Stars set to take a bow during Esurance MLB Awards week
By Matt Kelly
With the World Series decided a couple of weeks ago, the baseball world is now prepared to bestow its top individual honors.
Each night this week at 6 p.m. ET, MLB Network will reveal baseball's biggest awards, starting with American and National League Rookies of the Year tonight, Managers of the Year on Tuesday, Cy Young Awards on Wednesday and MVPs on Thursday.
Esurance MLB Awards week concludes Friday on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET with the MLB Awards. Categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager, and recognize overall MLB winners.
With that in mind, here's a look at each of the finalists for the top on-field awards along with one cool stat that helps make their case. Players are listed alphabetically by last name within each grouping.
Michael Fulmer: AL ROY, Best Rookie
After finding his legs over his first four starts of the season, Fulmer rattled off 10 consecutive starts with two or fewer runs (earned or unearned) allowed to match a Tigers record post-World War II. That streak of 10 starts was also the longest for any rookie in franchise history.
Kenta Maeda: NL ROY
The Japanese pitcher led Los Angeles with 32 starts, 175 2/3 innings and 16 victories, becoming just the second rookie since the divisional era began in 1969 to lead a division-winning team in starts, innings pitched and victories over a full season. (The other is Tommy Milone of the 2012 A's. Fernando Valenzuela also led the Dodgers in those three categories in 1981, but that was a split campaign due to a players' strike.)
Tyler Naquin: AL ROY, Best Rookie, Best Play (Offense)
Naquin's exhilarating trip around the bases to help the Indians defeat the Blue Jays on Aug. 19 marked only the 11th time in baseball history that a rookie hit a walk-off, inside-the-park home run, and the first since the Twins' Tim Teufel in 1984.
Gary Sanchez: AL ROY, Best Rookie
No player in baseball history has had as powerful an impact as Sanchez while arriving so late in the Major League calendar. The catcher's 20 home runs were the most ever hit in a single season by a player who hadn't hit any before Aug. 1 of that year.
Corey Seager: NL ROY, NL MVP, Best Rookie
Seager's 7.5 wins above replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs, was the highest single-season total posted by any NL shortstop in the live-ball era (1920-present) before his 23rd birthday. Only Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby's 9.5 WAR for the 1917 Cardinals (when he was just 21) ranks higher than Seager among NL shortstops in baseball's modern history.
Trea Turner: NL ROY, Best Rookie
Only three players in history (Bobby Bonds, Davey Lopes and Rickey Henderson) had ever recorded at least 10 home runs and 30 steals in fewer than 100 games over the course of a season like Turner did in 2016 -- and Turner is the first rookie in this exclusive club.
Kyle Hendricks: NL Cy Young, Best Pitcher
In an era in which seemingly every pitcher throws at least 95 mph and pitchers are tallying more strikeouts than ever before, Hendricks stands apart. In 2016, Hendricks joined Kevin Brown (1996) as the only two starting pitchers in the Wild Card Era (1995-present) to record an ERA under 2.50 and a WHIP under 1.00 while recording fewer than 175 strikeouts over the course of a season.
Corey Kluber: AL Cy Young, Best Pitcher, Best Major Leaguer (Postseason)
Kluber performed best against the Indians' biggest rivals in 2016, posting a sterling 2.37 ERA against fellow AL Central teams. That ranked as the second-lowest intra-divisional ERA of any AL starting pitcher, trailing only Masahiro Tanaka's 2.27 ERA against AL East clubs.
Jon Lester: NL Cy Young, Best Pitcher, Best Major Leaguer (Postseason)
The southpaw limited opposing batters to a .309 OPS in high-leverage situations (or at-bats that present the most dramatic swings in win probability, as defined by Baseball-Reference.com) in 2016, which is the lowest single-season opponent OPS in such situations for a starting pitcher since Oakland's Steve McCatty (.305) in 1981.
Rick Porcello: AL Cy Young
Porcello led all Major League starters with a 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2016, which qualifies as the fourth-best single-season mark by a 20-game winner in Red Sox franchise history. Only Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez (twice) and Cy Young posted better rates during 20-win campaigns for Boston.
Max Scherzer: NL Cy Young, Best Pitcher, Best Performance
Scherzer became just the fourth pitcher in NL history to lead the league in strikeouts while being its only 20-game winner that year. The others were John Smoltz (1996), Steve Carlton ('82) and Mort Cooper ('29).
Justin Verlander: AL Cy Young
He led Major League pitchers with a 6.6 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.com, becoming only the third pitcher in modern baseball history to lead the AL in both pitcher WAR and strikeouts at age 33 or older. The other two were Roger Clemens (1997-98) and Cy Young (1901).
MVP and Best Major Leaguers
Jose Altuve: AL MVP, Best Major Leaguer, Best Hitter
This year, Altuve became the first second baseman in history to win his league's batting title while compiling at least 20 home runs, 30 steals and 40 doubles in the same season.
Mookie Betts: AL MVP, Best Major Leaguer, Best Defensive Player, Best Performance
In 2016, Betts accomplished something that only one other player in the history of the Red Sox franchise has been able to do, joining Jacoby Ellsbury as the only Red Sox players to tally at least 25 home runs, 25 stolen bases and 200 hits in a single season. The kicker? At age 23, Betts was four years younger than Ellsbury when he did it in 2011.
Kris Bryant: NL MVP, Best Major Leaguer, Best Hitter, Best Performance, Best Major Leaguer (Postseason)
His 7.7 WAR in 2016, per Baseball-Reference.com, is the highest single-season total for any position player who played at least five percent of his total games defensively at each of the two infield corners (first and third base) and each of the two outfield corners (left and right field), surpassing Albert Pujols' 6.6 WAR for the Cardinals in 2001.
Daniel Murphy: NL MVP, Best Hitter
Murphy flourished in his first season with Washington, finishing with a .347 average, 25 home runs, 104 RBIs and a .596 slugging percentage. Only one other second baseman in the history of baseball -- Hornsby -- has compiled a season with at least a .345 average, 25 homers, 100 RBIs and a .590 or greater slugging percentage.
Mike Trout: AL MVP, Best Major Leaguer, Best Hitter
Trout and Altuve both have a big hurdle to climb, as no player has won the AL MVP in a season in which his team missed the postseason since Alex Rodriguez did so as a member of the last-place Rangers in 2003. But we've almost never seen a player as valuable as Trout play for an under-.500 club. In fact, in '16 Trout became only the second player in history to record at least 10.6 WAR while playing for a team with a losing record, joining Cal Ripken Jr.'s 11.5 WAR season for the 1991 Orioles.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.