With another All-Star Game in the books, it is time to hand out our annual mid-year awards.
The races for the MVP in both the American and National Leagues have some familiar people as well as some very young faces in the mix.
Will this be the year Mike Trout becomes “The Man” after playing second fiddle to players like Miguel Cabrera since joining the Los Angeles Angels. Or can Cabrera overtake Trout and become the first AL player to win three straight MVP awards?
In the National League, can the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen be the first back-to-back winner of the NL MVP award since Albert Pujols accomplished the feat in 2008 and 2009? Or will Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki be the first shortstop to grab the honor since Jimmy Rollins in 2007?
The races are just as tight for the Cy Young award with some new names mixed in with the usual suspects.
Will the best left-handed pitcher in the game — Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw — make it three out of four years to win the NL Cy Young? Or can St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright earn his first?
The American League is more wide-open with New York’s Masahiro Tanaka possibly out for the majority of the second half or even the season. That leaves the door open for Felix Hernandez to win his second award.
There is very little doubt that Mike Trout is the best all-around player in baseball and it is time he is honored for it. Trout is hitting .310 with 22 home runs, 73 RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage this year. Not bad for someone who is just 22 years of age and won’t turn 23 until Aug. 7.
Barring injury, Trout might be this generation’s Mickey Mantle — a player who can hit for average and power as well as steal some bases.
Others to watch — Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion.
The funny thing about Andrew McCutchen winning last season’s MVP is that his stats this year may be better.
McCutchen is currently batting .324 with 17 home runs, 61 RBIs and is sporting a .420 on-base percentage.
If it wasn’t for Buster Posey having an outstanding year in 2012, we might be talking about McCutchen winning the NL MVP three years in a row and at 27, still having plenty of good seasons in front of him.
Others to watch — Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton.
AL Cy Young
Until about two weeks ago, New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka was all but a lock to win as a rookie. Then his elbow decided to go south on him, forced him to the DL and possibly facing the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
With Tanaka’s status in doubt for the second half, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez will slide in and grab his second Cy Young award. But don’t think “King Felix” is a poor second choice because he isn’t. Hernandez is 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA. He has 154 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings.
Others to watch — Los Angeles’ Garrett Richards and Detroit’s Max Scherzer.
NL Cy Young
Unlike the American League which is wide-open because of an injury, the competition in the National League is very tight because of the number of good contenders.
St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright gets the nod, but barely. Wainwright is 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA. He has 115 strikeouts in 138 innings.
But things could shift quickly as a handful of other pitchers should make a strong run in the second half.
Others to watch — Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.