With Monday's announcement of the finalists for each of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's major awards, the candidates for the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year and the Manager of the Year awards have been narrowed down to the elite. The Cubs, winners of that World Series trophy they paraded in front of millions in Chicago last week, are represented well, but the select few who remain up for those honors come from across MLB's landscape.
Awards season gets underway this week, and a fortnight of celebrating the best of 2016 will be highlighted next week with a four-day run of BBWAA awards specials, with the icing on the cake being the unveiling of the Esurance MLB Awards on Friday, Nov. 18. Until then, fans and the candidates themselves will have time to consider the accomplishments of the finalists for those most coveted honors.
This year's list of finalists features some new names and some previous winners, including 2015 National League Manager of the Year Award winner Joe Maddon, who led the Cubs to the Majors' most wins with 103 before guiding them to the postseason promised land. It's important to note, however, the awards are based on regular-season accomplishments only. They are voted on by members of the BBWAA with two votes per MLB city counted for each league's award.
Here are the finalists for the 2016 BBWAA awards, as announced on MLB Network on Monday night:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER National League Kris Bryant, Cubs: It's hard to top the consistent excellence Bryant displayed with a wide range of skills in 2016. At 24, he was third in the NL in homers with 39 and first in runs scored with 121, and he did it while splitting time between third base and the outfield. If Bryant wins, he'd be the first NL MVP Award winner since Stan Musial in 1946 to play 25 percent of his games in both the infield and the outfield. He led the league with a 7.7 bWAR and led the Cubs to the postseason. Bryant is a primo candidate to become the first to win the Rookie of the Year Award and follow it up with an MVP Award since Dustin Pedroia in 2007-08.
Daniel Murphy, Nationals: The second baseman used a spectacular 2015 postseason with the Mets for a jumping-off point to his career year in a new locale in Washington. Murphy's 25 homers were a career high, but even more impressive was how he parlayed that total with an NL-leading 47 doubles to post the league's top slugging percentage (.595) and OPS (.985).
Corey Seager, Dodgers: One of seven players to finish in the top three in voting for both the MVP Award and the Rookie of the Year Award, Seager stepped right up into the top echelon of players with a remarkable full season as the Dodgers' shortstop and biggest offensive threat. He was second in the NL overall with 193 hits and fifth in runs with 105, also finishing in the top 10 in doubles (40) and multihit games (57), setting an all-time Dodgers mark for homers by a shortstop with 26.
American League Jose Altuve, Astros: Small in physical stature but establishing a huge presence in the game, Altuve led the AL with a .338 batting average and led the Majors in hits for a third straight season with 216. He finished second in the AL steals with 30 and third in the AL doubles with 42. Altuve is just the fourth player in AL history to record 24-plus HRs, 30 SBs and 42 doubles in a single season.
Mookie Betts, Red Sox: A star was born at Fenway Park this year, as Betts jumped to the forefront of a Red Sox surge to the playoffs. He led the Majors with 359 total bases and 67 multihit games, and he posted the No. 3 mark in Red Sox history with 214 hits. On a team with a variety of offensive weapons -- including outgoing veteran David Ortiz, who did not make the cut of finalists -- Betts stood out with a stellar third MLB season.
Mike Trout, Angels: Just go ahead and pencil him in every year until further notice. Trout put together another amazing season of individual excellence while his Angels faltered all the way to fourth place in the AL West standings. He led the Majors with 123 runs scored and a .441 on-base percentage, thanks in part to an Angels-record 116 walks, and his 10.6 bWAR was tops in the game as well.
CY YOUNG AWARD National League Kyle Hendricks, Cubs: The first Cubs pitcher to lead the league in ERA since Bill Lee in 1938, Hendricks put together an outstanding second full season in the Majors with a 2.13 ERA and a .581 opponents' OPS. He had a nine-game winning streak en route to his 16 wins and allowed three or fewer earned runs in 22 consecutive starts. It was a study in pitch command, soft contact and consistency that lasted all year long.
Jon Lester, Cubs: Performing at the level anticipated when he was signed to a lucrative contract prior to the 2015 season, Lester had a career year with bests in ERA (2.44) and wins (19). He allowed one or zero runs in a franchise-record eight straight starts and helped lead the Cubs to an NL Central title and a ticket to the postseason party.
Max Scherzer, Nationals: In his second year after signing as a free agent with the Nationals, Scherzer led the Majors with a franchise-record and career-high 284 strikeouts and recorded his second 20-win season. He picked up 20 of those strikeouts in a meeting with his former team, the Tigers, in May.
American League Rick Porcello, Red Sox: Turning in an all-timer of a rebound season, Porcello went from his worst season to his best, winning 22 games to lead the Majors and help the Red Sox win the AL East. A big key was a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.906, thanks to a career-high 189 strikeouts and a career-low 32 walks. He finished strong as the AL's Pitcher of the Month for September.
Corey Kluber, Indians: The 2014 AL winner got back to form in '16. After a bit of a rough start the first couple of months, Kluber was the picture of consistency the rest of the way, helping the Indians win the AL Central. He finished in the AL top five in many categories, from ERA (3.14, 4th) to strikeouts (227, 5th) and WHIP (1.05, 4th).
Justin Verlander, Tigers: The AL MVP Award winner and AL Cy Young Award winner in 2011 and AL Cy Young Award runner-up in '12, Verlander fell off the Cy Young map for three years. But he was back in 2016, back to leading the AL in strikeouts with 254 and WHIP with 1.001. Verlander couldn't help push the Tigers into the playoffs, but he definitely put himself back up on the podium in the AL Cy Young Award discussion.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR National League Dusty Baker, Nationals: Brought in last offseason to take over a club that had achieved much in recent years but needed a change at the top, the veteran Baker immediately had the Nationals playing like contenders en route to the NL East title. A three-time winner of the award, Baker has now led teams to 90 or more wins nine of his 19 seasons.
Joe Maddon, Cubs: The 2015 winner put himself into position for back-to-back awards with a 103-win season, leading a talented team on the rise to the heights many thought they would reach this season. He became the second Cubs skipper to reach the postseason his first two seasons (Lou Piniella, 2007-08).
Dave Roberts, Dodgers: Not only does Roberts stand out as the leading first-year skipper among big league managers, but he has a good chance to walk away with the overall honor after an impressive first season at the helm. He led the Dodgers to the postseason with 91 wins, and marking the Dodgers' first time winning four straight NL West titles. Roberts joined Tommy Lasorda as the only Dodgers managers to win the division in his rookie season, making more pitching changes than any manager in baseball and keeping the ship on course while ace Clayton Kershaw was out much of the season.
American League Jeff Banister, Rangers: All the 2015 winner in the AL did as an encore was lead his club to a league-leading 95 wins. The Rangers were 36-11 in one-run games and had 49 comeback victories, and they overcame another slew of injuries including Prince Fielder's career-ender and Shin-Soo Choo out for a good chunk of the season.
Terry Francona, Indians: We all know where the Indians ended up in October, but what counts is what Francona did to get them to the postseason party in the first place. The Tribe ripped through a 14-game winning streak in June and never looked back in the AL Central, perhaps even more impressively never losing more than three in a row -- the only team in the Majors to do that.
Buck Showalter, Orioles: The 2014 winner with the O's also won in '04 with the Rangers and in 1994 with the Yankees, and he's up for the honor as the league's best manager again. Showalter's Orioles earned a Wild Card berth after a wild race in the AL East, and his 547 wins in Baltimore already put him at second on the team's all-time list.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR National League Kenta Maeda, Dodgers: A veteran of eight seasons in Japan, Maeda jumped right in with an impressive MLB rookie season, leading qualifying NL rookie starts in starts (32), wins (16), opponents' batting average (.229), WHIP (1.14) and innings pitched (175 2/3).
Seager, Dodgers: After showing a glimpse of his promise last year in September and into October, Seager was a heavy preseason favorite for this award -- it's a bonus he's up for the NL MVP Award as well. Seager certainly didn't disappoint in his first full season, and he has a very good shot at becoming the 17th Dodgers player to win the NL ROY Award. He topped MLB rookies in several offensive categories, including hits, runs and doubles.
Trea Turner, Nationals: A speedster who figures to lead off for the Nationals for a long time to come, Turner arrived in 2016 with a strong performance across the board in just 73 games. He won back-to-back NL Rookie of the Month honors in August and September.
American League Michael Fulmer, Tigers: After getting his feet wet following his April 29 Major League debut, the Tigers right-hander went on a run for the ages. Over 10 starts from May 21-July 17, Fulmer posted a 0.83 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other pitcher since the stat was invented compiled an ERA that low over a span of 10 starts in the season he made his debut.
Tyler Naquin, Indians: Perhaps known for his headbanging pose after a thrilling inside-the-park walk-off home run, Naquin became a key part of the Indians' rise to the top of the heap in the AL. Playing time emerged when Michael Brantley was lost to injury, eventually for the season, Naquin led AL rookies in slugging percentage with a .514 mark.
Gary Sanchez, Yankees: The power display Sanchez put on once he was called up on Aug. 3 was, in a word, unprecedented. He wound up hitting 20 home runs in his first 51 games, tying Wally Berger for the fastest to that number, and he became the first player to hit 20 after not hitting his first until after Aug. 1, per Elias.
Winners of the BBWAA Awards will be announced next week in a series of one-hour specials on MLB Network beginning with the Rookie of the Year Awards on Monday, Nov. 14. That will be followed by the Manager of the Year Awards on Tuesday, Nov. 15; the Cy Young Awards on Wednesday, Nov. 16; and the Most Valuable Player Awards on Thursday, Nov. 17. All four specials will begin at 6 p.m. ET.
Awards season begins this week with the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards show at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN, the Players Choice Awards at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on MLB Network, the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards at 6 p.m. Thursday on MLB Network and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards at 6 p.m. Friday on MLB Network. After the BBWAA announcements next week, awards season will wrap up with the MLB Esurance Awards at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 on MLB Network.
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.