Three by three, the finalists for baseball's greatest individual honors were revealed Tuesday night as candidates for the annual Baseball Writers' Association of America awards were narrowed down for each of the eight accolades.
With a trio of finalists for Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year for each league, the field of players and skippers who made their mark on 2015 has been culled to the very cream of the crop.
Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who Monday won the Players' Choice Player of the Year Award as the overall top performer as judged by his peers, heads the list of American League MVP Award candidates alongside the Angels' Mike Trout, the 2014 AL MVP Award winner and a finalist for a fourth straight year.
The National League MVP Award field, meanwhile, became the first since 1959 in which the top three vote-getters didn't participate in the postseason, according to MLB Network. It also clarified one other issue: There will not be another MVP-Cy Young double this year after the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw pulled the feat last year. Possible candidates included Kershaw, teammate Zack Greinke and Cubs ace Jake Arrieta -- the three NL Cy Young Award finalists -- but none made the NL MVP Award cut.
The three finalists for each award are based on voting from two BBWAA members per league city, submitted prior to postseason play. Winners will be announced next week on MLB Network.
The finalists for the 2015 BBWAA awards:
AL MVP: Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout
A second straight AL MVP Award remains in play for Trout, but so does a third runner-up performance in four years -- this time with Donaldson poised to play the spoiler role Miguel Cabrera played twice before. With Donaldson sweeping the Players Choice honors with the AL Outstanding Player on top of the overall choice, it's clear his presence was key to Toronto's return to the postseason for the first time since 1993. Trout's Angels, meanwhile, stayed home, which could be a factor.
Not to diminish the accomplishments of Cain, the best overall player on the AL's best team (and eventual World Series champion), but this race would appear to be between the reigning king and his would-be successor. It's a close call: Donaldson had more extra-base hits (84) than Trout (79) and a lot more RBIs (123-90), they both had 41 homers, and Trout led in WAR (9.0-8.7, per Fangraphs) and OPS (.991-.939).
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto
Harper took the NL Outstanding Player prize in the Players Choice Awards, and the Nationals' right fielder figures as the favorite in this race, too. With Goldschmidt of the D-backs and 2010 NL MVP Award winner Votto of the Reds also in the mix, the league's three top vote-getters have more in common than just a striking array of statistics: None reached the postseason, the first time that has happened since Ernie Banks won it in 1959 over Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron.
All three 2015 finalists were impressive, but what Harper did in 2015 was stupendous -- his 1.109 OPS was the highest since Albert Pujols' 1.115 in 2008, and he led MLB in on-base percentage and slugging while finishing second in runs and walks.
AL Cy Young: Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel, David Price
The Astros had their ace in Keuchel since drafting him in 2009, and the Blue Jays picked one up midseason by acquiring Price from the Tigers for the stretch run, and both teams made the playoffs.
Keuchel was a constant in Houston's rise, winning three AL Pitcher of the Month honors, starting the All-Star Game and finishing with the AL lead in WAR (7.2) and innings pitched (232). All Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, did was register his career-low ERA at 2.45, including 2.30 with nine wins in 11 starts for Toronto. Gray was spectacular to start the season and remained the main bright spot on a rough season for the A's, making an All-Star appearance and finishing with a 2.73 ERA (third, AL).
NL Cy Young: Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw
This rates as the most stacked field of finalists, a trio of starters who took their games to historic heights -- and some really impressive lows -- in 2015. In all of baseball, these three were found at the top in ERA (Greinke 1.66, Arrieta 1.77, Kershaw 2.13), WHIP (Greinke 0.84, Arrieta 0.86, Kershaw 0.88) and hits/9 IP (Arrieta 5.90, Greinke 5.98, Kershaw 6.31).
By any measure, all three had tremendous campaigns in 2015, worthy of award status. It was Greinke who took home the Players Choice honor for the NL, by the way.
AL Manager of the Year: Jeff Banister, A.J. Hinch, Paul Molitor
Two rookie skippers definitely made a difference for their teams. Banister led the Rangers to a 21-game turnaround with 88 wins and first place in the AL West this year. Molitor's Hall of Fame wisdom as a player translated to a surprise run as a contender for his Twins. And then there's Hinch, who led the Astros back to postseason prominence and kept things rolling with some additions to a young club finding its way to October.
NL Manager of the Year: Terry Collins, Joe Maddon, Mike Matheny
In his 11th year as a Major League manager, Collins had a career season with the Mets rising to the top of the NL East behind a stellar young pitching staff. But Maddon was not to be outdone, leading an abrupt turnaround to get the Cubs back into the playoffs in his first season on the North Side. And what about the guy whose team won the most games in the Majors: the Cardinals' Matheny? He remains in the mix, too, after leading the Cards to 100 wins.
AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Miguel Sano
The future of shortstop in the AL is bright, no matter where this one lands. In Correa, the Astros have an uber-athletic player with all the tools, already proving he's capable of holding down key roles on offense and defense for a contender. In Lindor, the Indians have an electric player on both sides of the ball, and it was he who led all AL rookies in Wins Above Replacement (4.6, per Fangraphs). Sano, who didn't make his debut until July 2, turned heads with 18 homers and 17 doubles in 80 games.
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, Jung Ho Kang
Bryant was the name on everyone's lips after the Cubs sent him down to start the season, and his impact once he arrived was phenomenal -- a Cubs rookie-record 26 homers while leading all rookies in RBIs (99), doubles (31) and runs (87). Duffy wound up doing really big things at third base for the Giants, racking up 77 RBIs and 77 runs, both second only to Bryant in the NL, while delivering 169 hits, more than any other rookie. Kang, who arrived from the Korean Baseball Organization, was a productive member of the Pirates' lineup before a devastating left leg injury ended his season prematurely.
With the finalists set, here's next week's schedule of announcements, all on MLB Network:
Rookie of the Year Awards
Monday, Nov. 16, 6 p.m. ET
Manager of the Year Awards
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m. ET
Cy Young Awards
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 6 p.m. ET
Thursday, Nov. 19, 6 p.m. ET
AL Rookie of the Year Award finalists
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
Miguel Sano, DH, Twins
NL Rookie of the Year Award finalists
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
Matt Duffy, 3B, Giants
Jung Ho Kang, 3B, Pirates
NL Manager of the Year Award finalists
Terry Collins, Mets
Joe Maddon, Cubs
Mike Matheny, Cardinals
AL Manager of the Year Award finalists
Jeff Banister, Rangers
A.J. Hinch, Astros
Paul Molitor, Twins
NL Cy Young Award finalists
Jake Arrieta, RHP, Cubs
Zack Greinke, RHP, Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
AL Cy Young Award finalists
Sonny Gray, RHP, A's
Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Astros
David Price, LHP, Tigers/Blue Jays
NL MVP Award finalists
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, D-backs
Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
AL MVP Award finalists
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays
Mike Trout, OF, Angels
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.