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Finalists announced for 2018 BBWAA awards

We now know the three players in each category who have a shot to win baseball’s most prestigious annual awards.

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball and the BBWAA announced the finalists for the NL and AL MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year awards — the eight annual awards voted on by the writers — on Monday night. Here are the three finalists for each award, none of which are extremely surprising:

AL MVP: Mookie Betts (Red Sox), Jose Ramirez (Indians), Mike Trout (Angels)

Betts appears to be in good position to win this award, having led the majors in bWAR, batting average, slugging percentage, and UZR/150 while ranking second to Trout in OBP and OPS, fourth in doubles, fifth in defensive runs saved (third in AL), tied for ninth in steals (tied for fifth in the AL), tied for 21st (tied for ninth in the AL) in homers, The narrative that he was the best player on the best team in baseball (an accurate one) while Trout’s team missed the playoffs for a fourth straight year certainly can’t hurt his case.

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado (Rockies), Javier Baez (Cubs), Christian Yelich (Brewers)

Thanks to a ridiculous final month of the season that saw him hit .370/.508/.804 with 10 homers and 34 RBI — and the fact that voters have consistently treated Rockies hitters with skepticism because they play in Coors Field — Yelich is likely to win this one. He ended up winning the NL batting title (.326) while also leading the league in slugging (.598) and OPS (1.000) and finishing with a .402 OBP, 36 homers, 110 RBI, and 22 stolen bases.

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber (Indians), Blake Snell (Rays), Justin Verlander (Astros)

This may be the most dramatic reveal of next week. Snell won the AL ERA title (1.89) and led the league with 21 wins and a .178 opponent batting average. Kluber led the league in innings pitched (215) while putting up a very respectable 2.89 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. Verlander led the AL in strikeouts (290) and WHIP (0.90) while pitching for the best team among the three.

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (Mets), Aaron Nola (Phillies), Max Scherzer (Nationals)

This one really shouldn’t be that much of a contest, with deGrom leading the NL with an ERA (1.70) that was 0.67 points better than Nola’s next-best 2.37 mark and tying for the NL lead with a 0.91 WHIP. It’ll be interesting to see how much, if at all, the writers victimize deGrom (who still finished over .500, by the way, going 10-9) for only collecting nine wins on a disastrous Mets team. Scherzer does have a pretty solid case, too, having posted a 2.53 ERA while leading the NL in innings (220.2), strikeouts (300), and opponent batting average (.188), and tying deGrom with a 0.91 WHIP.

AL Rookie of the Year: Miguel Andujar (Yankees), Shohei Ohtani (Angels), Gleyber Torres (Yankees)

Obviously, Ohtani had a historic year, becoming baseball’s first legitimate two-way player since Babe Ruth while posting a 3.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 10 starts and posting a .285/.361/.564 slash line with 22 homers, 61 RBIs, and 10 steals in 361 plate appearances. We’ll see how much missing nearly all of June at the plate and virtually all of the season’s final four months, save for two starts, on the mound hurts him. Andujar was the best rookie from a strictly offensive standpoint, though, collecting 47 doubles, 27 homers, 92 RBI, and a .297/.328/.527 slash line. It’ll just be a matter of how heavily voters punish him for his defensive struggles (-2.2 defensive WAR, as measured by Baseball Reference). And 122 fewer plate appearances, Torres came close to matching Andujar’s production at the plate, hitting .271/.340/.480 with 16 doubles, 24 homers and 77 RBI.

NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuña Jr. (Braves), Walker Buehler (Dodgers), Juan Soto (Nationals)

Acuña vs. Soto will be a great battle. The 20-year-old Acuña edged out Soto in homers (26), batting average (.293), slugging percentage (.552), steals (16), and bWAR (4.1). Soto, who played the entire season at 19 years old after shooting from Low-A to the majors within a six-week span, holds the edge in plate appearances (494), RBI (70), OBP (.406), and OPS (.923). Buehler, who posted a spectacular 2.62 ERA over 137.1 innings, seemingly just beat out fellow rookie starters Jack Flaherty and Dereck Rodriguez for the honor of holding the third spot among the trio of finalists.

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash (Rays), Alex Cora (Red Sox), Bob Melvin (Athletics)

These awards always tend to be awarded in response to preseason narratives, which probably means that Melvin is the favorite after leading the underdog A’s to a 97-65 record and an AL Wild Card berth. But with Cora — a first-year manager who only had one year of big-league coaching experience — taking over the Red Sox and leading them to a majors-best 108-54 record, all while first-year Yankees manager and AL East rival Aaron Boone seemingly cost his team wins, he has a solid chance at winning the award as well. So does Cash, who led the Rays to a 90-win season after an offseason fire sale and was the boldest tactician in the majors, abandoning the traditional starting rotation — beginning the season with dedicated “bullpen day” slots in the rotation, then going all-in in May, using relievers as one or two-inning “openers” to prevent inexperienced starters from having to face the top of the order, thus sparking a revolution around baseball.

NL Manager of the Year: Bud Black (Rockies), Craig Counsell (Brewers), Brian Snitker (Braves)

There’s no obvious candidate here, either, though Snitker is likely the favorite after helping the Braves reverse their record from 72-90 in 2017 to 90-72 (and an NL East title) in 2018. Counsell, who led the Brewers to their first playoff appearance since 2011, and Black, whose Rockies participated in a division series for the first time since 2009, are also good candidates from an “outperforming expectations” standpoint.

The winners of the awards will be announced next week, with MLB Network airing a special each night from Monday-Thursday to reveal the AL and NL recipients of one award. The Rookie of the Year awards will be given out on Monday, the Managers of the Year on Tuesday, the Cy Youngs on Wednesday, and the MVPs on Thursday.