How are Blue Jays positioned in awards races with a month remaining?

This piece first appeared in Sportsnet’s weekly Blue Jays newsletter. Submit your email address below to get exclusive content about the team in your inbox every Friday.

For most of the season, any discussion about the Blue Jays’ chances at individual awards focused on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — and understandably so. It’s extremely rare to see players produce like Guerrero Jr., especially at age 22.

But as the season has gone on, it’s been Shohei Ohtani, rather than Guerrero Jr., who has emerged as the American League MVP frontrunner. So even though Guerrero Jr.’s putting up some historic numbers at an extremely young age, he might have to wait for a chance to win the award his father won in 2004.

Still, Guerrero Jr. is starting to heat up again. And two of his teammates are also in the mix for the other major post-season awards, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. As the final month of the season gets started, here’s a closer look at what those three Blue Jays players would have to do to win one of those awards.

MVP candidate: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
39 HR | 96 RBI | 21 2B | .312/.405/.600 batting line | 171 OPS+ | 5.6 WAR

Guerrero Jr.’s having a great season, but what if there were a player with more home runs, a comparable OPS and 22 stolen bases? And what if that player’s primary defensive position was starting pitcher and he had a 3.00 ERA in 105 innings?

If there’s a way to deliver value, Shohei Ohtani finds it, so there’s just no comparison here — even Babe Ruth never combined pitching and hitting quite like this.

So while Guerrero Jr. could theoretically get hot, lead the Blue Jays to the playoffs and make this race more interesting, it now seems likely voters will reward Ohtani for his historic season with Guerrero Jr. left to battle the likes of Sal Perez for the right to finish second.

With 33 home runs and 5.5 WAR, infielder Marcus Semien will also earn consideration just as he did when he finished third in MVP voting in 2019.

Rookie of the Year candidate: Alek Manoah
3.15 ERA | 74.1 innings | 86 strikeouts | 25 walks | 8 quality starts | 140 ERA+

In a year with no runaway leader in the American League, Adolis Garcia of the Rangers, Randy Arozarena of the Rays and Luis Garcia of the Astros are among the more prominent candidates for the award with a month to go.

But because there’s no clear winner, opportunity still exists for the likes of Shane McClanahan, Akil Baddoo and Manoah in the weeks ahead. While he didn’t debut until May 27, the Blue Jays rookie is putting up some impressive numbers while pitching deep into games for a team competing for the playoffs.

A strong month could elevate his chances of bringing the award to Toronto for the first time since Eric Hinske did so in 2002. More importantly for Manoah and the Blue Jays, he’s helping this team win games now and emerging as a starter who looks capable of hauling innings atop this rotation for years to come.

Cy Young candidate: Robbie Ray
2.71 ERA | 159.1 innings | 202 strikeouts | 38 walks | 20 quality starts | 162 ERA+

While Guerrero Jr.’s a clear second to Ohtani and Manoah’s still trying to gain traction in the Rookie of the Year mix, no AL Cy Young discussion is complete without Robbie Ray. Along with the likes of Gerrit Cole and Lance Lynn, Ray is having a tremendous season that sets up a compelling finish.

With a month to go, it’s too early to declare anyone a favourite, but it’s worth noting that Lynn, the AL ERA leader, is currently on the injured list while Cole and Ray are finishing strong. After slowing down a little over the summer months, Cole has been pitching like an ace again with 15 strikeouts in his most recent start for a league-leading 215 on the season.

But like Cole, Ray appears to be getting stronger as the season goes on. The left-hander has quality starts in 15 of his last 17 outings and posted a 1.76 ERA in August. If he can come close to sustaining this pace over the final few weeks of the year, he’ll have a legitimate bid for the franchise’s first Cy Young Award since Roy Halladay in 2003.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *