Rockies' division rival leads award races through MLB's first quarter | MLB Insider (2024)

In his MLB Insider, Denver Gazette beat writer Luke Zahlmann takes you around the Rockies and MLB:

Award arguments are often the lifeblood of sports commentary.

Debates that nitpick top players down to their walk percentages and strikeout rates are aplenty when the voting begins, and results in baseball’s voting have surprised in the past. The season is past the quarter mark, and multiple players and coaches have stood out — unfortunately, none of the candidates pushing for the league’s most prestigious hardware play in Colorado.

Even so, here are my quarter-poll picks for the league’s biggest awards:

NL MVP: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Betts has been named the league’s best player in the past, but his latest challenge hasn’t received adequate acclaim.

Los Angeles was forced to move the seven-time All-Star to shortstop when alternatives didn’t pan out. Gavin Lux was the original answer but failed to live up to expectations in the field. Enter Betts, a player who moved from second base to right field early in his career and claimed six Gold Glove awards at the new spot.

His latest has helped fix one of the Dodgers’ few issues, and his numbers are eye-popping.

Betts has hit .335 through his first 49 games en route to being second in the league in wins above replacement (3.0) behind teammate Shohei Ohtani and Kyle Tucker, who are tied for the top spot (3.1). His hitting complements a fielding résumé that puts him third among shortstops in defensive runs saved (4) despite only 16 appearances there in the previous 10 seasons.

Most players couldn’t dream of a season as productive as Betts’s, even at their normal position. His move and success at the infield’s hardest spot earn the nod.

AL MVP: Gunnar Henderson,Baltimore Orioles

Henderson is taking the league by storm by leading it in home runs.

He’s one of Baltimore’s prized top prospects and has hit 16 long balls in 45 games at 22 years old. The fact that he’s saved multiple runs at shortstop is just a bonus.

Henderson hit .255 last year with 28 home runs to grab American League Rookie of the Year and earn his organization an extra draft pick. In his second season, he leads the AL in total bases and has upped his numbers across the board for the 29-16 Orioles.

It will be hard for the leadoff hitter to lead the league in runs driven in, but he’s the frontline of an offense that leads the majors in home runs (69), is ninth in runs (224) and hasn’t played a game yet without its star shortstop.

Kyle Tucker is having a career year, too, but is part of a Houston team that has struggled mightily. Team success is only part of the equation but is just one of the categories that go in Henderson’s favor.

NL Cy Young: Shōta Imanaga, Chicago Cubs

Imanaga is the league’s best bargain and has exceeded all expectations in his first year since coming from Japan.

The Cubs signed him to a four-year, $53 million deal from the Yokohama Bay Stars and he’s rewarded them with a historic start. The rookie carries a 0.84 earned run average through nine starts and hasn’t lost a game (5-0). It’s the lowest mark among qualified starters this year and for any starter through his first nine career starts since 1913 when earned runs began being tracked.

Imanaga’s splitter has been key. It’s his most dominant pitch by strikeouts (28), and opponents are hitting.224 against it. He has held opposing teams scoreless in six of his nine starts and has yet to allow more than two earned runs in one.

AL Cy Young: Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers

Skubal would be the talk of sports radio every day if he pitched for New York instead of Detroit.

The Tigers’ lefty has improved his numbers each year since he debuted in 2020 and this year is no different. He has held opponents to a 1.80 ERA and is percentage points behind Ranger Suárez (0.76) for the major-league lead in walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) with a 0.78 mark.

Detroit is no stranger to top pitching; Justin Verlander, Hal Newhouser and Jack Morris are all members of the organization’s historic line of arms. Skubal beat them all out when he became the first Tigers’ starter to strike out 40-plus batters in his first six starts without issuing more than nine walks. He has yet to walk more than two hitters and carries a 66-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine starts.

The name may be new, but the production has been coming fast for Skubal. He would become the franchise’s sixth Cy Young winner and first since Max Scherzer in 2017.

Rockies' division rival leads award races through MLB's first quarter | MLB Insider (3)

Rockies' division rival leads award races through MLB's first quarter | MLB Insider (4)

What I'm hearing:

— Kyle Freeland’s charitable career has been chronicled and added another chapter Monday.

The former University of Evansville (Indiana) standout and Rockies’ rotation pillar is set to donate the largest sum in the school’s history. According to its official announcement, a new clubhouse will be built and named The Freeland Clubhouse thanks to the $3 million donation, which is believed to be the largest amount in the school’s history.

The new clubhouse will be close to German American Bank Field and is set to be done sometime next summer.

Freeland’s baseball career and personal life each reached milestones at Evansville. He pitched three years for the Aces before Colorado took him in the 2014 draft’s first round. He also met his wife, Ashley, who graduated from the university a year after he was drafted.

Sign Up for Pikes Peak 5

Game analysis and insights from The Gazette sports staff including columns by Woody Paige and Paul Klee.
View all of our newsletters.

Success! Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

View all of our newsletters.

“It's truly an honor for myself and my wife Ashley to be able to give back to the University of Evansville and support this baseball program into the future,” Freeland said in a statement. “I owe so much of my development as a baseball player and a person to my time at (Evansville) and Coach Wes Carroll, and this felt like the most fitting way for me to say thank you.

“We're already excited to cut that ribbon and see the future of Purple Aces baseball."

What I'm seeing:

— Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama is set to close its doors at the end of this month, but the baseball program may have other plans.

The team won the Lexington (Ky.) NCAA Division III Regional to advance to the Super Regional for the first time since 2022. It upended host Transylvania 5-2 to move on after upsetting No. 1 seed Spalding earlier in the tournament.

The Panthers will play No. 2 Denison in a best-of-three series May 24-25 for a berth in the championship bracket May 31-June 7. The school is set to shut its doors on May 31, but the team will still be able to compete for a title.

Birmingham-Southern has competed in NAIA, Division I, and now Division III in the program’s 100-plus year history and will look to finish on top before the Panthers close shop.

— A young broadcaster is starting his journey at Double-A Amarillo whose name carries weight in Colorado.

Zach Goodman, son of Rockies’ play-by-play leader Drew Goodman, began his career on the mic May 18 after finishing his playing career at Webster University in St. Louis. He played five years with the program and made 110 appearances as a catcher.

He’ll spend his on-air time with co-star Stefan Caray — grandson of legendary Cubs voice Harry Caray and son of longtime Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray. He was boothmates with his twin brother, Chris, before Zach filled the role.

“I couldn’t be more proud of you…one heck of a career and most importantly a great teammate and leader!” Drew posted on X ahead of his debut. “Good luck tonight behind the mic as (Stefan) Carey’s number 2 with the ⁦(Diamondbacks) AA affiliate.

“Enjoy the journey! I love you.”

In his second game, the younger Goodman made his first home run call, the first of many.


— Amarillo Sod Poodles (@sodpoodles) May 19, 2024

Minor League Minute

— Bryant Bethancourt helped High-A Spokane to five wins in seven games over Vancouver and reaped the rewards on Monday.

Bethancourt was named the Northwest League player of the week after hitting two home runs as part of four extra-base hits and a .444 average. Bethancourt joined teammate Braiden Ward as the Indians’ recipients of the award so far in 2024.

Bethancourt started on Colorado’s Dominican Summer League team in 2021 as an international free-agent signee. He’s hit .272 in 738 at-bats and risen to Spokane across four minor league seasons.

Rockies' division rival leads award races through MLB's first quarter | MLB Insider (6)


Colorado swept by Giants after season-long win streak | Rockies Rewind

  • Luke

The List

MLB's wins above replacement (WAR) leaders, according to FanGraphs:

T-1. Kyle Tucker (HOU) - 3.1

T-1. Shohei Ohtani (LAD) - 3.1

3. Mookie Betts (LAD) - 3.0

T-4. Gunnar Henderson (BAL) - 2.9

T-4. Bobby Witt Jr. (KCR) - 2.9

6. Juan Soto (NYY) - 2.8

7. Aaron Judge (NYY) - 2.6

8. William Contreras (MIL) - 2.4

9. Alec Bohm (PHI) - 2.3

T-10. Marcus Semien (TEX) - 2.2

T-10. Jurickson Profar (SDP) - 2.2

Rockies' division rival leads award races through MLB's first quarter | MLB Insider (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Aron Pacocha

Last Updated:

Views: 5957

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Aron Pacocha

Birthday: 1999-08-12

Address: 3808 Moen Corner, Gorczanyport, FL 67364-2074

Phone: +393457723392

Job: Retail Consultant

Hobby: Jewelry making, Cooking, Gaming, Reading, Juggling, Cabaret, Origami

Introduction: My name is Aron Pacocha, I am a happy, tasty, innocent, proud, talented, courageous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.