Aug 13, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
With the Nationals and Braves locked in a race for the NL East division crown, it’s easy to overlook the individual performances that helped earn Washington a first place standing here in the second week of August.
I was asked on the radio last week whether Anthony Rendon deserved any MVP consideration and it got me thinking: which Nats players have a chance at earning some hardware after this season?
Sure, individual honors are an offseason discussion, but sometimes the race to the finish can be quite entertaining.
Here is a look at which Nats players should be considered for awards this year:
National League MVP: Rendon and Denard Span
Both Rendon and Span have what I would call an outside shot at finishing near the top of NL MVP voting, but there are still about seven weeks left in the season for them to make their case. Right now Rendon is 8th among NL position players in WAR at 4.3. Span ranks 17th among NL players at 3.3.
The Nationals are in first place and there’s no question they wouldn’t be there without the production of Rendon and Span at the top of their order. After Tuesday’s game, Rendon is now hitting .276 with 16 homers, 66 RBI and an NL-best 82 runs.
Everyone around here knows how well Span has been playing lately. It’s been written about nearly every day since July. Through 108 games he is now batting .303 with a .356 on-base percentage, 71 runs and 23 steals.
Both Rendon and Span have been great, but right now each is a longshot for MVP. They will probably each finish somewhere between fifth and 20th in voting. At this point, Giancarlo Stanton has to be the favorite. Maybe Clayton Kershaw.
National League Cy Young: Doug Fister and Tanner Roark
Let’s start this off by saying that as long as Kershaw keeps it up, no Nationals pitcher – or anybody else, for that matter – has a prayer in the NL Cy Young race. Kershaw has been the best pitcher in the game for years now and this has so far been the best season he’s ever had. Like, yeah, he’s somehow getting better.
That doesn’t mean Nats pitchers can’t get votes, however. If the season were to end today, there would have to be some representation for what has been the fourth best rotation in the majors in terms of ERA (3.29). And so far it has been Fister and Roark leading the way, no matter how unpredictable that would have seemed back in spring training.
Fister has been the clearcut ace of the Nats’ staff this season, consistently turning out gems no matter the overall state of the team. After Tuesday’s win over the Mets, Fister now places seventh among NL starters in wins (12), third in ERA (2.34) and fourth in WHIP (1.073). He has also walked only 13 batters in 111 2/3 innings.
The biggest knock on Fister in terms of the Cy Young race is that he missed the first six weeks of the season. The lack of starts and innings pitched will certainly lower his chances.
Roark has been no slouch, either. The 27-year-old is ninth among NL starters with a 2.86 ERA and is just behind Fister with 11 wins. He also ranks seventh in the NL with a .233 batting average against and should finish with over 200 innings pitched.
At this point, it would not be crazy to see both Fister and Roark finish with votes, given how much they have meant to the Nats this year. Still, it’s Kershaw’s to lose.
NL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Barrett
By this, I simply mean he could get a few votes. Each of the last three seasons has seen eight different NL players earn rookie of the year votes and in 2010 nine guys got consideration. The case could be made that Barrett has been among the best eight or so rookies in the NL this season.
Barrett is in Syracuse now, but he came out of nowhere early this season to make a total of 40 appearances out of the Nats’ bullpen. Along the way he compiled a 3.21 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 18 walks in 33 2/3 innings.
Barrett was strong right from the beginning when he debuted on Opening Day in New York. The rookie pitched seven outings before allowing a run and gave up just one in his first 20 games (19 IP). To come in and make an impact on a team as talented as the Nats right away is impressive, and he could build on his case later this season if (more like when) he returns.
Obviously, though, Barrett will not finish anywhere near the top of NL rookie of the year voting. Right now the award is Billy Hamilton’s to lose. Jacob deGrom of the Mets will get some consideration, as well.
Side note: I couldn’t put Michael Taylor in the ‘he could get some votes’ discussion after seeing him for just one game Tuesday night. But, trust me, I thought about it.
Silver Slugger Award: Rendon and Ian Desmond
Rendon may be an underdog in MVP voting, but he has a very good chance of winning a Silver Slugger at third base this year.
Rendon has played 95 games at third base – compared to 28 at second – and ranks favorably among his NL counterparts. The 22-year-old is first among NL third basemen in runs, RBI and doubles. He places second in home runs, hits, OPS and steals.
At this point, Rendon could be the favorite in a crowded group that includes Todd Frazier, Aramis Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
For Desmond, it could be three years in a row he wins a Silver Slugger at shortstop. And, once again, it could be due in large part to injuries cutting Troy Tulowitzki’s season short.
Tulo was far and away the NL’s best player this year before he went down in late July with a hip injury. In the time since, Desmond has continued to play well and at a consistent rate. He now leads NL shortstops in RBI (72), and ranks second in hits (109), steals (13) and games played (115).
As long as he stays healthy – and Tulo stays on the DL – the Silver Slugger should go to Desmond.
Gold Glove: Span
This is much harder to quantify than the other awards races, as sometimes no one knows what MLB is thinking when they hand them out. Span, however, has been exceptional in center field this season with the Nationals. He’s been durable, consistent and has a .996 fielding percentage.
Yeah, some of the advanced metrics favor other players because of their arm strength, but if you watch Span on nightly basis like we here in Washington do, it seems a huge oversight that he’s never won a Gold Glove in his career. This should be the year.
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