgery and is already 8-2 with a 1.94 ERA through 12 starts is nothing short of amazing. His WHIP of 0.81 isn’t too shabby either. If he can come anywhere close to maintaining those numbers all season, the narrative of him being this good at his age coming off major surgery will surely give him another Cy Young.
However, the award isn’t Verlander’s just yet. Tampa’s Shane McClanahan, Toronto’s Alek Manoah, and Nestor Cortes of the Yankees have all put themselves in the discussion. Cortes has almost come out of nowhere, although he was a top-10 pick in 2017 and is rocking a 1.96 ERA through 11 starts.
McClanahan is also a relatively unknown name, although he’s among the MLB leaders in strikeouts and also has an impressive 1.87 ERA after 12 starts. Finally, Manoah has quickly made the transition from promising rookie to Cy Young contender. He’s the ace of Toronto’s staff, going 8-1 with a 1.67 ERA over his first 12 starts, although his strikeout numbers do lag behind some of the other Cy Young contenders.
There is certainly no shortage of candidates in the NL MVP race, which is why it’s too close to call at the moment. Since the middle of June, nobody has been hotter than Paul Goldschmidt. He has a massive lead in the NL in both average and OPS, giving him a leg up right now.
Bryce Harper is the only player who’s anywhere close to Goldschmidt in average and OPS, and if the Phillies can stay hot, there’s no denying his value despite being relegated to DH duties because of a shoulder injury.
But the list extends far beyond those two. Manny Machado has taken the San Diego lineup and put it on his back this season with Fernando Tatis Jr. sidelined. Mookie Betts has done that to a lesser extent with the Dodgers while putting up numbers that should draw some MVP consideration.
Finally, the wild card in the race could be Pete Alonso. He’s currently anchoring the lineup for the best team in the National League. Alonso also has a slight lead in the NL in both home runs and RBIs. But he’s also proving to be more than a power hitter with his average creeping toward .300, which could put him front and center in the MVP race.
Until further notice, the AL MVP race is Aaron Judge’s to lose. Even among the best MLB awards leaders in 2022, Judge has been spectacular, already blasting 25 home runs while also hitting over .300.
He has a comfortable lead among his MVP contenders for the highest OPS and has been impossible to get out. The only question is whether he can keep producing at the same level all season because if he does, there will be no stopping him.
On the off-chance that Judge comes back to earth at some point, it’s worth mentioning some other contenders.
In terms of the value he provides to his team, nobody has been more valuable than Jose Ramirez has been to the Guardians. He’s batting close to .300, has an OPS over 1.000, and is averaging more than one RBI per game, which is extraordinary. If he can somehow carry Cleveland to the postseason, he could challenge Judge.
Meanwhile, the power coming from Yordan Alvarez makes him someone to watch closely. Boston’s Rafael Devers is a contender for the batting title and is close to being second behind Judge in home runs, giving him a strong argument. Last but not least, there is Mike Trout, who will always be in the MVP discussion if he stays healthy.