Bowden: Early MLB award predictions for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and more

Bowden: Early MLB award predictions for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and more
By Jim Bowden
Sep. 19, 2023

We’re down to the final two weeks of the regular season, and although we’re still two months away from award season, we’ve seen enough to at least determine the front-runners for MLB’s major individual honors, which will be presented in November after the World Series. Therefore, let’s have some fun and look at the competition for the key awards.


If the season ended today, here’s who I think would take home the top prizes. In the comments section, let me know what I got right and what I got wrong, and why.

WAR figures are according to Baseball Reference. 

American League MVP

1. Shohei Ohtani, DH/RHP, Angels (10.0 WAR)

2. Corey Seager, SS, Rangers (6.6 WAR)
3. Kyle Tucker, RF, Astros (4.5 WAR)

Ohtani’s 2023 performance is arguably the best season in MLB history and he should win his second MVP Award. As a hitter, he slashed .304/.412/.654 with 44 home runs, 102 runs scored, 95 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. As a pitcher, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings (23 starts). Seager has slashed .334/.396/.645 with 31 homers, 83 runs scored and 92 RBIs.

National League MVP

1. Ronald Acu?a Jr., RF, Braves (7.6 WAR)

2. Mookie Betts, RF, Dodgers (8.0 WAR)
3. Matt Olson, 1B, Braves (6.8 WAR)
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers (6.3 WAR)

It’s been a fun race all year between Acu?a and Betts and both deserve to win it. Acu?a leads Betts in runs (135 to 122), batting average (.336 to .308), on-base percentage (.417 to .409), stolen bases (66 to 13) and triples (3 to 1), while Betts leads Acu?a in doubles (37 to 33), home runs (39 to 37), RBIs (103 to 98) and slugging percentage (.596 to .586). Acu?a’s 66 stolen bases will probably help him edge Betts in the end but Betts’ positional flexibility and better defense could balance that out. How they finish the season will matter. Olson (52 homers, 129 RBIs, 162 OPS+) and Freeman (.335 average, 55 doubles, 162 OPS+) deserve mention for their outstanding seasons.



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AL Cy Young

Gerrit Cole, a six-time All-Star, looks like he’ll win his first Cy Young Award. (Jamie Sabau / USA Today)

1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Yankees (6.3 WAR)

2. Sonny Gray, RHP, Twins (5.2 WAR)
3. Luis Castillo, RHP, Mariners (3.7 WAR)

Cole is finally going to win his first Cy Young Award and it’s well-deserved, as he’s gone 13-4 with a 2.81 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 192 innings (31 starts). Strikeouts and WHIP are key separators between him and Gray for the top spot.

NL Cy Young

1. Blake Snell, LHP, Padres (5.4 WAR)

2. Justin Steele, LHP, Cubs (4.1 WAR)
3. Zac Gallen, RHP, Diamondbacks (3.9 WAR)


This is the closest race of the bunch and probably won’t be decided until Snell and Steele each make their final regular-season start. I’m giving a slight advantage to Snell due to his lead in ERA (2.43 to 2.73), strikeouts (217 to 164), hits allowed (111 in 167 innings to 153 in 165 innings) and batting average against (.187 to .244).



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AL Rookie of the Year

1. Gunnar Henderson, 3B, Orioles (6.0 WAR)

2. Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox (2.2 WAR)
3. Tanner Bibee, RHP, Guardians (3.5 WAR)

Josh Jung was the front-runner for the AL rookie award until he fractured his left thumb in early August, which gave Henderson (.832 OPS, 27 home runs, 79 RBIs) the opportunity to overtake him. Casas had a strong late run before suffering a shoulder injury, slashing .317/.417/.617 with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs in the second half of the season to make it a neck-and-neck finish. Bibee was the best rookie pitcher in the league, finishing 10-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 25 starts before landing on the injured list with right hip inflammation.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Corbin Carroll, LF, Diamondbacks (5.0 WAR)

2. Kodai Senga, RHP, Mets (4.3 WAR)
3. Matt McLain, INF, Reds (3.7 WAR)

The NL rookie race is also close between Carroll and Senga and it’s unfortunate that there isn’t an award for both a rookie position player and pitcher. However, I’d give the edge to Carroll, who has 24 homers, 47 stolen bases, 104 runs scored and an .859 OPS. Meanwhile, the Mets’ 30-year-old rookie has gone 11-7 with a 2.95 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings.

Mariano Rivera Award (AL Reliever of the Year)

Félix Bautista has struck out 110 in 61 innings this season. (Reggie Hildred / USA Today)

Félix Bautista, RHP, Orioles (3.0 WAR)

Bautista has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, and probably won’t pitch again this season. However, he has been by far the best reliever in the AL and there is not enough time for anyone to catch him. Bautista went 8-2 with a 1.48 ERA, 0.918 WHIP, 46.4 K% and a .144 batting average against.

Trevor Hoffman Award (NL Reliever of the Year)

Josh Hader, LHP, Padres (2.1 WAR)

Hader will enter free agency after a dominant season in which he’s logged a 1.26 ERA and 30 saves, with 79 strikeouts and 28 walks in 50 innings. His former teammate on the Brewers, Devin Williams (1.59 ERA, 35 saves), should finish a close second, thanks to his dominant changeup (.098 batting average against).

AL Comeback Player of the Year

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Rays (1.8 WAR)

Glasnow returned from Tommy John surgery and has been a huge success. He’s struck out 146 in 109 2/3 innings while going 9-6 with a. 3.53 ERA and 1.094 WHIP. His fastball is back to 96-99 mph and his breaking pitches are elite once again as opposing batters are hitting .102 against his curveball and .250 against his slider.

NL Comeback Player of the Year

Cody Bellinger, 1B, Cubs (4.0 WAR)

Bellinger was one of the most undervalued free-agent signings of the offseason and the Cubs have been rewarded for giving him a second chance. He’s slashed .311/.356/.534 (.890 OPS, sixth in NL) with 25 home runs, 91 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He’s a key reason Chicago is in the hunt for a wild-card spot. Bellinger, 28, is an impending free agent and couldn’t have had a better season before going back on the open market.

AL Manager of the Year

Brandon Hyde, Orioles

There are several worthy candidates but Hyde deserves to win his first manager of the year award after leading the Orioles back to the postseason for the first time since 2016. The Orioles have a leg up on the Rays to win the AL East and they have a legitimate shot at making the World Series. Hyde’s ability to navigate his depth in both the infield and outfield has been impressive and he’s done a terrific job manipulating and developing his pitching staff.

NL Manager of the Year

David Ross, Cubs

This was one of the most difficult decisions on my awards ballot. David Bell of the Reds, Skip Schumaker of the Marlins and Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks had strong seasons and all were given serious consideration. However, Ross’ season in Chicago stands out and he gets high grades across the board. He led the Cubs’ surge from 10 games below .500 on June 8 into wild-card position, but now they have to finish the job.

(Top image: Photo of Shohei Ohtani: Kevin D. Liles / Atlanta Braves / Getty Images; Photo of Ronald Acu?a Jr.: Matthew Grimes Jr. / Atlanta Braves / Getty Images)

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Jim Bowden

Jim Bowden , a national writer for The Athletic MLB, was formerly the Sr. VP and general manager for the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals for a combined 16 years, including being named the 1999 MLB Executive of the Year by Baseball America. He is the lead MLB Analyst and Insider for CBS Sports-HQ and a regular talk-show host on SiriusXM for the MLB Network and Fantasy channels. Follow him on twitter: @JimBowdenGM Follow Jim on Twitter @JimBowdenGM