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Making the cases for 2018 NL Silver Slugger awards

Who has done the best job offensively at their respective positions this season?

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 season is over, and that means the debates for some of Major League Baseball’s prestigious regular-season awards — the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young, the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger, and the Manager of the Year — are about to begin.

In this series, we are going to make cases for those players and managers who are in the running for these awards to come away with the hardware in their respective leagues. We will continue our series by examining the candidates for National League Silver Slugger awards.

Catcher

  1. J.T. Realmuto, Miami MarlinsRealmuto has gone from being one of the best catchers in the league to the best in just his fourth full season in the majors. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter led all NL catchers in WAR (4.3), runs (74), RBI (74), batting average (.277), OPS (.825), hits (132), doubles (30) and total bases (231), and posted career bests in most, if not all, of these categories. If he wins it, Realmuto will make history for the franchise by being the first Marlins catcher to win a Silver Slugger honor. This could be the first of many Silver Slugger honors for him in the near future.
  2. Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers — Grandal had a career year at the plate as well, as he led all MLB catchers in walks (72) and finished atop the NL in home runs with 24. The 29-year-old right-handed hitter also ranks either second or third among NL catchers in virtually every offensive category. He will try to become the first Dodgers catcher to take home the honor since Russell Martin won it back in 2007.
  3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals — One of the best all-around catchers in the majors, Molina is looking to only win his second Silver Slugger honor in his 15-year career. However, he is posting some quality numbers at age 35, hitting 20 homers with 74 RBI (22 HRs and 82 RBI are his career highs) and a .750 OPS. Though guys like Realmuto and Grandal have more numbers, Molina did miss a month of baseball in May after undergoing emergency groin surgery, so that is something to consider when looking at his numbers.
  4. Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs — With the Cubs having to deal with multiple players out due to injury, Contreras provided consistency in the lineup from the catcher spot. The third-year right-handed hitter is second among NL catchers in doubles (27) and third in WAR (2.9) and. Though he had a much better season statistically last year (21 homers, 74 RBI, .855 OPS in 117 games) than this year (10 homers, 54 RBI, .730 OPS in 138 games), Contreras is still in the conversation.

First Base

  1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves — A big reason the Braves are NL East champs this year is because of the Freeman, who has been a force at the plate. The 29-year-old left-handed hitter led all MLB first baseman in WAR (6.1), batting average (.309), hits (191), doubles (44) and at-bats (618). He also ranks in the top three in runs (second), runs created (second), total bases (second), extra-base hits (second), OPS (second), RBI (third) and on-base percentage (third). If he wins the award, Freeman will make history for the franchise by being the first Braves first baseman to win a Silver Slugger honor. This could be the first of many Silver Slugger awards for him as well in the near future.
  2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks — It’s no surprise that Goldschmidt is in the running for this award. The three-time Silver Slugger recipient had another strong season at the dish, as he led all MLB first baseman in OPS (.922), runs created (121.6), total bases (316), and extra-base hits (73), and is third in homers (33). Though his RBI total (83) was down compared to his other years in which he won a Silver Slugger (125 in 2013, 110 in 2015 and 120 in 2017), the other statistics he posted show his importance to the Diamondbacks’ lineup. If he does win, he will tie Todd Helton and Albert Pujols for the most Silver Slugger awards won by a first baseman in MLB history.
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs — While he and the Cubs certainly had their slumps this year, Rizzo has turned up his game, especially in the second half of the season. By posting 12 homers and 39 RBI with a .331/.422/.543 slash line in 67 games since the All-Star break, the 29-year-old left-handed hitter is in the running for his second Silver Slugger honor because he finished second among MLB first baseman in RBI (101) and in the top five in the NL in batting average and on-base percentage. Rizzo also has the lowest strikeout total (80) among the watch list candidates, which shows that he is putting in quality at-bats every time at the plate.
  4. Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers — The biggest surprise of all the contenders, Aguilar has thrust himself into the award conversation after having a breakout season. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter led all MLB first basemen in RBI (104) and slugging percentage (.539), and was in the top five among NL first baseman in homers (tied for first), total bases (third), OPS (fourth) and extra-base hits (tied for fourth). Though his teammates and Silver Slugger candidates Christian Yelich and Travis Shaw may overshadow him, Aguilar has certainly played a big part for the Brewers in their pursuit of a playoff spot via a NL Central title or wild card berth.

Second Base

  1. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs — The Cubs wouldn’t be a playoff team if it wasn’t for the play of Baez. The 25-year-old right-handed hitter, who also played shortstop and third base but was listed at this position for the award, led the entire NL in RBI (111) and was first among all MLB second basemen in RBI, total bases (336), homers (34), WAR (6.2), slugging percentage (.554), OPS (.881) and extra-base hits (83). Because of what he has done day in and day out, Baez not only has the strongest case to win this award (and become the first Cubs second baseman to do so in the process), but also contend for the NL MVP.
  2. Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds — Yes, the Reds finished at the bottom of the NL in terms of win/loss record, but you cannot dismiss Gennett and his play for them this year. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter led all NL second baseman in batting average (.313) and hits (181), and was ranked in the top three among all MLB second basemen in batting average (second), hits (second), slugging percentage (second), OPS (second), total bases (tied for second), on-base percentage (third), RBI (third), and homers (tied for third). If he does win the award, Gennett will make history for the franchise by being the first Reds second baseman to win a Silver Slugger honor.
  3. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves — Part of the Braves’ young core of players, Albies has already put himself among the elite players at this position in just his second year in the big leagues. The 21-year-old switch hitter had the most runs (105) and most at-bats (639) among all MLB second basemen and was ranked second in extra-base hits (69), doubles (40), and total bases (289). Like Baez and Gennett, Albies is also trying to become the first second baseman in his franchise’s history to win the Silver Slugger honor.
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera, Philadelphia Phillies — Even though he has won a Silver Slugger award during his career, it is highly unlikely that people thought Cabrera would be a contender for one this year. The 32-year-old veteran of 12 MLB seasons finished ranked in the top five among MLB second basemen in homers, RBI, doubles, struggling percentage and extra-base hits. He will try to claim his first Silver Slugger honor in the NL after winning one in the American League with the Indians in 2011.

Third Base

  1. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies — The Rockies are a playoff team for the second straight year in large part because of Arenado and his great ability to hit the baseball. The 27-year-old right-handed slugger led the entire NL in home runs with 38, led all MLB third basemen in RBI (110), hits (175) and total bases (331), and was ranked first among NL third basemen in homers, RBI, hits, total bases, slugging percentage (.561), WAR (5.6), runs (104) and OPS (.935). Another Silver Slugger honor for Arenado will give him four for his career and put him only two shy of tying Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt for the most NL Silver Slugger awards won by a man at the hot corner.
  2. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals — While he played mostly first base this season, Carpenter was been put on the finalist list for third base, and he may end up winning the Silver Slugger here given how much success he had at the plate. The 32-year-old was ranked in the top three among NL third basemen in on-base percentage (first), homers (second), doubles (second), total bases (second) and WAR (second). Carpenter will be trying to win his second Silver Slugger honor after winning one in 2013 as a second baseman.
  3. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds — Suarez has had a couple of solid seasons over the last two seasons, but this year is by far his best one yet. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter has blasted 34 homers with 104 RBI, with his RBI total being good for second in the NL among third baseman. Suarez will try to become the Reds’ first third baseman to win a Silver Slugger award.
  4. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers — Ever since he has come to Milwaukee, Shaw has shown he can rake at the plate. The 28-year-old former Red Sox posted his second straight 30-homer season this year after hitting 32 homers and has posted an .825 OPS, 86 RBI and 4.1 WAR, which are ranked in the top five among NL third baseman. Shaw will try to cap his second season with the Brew Crew by becoming its first third baseman to win a Silver Slugger honor.
  5. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals — Though the Nationals had an unexpected down season, Rendon was a reliable bat in their lineup. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter tied for the NL lead in doubles with 44, led NL third basemen in batting average at .308, and finished fifth in the NL in OPS (.909). Renton will try to snag his second Silver Slugger award after winning his first one at this position in 2014.
  6. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies — Franco earned his spot into the Silver Slugger conversation after having a great July (seven homers, .330 average, .971 OPS) and early August, but his bat eventual cooled off and he has been battling a wrist injury. Still, the 26-year-old right-handed hitter finished with 22 homers, 68 RBI and a .780 OPS in 465 plate appearances, which is the least amount of appearances by the finalists, so he may catch a break from the voters. Franco will try to become the first Phillies third baseman to win a Silver Slugger since Schmidt won his sixth one in 1986.

Shortstop

  1. Manny Machado, Los Angeles Dodgers — The Dodgers’ biggest trade acquisition this season is in the running for his first Silver Slugger award after being an impact bat for the defending NL champions. Counting his first-half work with the Orioles, the 26-year-old right-handed hitter led all MLB shortstops in hits with 188 and is ranked in the top three in RBI (second with 107), home runs (second with 37), batting average (second at .297), OPS (second at .905), total bases (second with 340), runs created (second at 118.1), and WAR (third at 5.9). Because of the trade across leagues and him having done most of his damage with the Orioles (24 homers, 65 RBI, 115 hits, .315 average, .963 OPS), Machado may not be picked to win the award. If he is selected, though, Machado will make history by becoming the first player to win the award while playing in both the AL and NL in the same season.
  2. Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies — Story’s case for his first Silver Slugger award is as strong as any in the game. The 25-year-old right-handed hitter led all MLB shortstops in OPS (.914), RBI (108), extra-base hits (85), and runs created per 27 outs (6.99), and is ranked in the top three in doubles (tied for second with 42), and total bases (third with 339). Of course, Story’s bid for winning the award — the first by a Rockies shortstop since Troy Tulowitzki in 2011 — will hinge on what the voters decide to do with Machado and his case.
  3. Trea Turner, Washington Nationals — Turner turned in a pretty impressive resume to be selected for this award as well. The 25-year-old right-handed hitter led the MLB in at-bats with 664 and was ranked first in the entire NL in stolen bases (43) and plate appearances (740) while slashing .271/.344/.416 with 19 homers and 73 RBI. Turner will try to become the Nationals’ first shortstop to win the award since Ian Desmond won three straight from 2012-14.

Outfield

  1. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers’ big offseason acquisition is more than likely going to claim his second Silver Slugger award after being arguably the best player in the NL this year. The 26-year-old slugger had a shot to become the first player in the NL to win the Triple Crown since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick back in 1937, as he led the league in batting average (.323) and finished second in RBI (110; one behind Baez) and third in homers (36; two behind Arenado),. He also led the NL in OPS (1.000), WAR (7.4), slugging percentage (.598), total bases (343), runs created (131.4) and runs created per 27 outs (8.72). If (more like when) he does win the honor, Yelich will be the first Brewers outfielder to capture a Silver Slugger award since his teammate Ryan Braun won back in 2012.
  2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals — Though eyes are already on him as far as where he will go next season, Harper will look to win only his second Silver Slugger honor in his career after enjoying one of his better seasons in Washington. The 25-year-old star left-handed hitter led all of MLB in walks with 130 and is ranked in the top three among NL outfielders in RBI (second), OPS (second), runs created (second), runs created per 27 outs (second), homers (tied for second), runs (third) and extra-base hits (third). A second award for Harper will make him the only the second Nationals/Montreal Expos outfielder to win two Silver Slugger awards along with Vladimir Guerrero (1999, 2000, 2002).
  3. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies — Even though he did not have as great of season as he did a year ago (when he led the NL in five categories), Blackmon is still in contention to earn his third consecutive Silver Slugger award after having another productive season. The 32-year-old left-handed hitter led the NL in runs for the second straight season with 119 and finished ranked in the top three among NL outfielders in at bats (first), total bases (second), runs created (third) and slugging percentage (third). A third Silver Slugger honor for Blackmon would make him the first Rockies outfielder to win three Silver Slugger awards.
  4. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves — Another big part to the Braves’ resurgence as a top team in the NL, Acuna Jr. has asserted himself into the discussion of being a Silver Slugger in his first season on the diamond. In only 487 plate appearances across 111 games, the 20-year-old right-handed hitter smacked 26 homers with 64 RBI and posted a .293 batting average, a .917 OPS and a 4.1 WAR, which is ranked fifth among NL outfielders. Acura Jr. will try to become the first rookie outfielder in NL history to win a Silver Slugger award and only the fifth position player to win the honor as a rookie, along with Benito Santiago (1987 as a catcher for the Giants), Mike Piazza (1993 as a catcher with the Dodgers), Pujols (2001 as a third baseman with the Cardinals) and Corey Seager (2016 as a shortstop with the Dodgers).
  5. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals — Another rookie outfielder in the mix for the award, Soto has shown that he can be a productive player for years to come. The 19-year-old left-handed hitter hit 22 homers with 70 RBI while posting a .292 average and a .923 OPS, which would be second among all NL outfielders had he qualified for the minimum number of plate appearances per game. Like Acuna Jr., he will also try to be the first rookie outfielder in NL history to garner this honor.
  6. Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals — After having a big season last year (37 homers, 124 RBI, .924 OPS), Ozuna will be trying to win his second straight Silver Slugger honor and first as a member of the Cardinals. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter hit 23 homers to record his fourth 20-plus homer season in five seasons, drove in 88 runs and had a .758 OPS. Ozuna will try to join George Hendrick (1980), Willie McGee (1985), Pujols (2003), Jim Edmonds (2004), Ryan Ludwick (2008) and Matt Holiday (2010) as the only Cardinals outfielders to win a Silver Slugger award.

Pitcher

  1. Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds — While the Reds struggled to earn wins all season, Lorenzen made his 34 plate appearances count for them. Among pitchers, the 26-year-old relief pitcher led all NL pitchers in home runs (four) and RBI (10) while slashing .290/.333/.710 (1.043 OPS). Lorenzen will try to become the first Reds pitcher to win a Silver Slugger.
  2. German Marquez, Colorado Rockies — Despite concentrating his efforts on turning around the Rockies’ pitching staff, Marquez also made an impact as a hitter. The 23-year-old starter posted an NL-best 18 hits, one of which was a homer, while slashing .300/.300/.350 in 64 plate appearances. Marquez will look to become the Rockies’ first pitcher to win a Silver Slugger honor since Mike Hampton won it back-to-back from 2001-02.
  3. Zach Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks — Out of all the finalists, Greinke is the only one looking to win a second Silver Slugger honor (2013 with the Dodgers), and he has put together another impressive season at the dish. The 34-year-old starter recorded 15 hits while putting together a .234/.269/.297 slash line in 71 plate appearances. If he wins a second award, he will become the ninth pitcher in NL history to win two Silver Slugger honors.
  4. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals — Though he is in the running for the Cy Young award this season, Scherzer stood out at the plate as well. The 34-year-old had a career-high 17 hits and a .243/.274/.545 slash line in 78 appearances. Scherzer will try to join Livan Hernandez (2004) and Stephen Strasburg (2012) as the only Expos/Nationals pitchers to win a Silver Slugger.
  5. Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals — It seems the Nationals have a good stable of pitchers who can hit since Roark also became a finalist for the Silver Slugger honor this year. The 31-year-old starter tallied a career-high 11 hits and eight RBI while slashing .190/.217/.259 in 65 plate appearances.