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Although the Minnesota Twins had a lackluster showing in 2021 it doesn’t stop the from nearing a completion. As competing teams look towards the postseason, it’s first time to take a look at the individual standouts. Each year I have the privilege of voting through the IBWAA and sharing the selections creates transparency. This season we saw a return to normalcy following an abbreviated run during a global pandemic a year ago. The treat was a two-way player doing unprecedented things within the sport, and some utterly dominant stars. When handing out the hardware, here’s who I went with: American League MVP - Shohei Ohtani (Runner Up: Vladimir Guerrero Jr) In what otherwise would be considered an unmatchable season, the Blue Jays slugger gets trumped by the Angels star that brings something to the sport we will likely never see again. Shohei Ohtani has paced the sport in longballs while being in the middle of a Cy Young conversation. Add his blistering speed to the equation and you’ve got some sort of a robot. National League MVP - Bryce Harper (Runner Up: Fernando Tatis Jr.) Maybe the quietest of the star performances this season, Bryce Harper has been a catalyst for the Phillies. His 1.032 OPS leads the league and his 32 longballs have a chance to threaten his previous MVP season with a strong finish. Tatis Jr. looked like he may run away with this award in the early going, but Harper has been steady and gets the nod here. American League Cy Young - Gerrit Cole (Runner Up: Robbie Ray) The Yankees ace has had little trouble without the use of sticky substances and being good before seems to have continued with the new set of rules. He’s still dominant, striking everyone out, and keeping runs against to a minimum. Blue Jays free agent acquisition Robbie Ray has made plenty of noise and is a worthy choice, but it’s just not quite enough to unseat the man in pinstripes. National League Cy Young - Max Scherzer (Runner Up: Corbin Burnes) Being as dominant as Mad Max has been on two different teams this year is a feat in and of itself. Despite being dealt, the former Nationals ace has relocated and picked up right where he left off. Recently joining the 3,000 strikeout club, Scherzer has earned every bit of his fourth Cy Young. Burnes has been exceptional for the Brewers, and would be a fine choice as well, but I had to side with Scherzer on the coin flip. American League Rookie of the Year - Randy Arozarena (Runner Up: Adolis Garcia) After starring in the postseason last year for Tampa Bar, Arozarena continued to be an incredible asset on the American League’s best team. He’s got the ability to contribute in so many different categories and has been consistent in a lineup needing him to produce. Texas saw plenty of power production from Adolis Garcia, and he’ll be fun to watch as his game develops more in years to come. National League Rookie of the Year - Jonathan India (Runner Up: Patrick Wisdom) A former 5th overall pick, India debut and hasn’t disappointed. With nearly an .850 OPS his power has been on full display. He’s already got 20 longballs and has a shot to finish with 10 steals. At second base the production is a massive boost for Cincinnati, and he’s rounded into a cornerstone type player. The Cubs Wisdom has been a great story, and the home run production has been off the charts. He too has been very fun to watch. American League Manager of the Year - Kevin Cash (Runner Up: Dusty Baker) What more can you say about a man that continues to do more with less? Cash has been given teams requiring managerial talent and positioning. Players needing to develop and be utilized in the correct situations, the man voted as “best looking” continues to push all of the right buttons. What the Astros have returned to is impressive, but they’re still looking up at the Rays. National League Manager of the Year -Gabe Kapler (Runner Up: Dave Roberts) Cast off from the Phillies and coming off a near-.500 mark in his first season with the Giants, Kapler took a team with no considerable shot for the postseason and turned them into arguably the National League’s best team. Having added veteran talents at the deadline, he’s continued to massage egos, time, and talents in an effort for the winning to continue. Part of the new wave, he’s fended off the Dodgers and their loaded roster under Dave Roberts. American League Reliever of the Year - Liam Hendriks (Runner Up: Ryan Pressly) Signed to a big deal over the winter, Liam Hendriks has delivered for the only competitive team in the AL Central. Working as Tony La Russa’s closer, he’s been used traditionally and has held down the role even past the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel. Hendriks has been elite for some time now, but his 34 saves lead the league, and his 14.0 K/9 is a new career high. The Astros Ryan Pressly has pushed himself up into a similar realm. National League Reliever of the Year - Josh Hader (Runner Up: Kenley Jansen) Milwaukee has pitched their way to dominance this season and it’s been in both the rotation and bullpen. Hader has been as good as ever, and Devin Williams was in consideration here as well. The lanky fireballer has racked up 31 saves and complied a whopping 15.3 K/9. Los Angeles has gotten consistent run from Jansen, but it hasn’t quite been a career year. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Last night Fernando Tatis Jr. got a grooved fastball in a 3-0 count and sent it into orbit. The San Diego Padres were already up seven late in the game, and with the bases loaded, his grand slam put it way out of reach. Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward, he of the crotchety old age of 44, took exception to it. Woodward told reporters after the game, "I didn't like it personally. You're up by 7 in the 8th inning, it's typically not a good time 3-0. It's kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But ... the norms are being challenged." He literally was asking for his opponent to quit playing. After Major League Baseball marketed their young talent wonderfully during the 2019 season with the slogan “Let the kids play” this is where we’re at. I have no problem with baseball having unwritten rules. I think there’s a certain level of affection I have reserved specifically for the nuances in the sport. By and large though, the vast majority of said unwritten rules are dated and should be re-evaluated. Retaliation in the form of beanballs has long been silly. Bunting late in a game solely to break up a no-hit bid is one I think should draw some ire. If a pitcher wants to get on you for walking unnecessarily over his mound, so be it. Suggesting there’s counts in which the pitcher should know what the batter is doing though, and even further, completely expecting them to give up, is not a good look. More often than not a 3-0 count results in a take due to the game scenario. Unless the pitch is absolutely grooved, that’s not a situation in which you want to miss and make an out. If a pitcher is going to throw a get-me-over fastball though, by all means the batter should be locked in and ready to ride it into orbit. When Fernando Tatis Jr. did just that, his own manager Jayce Tingler missed the mark in defending him. Instead of noting that there was a sign missed, he simply could’ve said that he put a great swing on the pitch. Sure, missing signs is suboptimal, but that’s not the talking point in that specific spot. It’s like the basketball coach wanting the guard to work the offense, but he steps back and drains a three, which then causes exhale anyways. There were takes all over the place in the wake of Tatis’ performance. Many of them correctly called out Woodward as off base and old school. Former Twins pitcher Phil Hughes chimed in comparing the situation to that of a football team taking a knee. The difference between all of those types of comparisons however is that baseball is the lone sport not dictated by time. When you’re up against a clock, strategy involved suggests killing the seconds and minutes in order to get you closer to victory. Baseball has outs, 27 of them, all finite. The only strategy when it comes to results in baseball is scoring more than the opposition before your self-inflicted missed opportunities run out. If you want to be mad at a guy for swinging 3-0 at a bad pitch and giving up an opportunity to get on base, so be it. If you want to get mad at a guy for putting the ball in the seats, under any circumstances, by all means hop aboard the leather and ride it right on outta here. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Prospects break into the big leagues every season and there was no shortage of big names on this year’s list of breakthrough prospects. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Yordan Alvarez and Eloy Jimenez are just a few of the players from the current rookie class to find early success. Guerrero and Tatis were two of the top prospects in the game and they didn’t slow down after their call-ups. MLB.com released their list of rookies with the most potential value moving forward. After the breakout season from Arraez, it seemed like a no-brainer to have him high on the list. According to FanGraphs, Arraez has been the been the ninth most valuable rookie in all of baseball. However, MLB.com doesn’t see his future value as being so high. As a 22-year old, he barely cracks the top-30. There isn’t exactly a cornucopia of well-known players ahead of Arraez on MLB’s list. Other second baseman on the list near him include Tampa’s Brandon Lowe, Miami’s Isan Diaz and Pittsburgh’s Kevin Newman. All these players could have great careers ahead of them, but Arraez might have a little something more to add to the equation. https://twitter.com/cjzero/status/1173785434436096000?s=20 Few MLB players have been able to do what Arraez has done in his first 300 plate appearances. Only three players rank better than him in batting average among 22-year-olds in the past 100 years Among the other players on the list include Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Joe DiMaggio. This isn’t exactly a random list of players that had good seasons as a young player. All three of these names are inner circle Hall-of-Fame members that are among some of the best all-time hitters. https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1174111810221432832?s=20 Value can come on both sides of the ball for a player. In the case of Arraez, his defensive value seems limited, but he has shown the ability to play multiple positions. He seems destined to be Minnesota’s second baseman. That doesn’t mean he can't play left field, with over 130 innings out there and over 120 innings at third base. His bat will play no matter what position he is playing in the field. Arraez may never reach the level of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Fernando Tatis Jr. This still doesn’t take anything away from what he has been able to do at the big-league level. There aren’t 28 rookies better than Arraez this season and he will prove his value in the years ahead. How valuable do you think Arraez can be in the years to come? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
Graduating Prospects Besides Guerrero Jr., other top ranked prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez have been on their big league squads since the season started. Both of these top prospects have taken different routes to baseball’s highest level. That being said, both will be graduating from prospect lists early this season. Jimenez signed a unique contact with the division rival White Sox this off-season. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of the Twins approaching Royce Lewis and/or Alex Kirilloff with a similar deal. With a deal like this, there was no reason to keep Jimenez in the minors. He was under contract and the team could let him play at the big league level. Tatis Jr. was a surprise to make the Padres roster out of spring training. Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer took out Padres ownership to convince them to let the young prospect make the team. It was a smart move as the shortstop has been carrying their squad this season. Entering play on Monday, he’s batting .300 with a .910 OPS and 12 extra-base hits in 27 games. Lewis’s Competition Lewis is off to a slow start this season so there are plenty of other prospects challenging him for the top spot. Names like Alex Kirilloff, Wander Franco, and Nick Senzel have resumes that warrant consideration for baseball’s top prospect. Twins fans are very familiar with Kirilloff and what he was able to do last season. At Twins Daily, he was named the Minor League Hitter of the Year. MiLB.com also awarded Kirilloff with the Breakout Prospect of the Year. His 71 extra-base hits and 296 total bases ranked as best in the minors. Unfortunately, he has missed time at the beginning of this season with a wrist injury. Franco is 18-years old and he might be on pace to be a better prospect than Guerrero. He’s shown an advanced bat and he has all the makings of a five-tool superstar. Like Kirilloff, Senzel started the season battling an injury. He is starting the year at Triple-A, but he is close to big league ready. Senzel has been ranked as a top-10 prospect by multiple entities for the last three seasons. Slow Start Lewis hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire to start the season. Entering play on Monday, he has gone 17-for-87 (.195 BA) with three extra-base hits. His .538 OPS is 265 points lower than the OPS he compiled last season at Low- and High-A. He’s 20-years old which still makes his 2.4 years younger than the competition in the Florida State League. The slow start shouldn’t be anything to be concerned about. He still has elite speed to go along with strong hitting acumen. Also, his defense seems like it might be string enough to stick at shortstop which would be a very positive thing. Do you think Lewis is baseball’s best prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.