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Making the cases for 2018 AL Silver Slugger awards

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

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-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 happening right now.

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 American League Silver Slugger awards.

Catcher

  1. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals — While the Royals struggled despite playing in a weak AL Central, Perez proved this year that he was the best catcher in the AL, especially with the bat. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter led all AL catchers in home runs (27), RBI (70), hits (120), total bases (224), extra-base hits (50), runs (52) and at-bats (510). Perez, who was the only AL catcher to have over 500 at-bats this season, is the favorite to win the award, which would be the second of his career after winning his first one in 2016.
  2. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians — If anyone is going to challenge Perez for the award, it is Gomes. After all, he led all AL catchers who had over 300 at-bats in OPS (.762), doubles (26) and WAR (2.6) while finishing tied for first in runs and second in hits (107). Like Perez, Gomes is going for his second Silver Slugger after claiming one in 2014.

First Base

  1. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics — In one of the more wide open races this year, Olson has one of the better cases to win his first Silver Slugger award. In only his third year in the big leagues, the 24-year-old left-handed hitter led all AL first basemen in WAR (4.3), total bases (263), runs (85), extra-base hits (62), runs created (87.6), at-bats (580) and games played (162). If Olson wins, he will become only the third Oakland first baseman to win the award along with Mark McGwire (1992, 1996) and Jason Giambi (2001).
  2. Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros — Like Olson, Gurriel has a good argument because of the impact he has made for the Astros in his third season in the majors and at the age of 34. The right-handed hitter led all AL first basemen in batting average (.291), RBI (85) and hits (156) in 139 games played plus had the least amount of strikeouts among AL first basemen with over 200 at bats at 63. Gurriel will also try to become only the third Houston first baseman to earn the award along with Jeff Bagwell (1994, 1997, 1999) and Glenn Davis (1986)
  3. C.J. Cron, Tampa Bay Rays — While he made only 61 of his 140 game appearances this year at first base, Cron showed that he could provide a lot of power no matter what position he is in the lineup. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter led all AL first basemen in home runs (30), OPS (.816) and slugging percentage (.493). Cron will try to become the second Rays first baseman to win the award along with Carlos Pena (2007).
  4. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox — The only player on this list who has won a Silver Slugger award at this position, Abreu is in the running after having another productive season for the White Sox. The 31-year-old right-handed hitter ranked first among AL first basemen in doubles (36) and ranked in the top three in batting average, slugging percentage and extra-base hits. Though his production was not as high as it has been compared to his first four years, when he had at least 30 homers, 100 RBI, .800 OPS and .290 batting average, Abreu will try to join Frank Thomas as the only White Sox first basemen to win two Silver Slugger honors.
  5. Yonder Alonso, Cleveland Indians — After having a quality season with the Athletics and Mariners last season, Alonso put together a quality enough campaign with the Indians to be in the running for his first Silver Slugger honor. The 31-year-old left-handed hitter finished ranked in the top five among AL first basemen in RBI (third with 83), at-bats (third with 516), hits (fifth with 129) and batting average (fifth at .250). Alonso will try to become the first Indians first baseman to win the award.

Second Base

  1. Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals — Though the Royals are in rebuilding mode, they have a young star in Merrifield, who may come away with his first Silver Slugger honor after putting together an outstanding campaign this year. The 29-year-old right-handed hitter led the majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45) while also finishing ranked first among all AL second basemen in WAR (5.5) and runs created (106.8). Merrifield will try to become Kansas City’s first second baseman to win the award since Frank White back in 1986.
  2. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros — The Astros had another strong season and Altuve was once again a big part of their success. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter led all MLB second basemen in batting average (.315), on-base percentage (.384) and runs created per 27 outs (6.27) plus ranked first among all AL second basemen in OPS (.834) and slugging percentage (.449). Altuve will be looking to win his fifth Silver Slugger award in a row and tie Cubs Hall of Famer Ryan Sandberg for the most consecutive Silver Sluggers won by a second baseman in MLB history.
  3. Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics — One of a handful of “high-priced” veterans for a franchise that had the lowest payroll in baseball, Lowrie was worth every penny of the $6 million the Athletics paid him this year during their 97-win season. The 34-year-old switch hitter led all MLB second basemen in RBI with 99 and ranked in the top three among AL second basemen in extra-base hits (first with 61), walks (first with 78), home runs (second with 23), doubles (second with 37), at-bats (second with 596), slugging percentage (second with .448), total bases (second with 267), runs (third with 78), hits (third with 159), OPS (third with .801), and WAR (third with 4.8). Loire will try to become the first A’s second baseman to win the award and the first A’s player to earn this honor since 2002 when Eric Chavez won it at third base.
  4. Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees — One of the most hyped prospects lived up to his reputation in his first year with the Yankees and. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter finished tied for first among all MLB second basemen in home runs with 24 and ranked second among all AL second basemen in RBI with 77. Though he only had 484 plate appearances in 123 games this year, Torres also posted an .820 OPS and was an All-Star this year. Torres will try to become the Yankees’ third different second baseman to win the award, joining Alfonso Soriano (2002) and Robinson Cano (2006, 2010-13).

Third Base

  1. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians — A big reason why the Indians won their third consecutive AL Central title this season was because of Ramirez being an even better hitter than he was last year when he won his first Silver Slugger award. The 26-year-old switch hitter led all MLB third basemen in OPS (.939), runs (110), walks (106), stolen bases (34), runs created (133.0), and runs created per 27 outs (8.26) and ranked in the top three among AL third basemen in RBI (first with 105), slugging percentage (first with .552), total bases (first with 319), homers (second with 39), WAR (second with 7.9), and extra-base hits (second with 81). Not only will he try to win his second straight Silver Slugger, but he will also try to become Cleveland’s only two-time Silver Slugger at the hot corner.
  2. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros — Playing for an Astros team that already has a ton of talent, Bregman became one of the best players — if not the best — on the roster this year and became a finalist for this award in the process. The 24-year-old right-handed hitter led all MLB third basemen in extra-base hits (83), doubles (51) and on-base percentage (.394) and ranked in the top three among AL third basemen in hits (tied for first with 170), slugging percentage (second with .532), runs (second with 105), RBI (second with 103), walks (second with 96), total bases (second with 316), runs created (second with 122.9), runs created per 27 outs (second with 7.42), batting average (third with .286), and WAR (third with 6.9). Bregman will try to become only the second Astros third baseman to win the award along with Morgan Ensberg, who claimed it back in 2005 while playing in the National League.
  3. Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics — Though the A’s had to showcase a young team, Chapman certainly proved his value as one of the top hitters in the game during their great run to the postseason. The 25-year-old right-handed hitter led all MLB third basemen in WAR at 8.2 and ranked in the top three among AL third basemen in runs (third with 100), slugging percentage (third with .864) and doubles (third with 42). Chapman will try to become the second Athletics third baseman to claim this award along with Eric Chavez, who won it back in 2002.
  4. Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees — Another part of the Yankees’ talented young core, Andujar asserted himself into the conversation as one of the top offensive players at the hot corner in the AL. The 23-year-old right-handed hitter finished first among AL third basemen in batting average (.297) and hits (170) and ranked in the top three in doubles (second with 47), RBI (tied for third with 92), total bases (third with 302), runs created (third with 95.4), and runs created per 27 outs (third with 6.16). Andujar will look to become the second Yankees third baseman to win this award along with Alex Rodriguez, who won it three times in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

Shortstop

  1. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians — If there is one player that has taken his game to a whole other level, it is Lindor after following up his 2017 Silver Slugger-winning season with his campaign in 2018. The 24-year-old switch hitter and fourth-year player led the entire AL in runs (129), at-bats (661) and plate appearances (745) and ranked first among all MLB shortstops in home runs (38), hits (183), total bases (343), walks (70), WAR (7.9), and runs creates (122.5). Lindor will try to become the Indians’ first two-time Silver Slugger at shortstop.
  2. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox — After a down season in 2017, Bogaerts bounced back with a career season in most offensive categories. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter led all AL shortstops in RBI (103), doubles (45), on-base percentage (.360), slugging percentage (.522), and OPS (.883) and ranked in the top three among AL shortstops in runs created (second with 94.1), runs creates per 27 outs (second with 6.57), total bases (second with 268), extra-base hits (second with 71), batting average (third with .288), and walks (third with 55). Bogaerts, who has won a Silver Slugger awards two times in his career, will look to join Cal Ripken Jr. (eight times), Alan Trammell (three times) and Derek Jeter (three times) as the only three-time winners at shortstop in the AL.
  3. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees — While a lot of attention in New York’s lineup was on his teammates Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Torres, Gregorius put himself into the conversation as one of the best shortstops in the AL. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter ranked in the top three among in homers (second with 27), RBI (third with 86), OPS (third with .829), slugging percentage (third with .494), runs (third with 89), total bases (third with 249), runs created (third with 83.9), and runs created per 27 outs (third with 5.77), and finished with the least amount of strikeouts among the Silver Slugger finalists (69). Gregorius will try to join Jeter as the only Yankees shortstops to ever win a Silver Slugger honor.
  4. Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners — In his second season with the Mariners, Segura showed that he is still one of the most consistent hitters in the majors. The 28-year-old right-hander led all MLB shortstops in batting average at .304 and ranked in the top three among AL shortstops in hits (second with 178), runs (second with 91), on-base percentage (third with .341), at-bats (third with 586), and stolen bases (third with 20). Segura will try to become Seattle’s second shortstop to win a Silver Slugger along with Alex Rodriguez, who won four of his 10 Silver Slugger awards with the Mariners (1996, 1998-2000).

Outfield

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox — The team with the best record in baseball this year was made possible because of Betts being arguably the best player in the AL. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter led all of MLB in batting average (.346), slugging percentage (.640), runs (129), WAR (10.9) and runs created (141.8) and ranked in the top three among the entire AL in extra-base hits (first with 84), OPS (second with 1.078), runs created per 27 outs (second with 10.72), doubles (second with 47), and on-base percentage (second with .438). Betts will be looking to join five-time winner Manny Ramirez, two-time winner Jim Rice and two-time winner Dwight Evans as Boston’s only outfielders to win at least two Silver Slugger awards in their careers after claiming his first one in 2016.
  2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles AngelsTrout is poised to win his sixth Silver Slugger award in seven seasons after having another fantastic season for the Angels. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter led the entire MLB in OPS (1.088), on-base percentage (.460), and runs created per 27 outs (11.19), and ranked in the top three among the entire AL in walks (first with 122), intentional walks (first with 25), OPS+ (first with 199), WAR (second with 10.2), runs created (second with 138.9), and slugging percentage (third with .628). Trout will try to become the ninth outfielder in MLB history to win six or more Silver Slugger awards in a career along with Barry Bonds (MLB-record 12), Ramirez (eight), Ken Griffey Jr. (seven), Vladimir Guerrero (seven), Tony Gwynn (seven), Juan Gonzalez (six), Kirby Puckett (six) and Sammy Sosa (six).
  3. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians — After having injury-ridden 2016 and 2017 seasons, Brantley returned to being one of the elite contact-oriented hitters in the game. The 31-year-old left-handed hitter ranked third among AL outfielders in batting average (third with .309) and hits (third with 176), but led MLB hitters in the analytical stats such as contact rate (90.9 percent) and swinging-strike rate (4.0 percent). Brantley, who is seeking his second Silver Slugger award, will try to join three-time winners Ramirez and Albert Belle as the only Indians outfielders to win multiple Silver Slugger honors.
  4. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees — Due to a broken wrist that cost him about seven weeks of the season and only allowed him to obtain 498 plate appearances, Judge did not have the year he had last year as a rookie when he won a Silver Slugger, but he still showed that he was a top slugger when he was in the lineup. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter ranked third among AL outfielders in WAR (5.5), OPS (.919), slugging percentage (.528), and runs created per 27 outs (7.25). Judge will try to join five-time winner Dave Winfield and two-time winner Gary Sheffield as the only Yankees outfielders to win multiple Silver Slugger honors.
  5. Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels — Outside of his teammate in Trout, Upton has the most Silver Slugger awards of the current finalist field after having won three previously, and hopes to add No. 4 this year following another productive season. The 31-year-old right-handed hitter ranked third among AL outfielders in homers with 30 while posting an .808 OPS. Upton, who won a Silver Slugger with the Angels last year and two in the National League, will look to join Trout, Guerrero (three-time winner) and Garrett Anderson (two-time winner) as the only Angels outfielders to win multiple Silver Slugger honors.
  6. Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers — Though the Tigers were in rebuilding mode, Castellanos clearly shined as one of the top hitting outfielders in the AL. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter led all AL outfielders in hits (185) and at-bats (620) and ranked in the top three among in RBI (second with 89), doubles (second with 46), total bases (second with 310), extra-base hits (second with 74), and slugging percentage (third with .500). Castellanos will try to join Magglio Ordóñez (2007), Torii Hunter (2013), and J.D. Martinez (2015) as the only Tigers outfielders to be names a Silver Slugger winner.
  7. Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners — Haniger had a nice breakout season for Seattle during its surprise campaign. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter led all AL outfielders in RBI (93) and plate appearances (683), and ranked third in runs created (third with 109.3) while hitting 26 home runs and posting an .859 OPS. Haniger will look to join Griffey (1991, 1993-94, 1996-99), Ichiro Suzuki (2001, 2007, 2009), and current teammate Nelson Cruz (2015) as the Mariners’ only Silver Slugger winning outfielders in franchise history.
  8. Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees — When the Yankees had to play without the services of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, Hicks stepped up to lead the lineup and wound up having a career year because of it. The 29-year-old switch hitter ranked in the top five among AL outfielders in walks (second with 90), WAR (fourth with 4.9), home runs (tied for fourth with 27), on-base percentage (fourth with .366), and runs created per 27 outs (fifth with 6.49). Hicks will be looking to win his first Silver Slugger honor.

Designated Hitter

  1. J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox — One of the last free agents to sign with a team this past offseason, Martinez certainly proved to the Red Sox he was worth having in the lineup. Used primarily as a DH (93 of 150 games), Martinez led the majors in RBI (130) and total bases (358), and ranked in the top three among the entire AL in hits (first with 188), home runs (second with 43), batting average (second with .330), runs (third with 111), slugging percentage (second with .629), OPS (third with 1.031), on-base percentage (third with .402), runs created (third with 132.5), runs created per 27 outs (third with 8.77), and extra-base hits (tied for third with 82). Martinez will look to add his second Silver Slugger award to his collection after winning his first back in 2015 with Detroit.
  2. Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics — The power-hitter in the Athletics’ lineup this year put himself in the mix for a Silver Slugger — the first of his career — after having an outstanding season. The 30-year-old right-handed hitter led the majors in home runs with 48 and ranked in the top three among AL designated hitters in RBI (second with 123), total bases (second with 316), runs (third with 98) and runs created (third with 100.2). Davis will also try to become the A’s first DH to win a Silver Slugger honor.
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees — Last year’s National League MVP and Silver Slugger as an outfielder came to the Bronx from Miami and still showcased his big bat for the Yankees. Playing in 86 of 158 games as the DH, the 28-year-old Stanton ranked in the top three among all AL designated hitters in runs (second with 102), hits (second with 164), doubles (second with 34), runs created (second with 106.2), homers (third with 38), slugging percentage (third with .509), total bases (third with 314), extra-base hits (third with 73), and runs created per 27 outs (third with 5.97). Stanton will try to come away with his third Silver Slugger award in his career after winning two with the Marlins.
  4. Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians — The Tribe’s DH hopes it will finally be the year he wins a Silver Slugger honor. The 35-year-old right-handed hitter recorded his seventh straight 30-plus homer season and had over 100 RBI for the sixth time in seven seasons, with his 107 RBI being ranked third in the entire AL and his 32 homers being ranked fifth among AL designated hitters. Encarnacion will try to join Andre Thornton (1984) as the only Indians’ designated hitters to win a Silver Slugger award.
  5. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels — The Japanese two-way star mesmerized the majors with his ability to pitch and hit, but he was able to finish his first year as a finalist for this award. Despite playing with a torn UCL and only appearing in 104 games, Ohtani ranked among the top three among AL designated hitters in OPS (second with .952), batting average (second with .285), slugging percentage (second with .564), and on-base percentage (third with .361) while hitting 22 homers. Ohtani will try to join Ichiro as the only Japanese-born players to win a Silver Slugger award in MLB history.
  6. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners — The Mariners made some waves this year in large part due to the big bat of Cruz, the defending AL Silver Slugger at DH. The 38-year-old right-handed hitter recorded his fifth straight season of 37 home runs or more and had 97 RBI, a .509 slugging percentage, and an .850 OPS, all of which rank in the top five among AL DHs. Cruz will try to capture his third Silver Slugger award with the Mariners after also winning one as an outfielder in 2015.