2023 MLB Awards: MVP, Cy Young predictions, results, analysis

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Welcome to MLB Awards Week.

As we look ahead to 2024 and await some of the offseason's biggest free agent signings (where will you go, Shohei Ohtani?), we celebrate the best players in the game during the 2023 regular season.

The week started off with Baltimore's Gunnar Henderson unanimously winning American League Rookie of the Year honors and Corbin Carroll also winning unanimously in the National League.

The awards schedule is as follows (all awards announced starting at 6 p.m. ET):

Monday: Jackie Robinson Rookies of the Year: Corbin Carroll, Gunnar Henderson

Tuesday: Managers of the Year

Wednesday: Cy Young Awards

Thursday: MVP Awards

Below, we list the three finalists in each category, along with what you need to know before the results are announced and our picks to take home the hardware. We'll update each section with news and analysis as the awards are handed out.

Jump to ... :

Rookie of the Year: AL | NL

Manager of the Year: AL | NL

Cy Young: AL | NL


American League Rookie of the Year

Winner: Gunnar Henderson

Final tally:1. Henderson, Orioles 150 (30 first-place votes); 2. Tanner Bibee, Guardians 67; 3.Triston Casas, Red Sox 25; 4. Josh Jung, Rangers 16; 5. Yainer Diaz, Astros 6.Masataka Yoshida, Red Sox 3; 7. Edouard Julien, Twins 2; 8. Anthony Volpe, Yankees 1.

Experts' picks: Henderson (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

Bradford Doolittle's take: In many years, you are tempted to throw out the observation that the Rookie of the Year isn't necessarily the best prospect in a season. This time around, the argument is more about whose long-term outlook is more sparkling -- the AL's Henderson or the NL's Carroll. In terms of preseason consensus, both entered the season as the top prospect in their respective league, and, all these months later, they are no-brainer picks for the Rookie of the Year awards. It's nice when things line up like that.

Henderson struggled at the plate early in the season. By the end of the season, he was a catalyst in the Orioles' lineup, finishing with 28 homers. And he took over as Baltimore's everyday shortstop, moving over from the hot corner in June. From there, he played at short more often but could flip back depending on the needs of the lineup. His defensive metrics were strong at both spots.

Moving forward, there is room for Henderson to get even better. He hit just .199 with a .595 OPS against lefties, carrying over the platoon split he displayed in the minors. That's probably more of a concern for future Orioles opponents than it is for Henderson.

Henderson becomes the first Oriole to win AL Rookie of the Year honors since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982. Last season, Adley Rutschman finished second in the voting behind Julio Rodriguez. With Jackson Holliday a popular pick as the current top prospect in the game, this foundation for the Orioles just keeps getting stronger and deeper.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Gunnar Henderson, Diamondbacks (130 AXE)

2. Tanner Bibee, Guardians (118)

3. Zack Gelof, Athletics (113)

4. (tie) Royce Lewis, Twins (112)

Edouard Julien, Twins (112)

Yennier Cano, Orioles (112)

Note: AXE is an index that creates a consensus rating from the leading value metrics (WAR, from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference) and contextual metrics (win probability added and championship probability added, both from Baseball Reference).

Rookie the Year must-reads:

How young Orioles rode their talent to the AL's best record

National League Rookie of the Year

Winner: Corbin Carroll

Final tally:1. Carroll, Diamondbacks 150 (30 first-place votes); 2. Kodai Senga, Mets 71; 3. James Outman, Dodgers 20; 4. Nolan Jones, Rockies 17; 5. Matt McLain, Reds 5; 6. Spencer Steer, Reds 4; 7. Eury Perez, Marlins 1; 8. Elly De La Cruz, Reds 1; 9. Patrick Bailey, Giants 1.

Experts' picks: Carroll (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

Doolittle's take: The NL's 2023 rookie class was a strong one, but after April, there was little drama in the race for this award. Carroll rolled to a .910 OPS during the first month, though he was a bit overshadowed by James Outman's powerful first month for the Dodgers. After that, it was all Carroll, who displayed both the consistent and the spectacular on his way to a historic rookie campaign.

Carroll is the complete package at the plate. At 22, he manifested speed (54 steals, NL-high 10 triples), power (25 homers, .506 slugging), contact (.285 average) and discipline (57 walks and 13 HBPs). He hit at home (.902 OPS) and on the road (.843). He hit righties (.286) and lefties (.283), though he showed a lot more slug against righties. He became the first rookie to reach 25 homers and 50 steals in the same season.

Carroll was a beast in the early rounds of the postseason during Arizona's unlikely run to the World Series, but he trailed off in the National League Championship Series and the Fall Classic. He's not a finished product at 22, but who is? As with Henderson, that he still has weaknesses to iron out is a scary prospect for Arizona opponents. Carroll is the first Diamondbacks player to be named Rookie of the Year.

As mentioned, this was an awfully good rookie class in the NL. The Reds were a one-team ROY ballot on their own, with McLain, Elly de la Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer and Andrew Abbott all among the first-year standouts.

The Mets and Giants found their catchers of the future in 2023 (Francisco Alvarez and Patrick Bailey). The Brewers graduated a plethora of exciting outfielders (Sal Frelick, Joey Weimer, Garrett Mitchell). The Rockies' dismal season was partially redeemed by the play and promise flashed by shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. Senga was the best thing that happened in the Mets' disappointing year.

Ahead of this impressive group was Carroll, who, along with Henderson, showed us that sometimes even the most hyped prospects turn out to live up to their advanced billing.

Here's how my AXE leaderboard had it:

1. Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks (137)

2. (tie) Kodai Senga, Mets (122)

Nolan Jones, Rockies (122)

4. James Outman, Dodgers (120)

5. Matt McLain, Reds (117)

Rookie of the Year must-reads:

Why Corbin Carroll is a star

American League MVP


Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Corey Seager, Texas Rangers

Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers

Experts' pick: Ohtani (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

What to know: We have written similar things about Ohtani for years now, but we've never seen anyone do what he did in 2023. At the plate, he led the AL with 44 homers, a .412 on-base percentage and a .654 slugging percentage. On the mound, he went 10-5 with 167 strikeouts and a 3.14 ERA. He earned 10.0 WAR at Baseball-Reference.com, 2.6 more than any other player in the AL, and 9.0 at Fangraphs, 2.7 more than anyone else. There is just no good argument for another player.

Still, even as Ohtani is a shoo-in for his second MVP trophy, the early end to his season and the Angels' disappointing 73-89 record make this possibly anticlimactic to some voters. He threw his last pitch on Aug. 23 and made his last trip to the plate on Sept. 3. Not only did this quash Othani's quest to post the best season in history, but it might have actually swayed some voters to turn to Seager, who missed a chunk of regular-season time as well. That might be especially true if the playoffs were considered, as Seager once again transmogrified into Playoff Seager when the games mattered most. -- Bradford Doolittle

MVP must-reads:

Shohei Ohtani Tracker: Where will MLB's top free agent land?

Is Corey Seager the new Mr. October?

National League MVP


Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Experts' picks: Acuna (12 votes), Betts (1)

What to know: The results from our experts' picks suggest this will be a runaway victory for Acuna -- and it probably will be -- but that belies how close of a race this was between Acuna and Betts. In fWAR, they ended up tied at 8.3. In bWAR, Betts holds the smallest of edges at 8.3 to 8.2. In most seasons, that would lead to a hotly contested MVP debate, but Acuna had the flashier numbers: 41 home runs and 73 steals, becoming not just the fifth member of the 40/40 club, but blowing past that group to create the 40/70 club.

Besides leading the majors in stolen bases, Acuna led the NL in runs, hits, OBP, OPS and total bases. Despite those gaudy numbers and despite Acuna being the favorite for most of the season, Betts had arguably pulled ahead entering the final month, after hitting .455 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in August. Indeed, via FanGraphs, Betts led in WAR, 7.7 to 6.7, at the end of August. Betts, however, struggled in September, hitting .244 with one home run, while Acuna finished with a burst, hitting .340 with 11 home runs. He should join Freeman (2020), Chipper Jones (1999) and Dale Murphy (1982-83) as Braves players to win MVP honors since the franchise moved to Atlanta. -- David Schoenfield

MVP must-reads:

Inside Ronald Acuna Jr.'s return to MVP form

How Mookie Betts became a Dodgers ... infielder

American League Cy Young


Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays

Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins

Experts' picks: Cole (13 votes) (unanimous choice)

What to know: Cole is one of the best pitchers to never win a Cy Young Award. Among pitchers who have never won, he ranks second in career Cy Young award shares at 1.90, just behind Adam Wainwright's 1.98. What's an award share? If you are the unanimous winner, that's one award share. If you get half the possible maximum points, that's a half share. Cole has received Cy Young votes in six different seasons, including runner-up finishes with the Astros in 2019 (to Justin Verlander) and in 2021 with the Yankees (to Robbie Ray).

He'll be getting the trophy this year, and the only question is whether it will be a unanimous selection. It should be, as there isn't really a strong argument for anyone else. Cole went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, leading the AL in ERA, innings pitched, batting average allowed, OBP allowed and OPS while ranking second to Gausman in strikeouts. He was the runaway leader in bWAR, 7.4 to 5.3 for Gray. It was a tight race until mid-August, and maybe Ohtani would have given Cole a run if hadn't been injured, but Cole had a terrific stretch drive, going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA over his final seven starts, lowering his ERA from 3.03 to 2.63. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but it certainly wasn't Cole's fault. -- Schoenfield

National League Cy Young


Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks

Blake Snell, San Diego Padres

Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants

Experts' picks: Snell (12 votes), Webb (1)

What to know: There is precious little to separate the three nominees, nor would there be if you added the Phillies' Zack Wheeler, the Cubs' Justin Steele and the Braves' Spencer Strider to the mix. When we see how the voters landed among the nominees, we will find out how much they weighed Snell's dominance (MLB-best 2.25 ERA), Webb's durability (MLB-best 216 innings) and Gallen's balance of results (210 innings, 3.47 ERA, 17 wins).

Advanced value metrics are supposed to help us sort these things out, but they don't agree on who did what in the National League. In terms of bWAR, Snell outpaced Webb for the league lead (6.0 to 5.5). Meanwhile, in fWAR, Wheeler (5.9) and Strider (5.5) outperformed all three nominees. Sorting it all out, Snell feels like the favorite, but you could pick any of the six pitchers mentioned here and make a credible argument for why they should win. -- Doolittle

American League Manager of the Year


Bruce Bochy, Texas Rangers

Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles

Experts' picks: Hyde (9 votes), Bochy (4)

What to know: Now, if voting were done at the conclusion of the World Series, we know who the winner would be, but only the regular season is factored in here, making this an interesting three-way discussion -- although it looks like Cash is a distant third based on our experts' picks. Rangers GM Chris Young pulled Bochy out of a three-year retirement to give the Rangers his quiet, experienced leadership at the helm. The Rangers roared out of the gate with a 35-20 record at the end of May. They entered the final series of the season with a 2-game lead in the AL West but lost three of four to Seattle, costing them the division title. That blip might also cost Bochy the award (which he has won once before, with the Padres in 1996).

Hyde is the favorite after the Orioles exceeded expectations for a second straight season, following up 2022's surprising 83-win season with 101 wins, the first time the Orioles cracked the century mark since 1980. Many expected the Orioles to regress from 2022; instead, they improved by 18 wins, including an impressive 30-16 record in one-run games. In his fifth season with the Orioles, Hyde has guided the rebuild from 108 losses in 2019 and 110 in 2021 to an AL East championship. -- Schoenfield

Manager of the Year must-reads:

Why Bruce Bochy might be the greatest manager ever

National League Manager of the Year


Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers

Skip Schumaker, Miami Marlins

Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves

Experts' picks: Counsell (7 votes), Schumaker (6)

What to know: There were plenty of standout managerial performances in the National League. Snitker, the 2018 winner, has finished fourth or better in the balloting for six straight years. He led the Braves to 104 wins, the franchise's highest total in 25 years. Deploying a more consistent starting lineup than any manager in baseball, Snitker oversaw an offense that clubbed 307 homers. Still, given Atlanta's preseason-favorite status, he feels like a long shot to add a second MOY trophy to his display case. Schumaker, a first-time manager, is more of a classic Manager of the Year candidate. The Marlins outperformed their preseason over/under consensus by 8.5 wins and their run profile by an MLB-high 9.1 wins.

Counsell, like Cash, is a fixture in the conversation about the game's top skippers. However, while Cash is a two-time Manager of the Year winner, Counsell has never won, finishing second in the voting in 2018, 2019 and 2021. His standout statistic this season is Milwaukee's 29-18 record in one-run contests, continuing Counsell's annual dominance in a category many analysts see as a baseline 50-50 proposition. It's this consistent excellence that made Counsell such a sought-after figure in a crowded managerial market, and he was ultimately poached by the Cubs to become the game's highest-paid skipper. Conspicuous by his absence among the finalists: Cincinnati's David Bell, whose Reds beat their preseason over/under consensus by 16.5 wins. -- Doolittle

Manager of the Year must-reads:

Why Cubs stole Craig Counsell from Brewers

How Craig Counsell reset the managerial salary landscape -- maybe forever

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