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  • David SchoenfieldClose

    David Schoenfield

    ESPN Senior Writer

    • Senior writer of SweetSpot baseball blog
    • Former deputy editor of Page 2
    • Been with ESPN.com since 1995

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  • Midway through the MLB season, the races for the 2019 awards are starting to take shape. Who is positioned to be at the center of this year’s MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year battles? ESPN’s David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle use Doolittle’s Awards Index formula and their own takes to break down who has the lead right now, whom to watch out for and what will happen in the second half.

    Jump to … MVP races | Cy Young battles | Top rookies

    NL MVP

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    But the narrative belongs to … It feels like a dead heat between Yelich and Bellinger, but I might give the slightest edge in narrative to Yelich for three reasons: (1) There’s the sense that he has carried the Brewers — or had to carry them — a little more than Bellinger has had to carry the loaded Dodgers’ offense; (2) He has a chance to lead the league in both home runs and stolen bases (the last player to do that was Chuck Klein in 1932), and while that alone isn’t a reason to give a guy the MVP Award, it could be a tiebreaker element in a close vote; (3) It’s difficult to repeat as MVP, but Yelich has managed to raise his game to another level, which solidifies that he has become a superstar, not just a guy having a career season. — Schoenfield

    A dark horse to watch: There’s a sizable gap between Yelich and Bellinger and everyone else, but let’s throw some money on Anthony Rendon. He’s on pace for 114 RBIs and 119 runs — even though he missed a chunk of time. It will take the Nationals making a playoff run for him to have a chance to win, but his two-way value is something voters will love, along with that potential narrative of getting the Nationals back to the playoffs without Bryce Harper (and after the team got off to a slow start). — Schoenfield

    The bottom line: Bellinger raced out to the early lead and is maintaining a nice, front-running pace. Yelich’s performance has been a bit more even, despite some road struggles. Over the last calendar year, Yelich has hit .344/.432/.709 with 53 homers and 136 RBIs. If he keeps up that pace, and the Brewers continue to slug it out with the Cubs in the NL Central, Yelich has a great shot of passing Bellinger during the second half. — Doolittle

    With the Dodgers likely rolling to the NL West title, Bellinger may not be playing any big games in September. Yelich will, which gives him the opportunity for some late-season clutch hits that could put him over the top. — Schoenfield

    AL MVP

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    Why the numbers favor … Giolito. With a double-digit K/9 rate and the league’s best home run rate, Giolito has the AL’s top FIP, which underscores his league-leading 2.22 ERA. His 10 wins also top the circuit, while his 95 strikeouts rank 11th. The homer rate is, of course, subject to regression, and keeping the ball in the park will be the key for Giolito to maintain his breakout season. — Doolittle

    But the narrative belongs to … Giolito. He has been great and his riches-to-rags-to-riches story as a former top prospect who struggled mightily in the majors only to suddenly transform into an elite starter is one of the feel-good stories of the season. — Schoenfield

    A dark horse to watch: Trevor Bauer is 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA and has struggled with his control, but he’s also capable of going on a big run and is likely to lead the league in innings pitched (unless Verlander does). — Schoenfield

    The bottom line: We really don’t know much about how this race is going to play out. A potential young gun (Giolito) versus old gun (Verlander) would be a great narrative, but we’ve got a long way to go in this category. And don’t discount the narrative aspects of the Twins’ magical season in boosting the cases of Berrios and Odorizzi. — Doolittle

    Verlander is on pace to allow 44 home runs and yet his ERA is 2.59. Nobody has ever allowed 40-plus home runs and had an ERA under 3.00. He’s the favorite given his track record, but it would seem he can’t keep giving up that many home runs and keep that ERA so low. — Schoenfield

    NL Rookie of the Year

    Awards Index leaders

    1. Brandon Lowe

    2. John Means

    3. Adrian Sampson

    4. Spencer Turnbull

    5. Ty Buttrey

    How close is this race? This race is a little sleepy at the moment. Most of that is because the leading performers are all mostly anonymous. It’s also because the players we hyped before the season — Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez — have not exactly exploded out of the gate. Brandon Lowe is having a terrific season for an AL playoff contender, so, for now, he looks like the early leader. — Doolittle

    The bottom line: This race will get a lot sexier if and when Vlady and Eloy take off. They’ve been friends since their days growing up in the Dominican Republic, and if these two take off in the weeks to come, it’ll be a great story. Jimenez could end up with the narrative edge if he helps keep the upstart White Sox on the fringes of wild-card contention. — Doolittle

    Lowe is thriving despite a 34 percent strikeout rate (thank you, .387 BABIP). If the strikeouts become too much to overcome, look for Vladdy in the second half. After that 13-game homerless streak to begin his career, he’s hit .278/.328/.513 with seven home runs in 30 games. — Schoenfield