Halfway Heroes: Baseball’s Best Players Right Now

The first half of the baseball season has been filled with some intense and memorable performances. Here are baseball’s best of the best — so far.

aNewDomainrodney-campbell-anewdomain — There’s no better time than the halfway point of the Major League Baseball year to hand out our midseason awards.

It just makes sense.

With every club having passed the 81-game mark, we have officially crossed into the second half of the season. The first three months have delivered their share of exciting moments and stupefying disappointments. For now, let’s stick with the players and managers who are doing things right.

No need in waiting until the offseason to hand out accolades. Here are baseball’s best of the best — from the first half.

Most Valuable Player

American League

Mike Trout MVP1. Mike Trout (Angels): Baseball’s most exciting player has competition for the award. We suspect that he will parlay a strong second half into a second MVP trophy while keeping the Angels in playoff contention. His combination of power, speed and defense make him the heralded five-tool player. And he’s only 23 years old.

2. Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): Donaldson could well turn out to be the biggest offseason acquisition in the American League. The Jays swapped their former third baseman Brett Lawrie and three other players for Donaldson. Looks like a genius move so far as Donaldson is providing even more power to a team that has three of the top 12 home run hitters in the league.

3. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): The first trip to the disabled list in Cabrera’s career has brought his season to a sudden halt. The 2013 Triple Crown winner was leading the league in hitting (again) and near the top in RBI after 77 games when he went down with an ankle injury. We’ll see how he responds in the second half.

National League

Bryce Harper 2015 baseball best of the season1. Bryce Harper (Nationals): The National League’s answer to Mike Trout, Harper is near the top of the league in average, homers and RBI. Triple Crown, maybe? Only 22 years old, it’s hard to imagine how good Harper can be in this deep Nationals lineup. While Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt could end up with better stats, Harper gets the nod because his team will make the postseason.

2. Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks): One of the more underrated players in the league, Goldschmidt is in the NL’s top 10 in average, homers, RBI and stolen bases. In fact, he’s leading the league in hitting. Goldschmidt was a legit MVP candidate last season before his season ended Aug. 3 when his hand was broken by a pitch from Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri.

3. Buster Posey (Giants): You can’t make one of these lists without including the Giants’ captain. Coming off a World Series winning season, San Francisco would be absolutely lost without Posey. The Giants have stayed in contention despite seeing Matt Cain and Hunter Pence spend time on the disabled list. They would be sunk without Posey.

Cy Young Award

American League

Dallas Keuchel Astros best of baseball 20151. Dallas Keuchel (Astros): A significant part of the Astros’ resurgence, Keuchel anchors a staff that is third in the league in ERA despite playing half its games in a hitter-friendly park. Keuchel leads the American League in wins and ERA. His 2014 numbers were a breakthrough: 12 wins and a 2.93 ERA. His beard is also performing at an all-star level.

2. Chris Sale (White Sox): Few pitchers have been as hot as Sale recently. He has 81 strikeouts, a mere eight walks and a scant 1.86 ERA over his past seven games. There are nights when he looks unhittable, his 6-foot-6 frame and unorthodox delivery providing a huge challenge for opposing hitters. He’s working on a third consecutive 200-plus strikeout season.

3. Sonny Gray (A’s): Gray barely gets the nod over Chris Archer of Tampa Bay for the third slot. His nine wins and 2.20 ERA have him on pace for a career year. Most of his challenges this season have come off the field, a salmonella issue causing him to miss two starts in late June and early July. He ran a fever as high as 103 degrees, a similar feeling that opposing hitters get when he’s on the mound.

National League

1280px-Zack_Greinke_on_May_20,_2015

1. Zack Greinke (Dodgers): With a little more offensive support from the Dodgers, Greinke could easily have 14 wins at the All-Star break. His 1.39 first-half ERA is one for the record books, but he has just eight wins to show for it. By comparison, veteran Bartolo Colon of the Mets has nine victories with a 4.46 ERA. Greinke’s first-half ERA is the lowest for a pitcher with at least 100 innings since 1968.

2. Max Scherzer (Nationals): Only a remarkable season by Greinke can upstage Scherzer, who already has a no-hitter and one-hitter to his credit. Those, by the way, came in consecutive games. Scherzer trails only Clayton Kershaw in strikeouts among NL pitchers and is fourth in ERA. He’s proving to be worth every cent the Nationals paid for him on the free-agent market.

3. Gerrit Cole (Pirates): Cole is breaking through in his third big-league season, becoming a household name for a team that used to be known for its playoff futility. The Pirates are going for three consecutive postseason runs after a 21-year drought, and Cole is one of the primary reasons.

Cole already has a career-high 12 wins and his ERA is almost a full run below his previous best.

Rookie of the Year

American League

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Lance McCullers Jr. Astros baseball's best
1. Lance McCullers (Astros): McCullers is another integral part of Houston’s resurgence, joining Cy Young favorite Dallas Keuchel to give the Astros an excellent one-two punch. McCullers has the third-best ERA among qualified AL rookies and is proving to be a more than solid starter. The Astros are talking about limiting his innings, so we’ll see how that works out.

2. Devon Travis (Blue Jays): Travis has given the Jays a little stability at second base, not that this lineup needs a whole lot of support. He’s been hovering around .300 all season and has provided a little pop with seven home runs.

3. Carlos Correa (Astros): The much-heralded 20-year old is impressing less than a month into his major league career. He had nine multi-hit games in his first 28 outings. There are few limits to this guy’s future.

National League

Kris Bryant Baseball's Best So Far Cubs1. Kris Bryant (Cubs): Bryant has captured the imagination of Cubs faithful, although that might not be the highest compliment. Wrigley Field denizens have been desperately seeking some kind of hope for decades. Bryant is on pace to drive in 100 runs, a feat reached by Jose Abreu of the cross-town White Sox last season. Bryant is a powerhouse who should be a 40-homer threat for many years.

2. Joc Pederson (Dodgers): Once the leader in the clubhouse for the award, Pederson’s recent slump has him hitting around .230. On the positive side, he has 20 homers, made the All-Star team and is arguably the best center fielder in the game. He’ll be an interesting player to watch in the second half.

3. Chris Heston (Giants): We were going to put Steven Matz of the Mets in this spot, but a lat injury is going to sideline him for a month or so. That moves eight-game winner Heston into contention. Coincidentally, Heston recorded a no-hitter against the Mets on June 9. He was the first rookie to toss a no-hitter since Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox in 2007.

Manager of the YearPaul Molitor Twins Baseball's Best

American League

Paul Molitor (Twins): Molitor is the rare Hall of Famer who is making his mark as a manager. In his rookie season, he has the Twins in second place in the AL Central Division. Minnesota has long been known for giving its managers a lot of time to prove their mettle.

Molitor is just the third since the start of the 1986 season. He has the magic touch so far.

Chip Hale best of the best in baseballNational League

Chip Hale (Diamondbacks): There’s no way this team should have been at the .500 mark 84 games into the season. But somehow that was the case.

Intense rookie manager Hale is getting the most of his team, some of whom he worked with in the minor league system.

Hale was a smart, if unheralded, hire.

And That’s It

That’s all for my mid-season best of baseball awards.

Let’s get the second half started. There are more memories to be made.

For aNewDomain, I’m Rodney Campbell.

Cover image of Mike Trout: by Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA.

Image one: Mike Trout via Sportsoutwest.com, All Rights Reserved.
Image two: Bryce Harper by Johnmaxmena2 (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons.
Image three: Dallas Keuchel via Bu30Sports.com, All Rights Reserved.
Image four: Zack Greinke by Arturo Pardavila III, Flickr, All Rights Reserved.
Image five: Lance McCullers (Jr.), via H4-Entertainment.com, All Rights Reserved.
Image six: Kris Bryant via RumorsAndRants.com, All Rights Reserved.
Image seven: Paul Molitor, via PuckettsPond.com, All Rights Reserved.
Image eight: Chip Hale, via Zimbio.com, All Rights Reserved.

About the author

Rodney Campbell

Based in Phoenix, Rodney Campbell is a sportswriter and travel editor for aNewDomain and our sister pub, BreakingModern.