The MLB season has come and gone. So here are my choices for the top performers at each position.
Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Maybe the easiest choice of them all, Clayton K’s had a season for the ages. A 16-9 record, 232 strikeouts in 236 innings, a 1.83 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and a trip to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) should be more than enough good work to walk away with the NL Cy Young Award. The Phillies’ Cliff Lee and the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez had excellent seasons as well, but Kershaw is far and away the best pitcher in baseball, and looks to continue his reign for the next decade.
Relief Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel was unhittable as the closer for the Braves this year, posting a 3.3 Wins Above Replacement mark and a 1.21 ERA while registering 50 saves. In an age where Mariano Rivera is retired and elite relievers are considered a rare luxury, Kimbrel’s 101 mph fastball earns him the title of Franchise Closer.
First Baseman: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore faded down the stretch, but there was a time when it looked like the O’s were going to come away with the AL East crown. Davis’ historic home run streak was the heart and soul of Baltimore’s offense through the All-Star break, at which point he had 37 home runs. Davis finished the year with a .286/53/138/.370 line, enough for MVP consideration.
Second Baseman: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Dusty might not have the power numbers of rival second baseman Robinson Cano from the Yankees, but the leadership, clutch hitting, defense and intangibles that Pedroia brings to the Red Sox vault him into this spot. He is the most valuable player on the World Series Champions and would have won the award by default if not for David Ortiz having the greatest offensive series of all time.
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
You might be surprised to see a player with a .248 batting average make this list. But even if Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez had been healthy all season, I think the 24-year old rookie phenom still would have won this award. Simmons came up with some big hits this season and provides a little pop to the Braves offense, but his true value is as the best defensive player in baseball playing the most important defensive position. To put it in numbers, Simmons won 5.4 extra games for his team compared to the average player, just as a result of his defense. The next closest shortstop put up a 2.2 DWAR. To put it rhetorically, Simmons is the next Ozzie Smith.
Third Baseman: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Stat nuts and Bay-Area folk might be disappointed to find Miggy here over A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was fourth in baseball with an 8.0 WAR. But Cabrera’s deficiencies on defense are overshadowed by his impact on offense as the most dominant hitter of our generation. A .348/44/137/.442 line speaks for itself when this MVP caliber season is merely average considering the player’s recent history.
Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Trout got off to a slow start, but quietly bounced back to be the best player in baseball yet again (9.2 WAR). If not for the Josh Hamilton/Albert Pujols disaster, the Angels would have been in contention and trout would have taken home the MVP hardware he should have won last year. Instead, he will get snubbed for the second year in a row. Good thing the kid is only 22 years old and has another 15 years to dominate baseball.
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburg Pirates
The Pirates never would have ended their playoff drought without the incredible performance of their superstar centerfielder. McCutchen is the epitome of a five tool player, the NL’s equivalent to Trout. As long as he’s in town, the Pirates should be able to show that they were no fluke.
Outfield: Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Gomez enjoyed a renaissance 2013 season, which established him as the star many thought he would be years ago. Maybe it’s the water, maybe it’s the local beer, but whatever it is, Gomez needs to keep drinking it. A career sub-.250 hitter, the 27 year-old broke out not only in average (.284), but in power (24 homeruns) and defense (career high 4.6 DWAR). The 8.4 WAR he brought his team are as many as every previous season combined. The career journeyman should have a home in Miller Park for many years to come.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of November 6th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Art by Amy Chase of the Daily Nexus.