American League: Top picks for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year

By Roger Rubin, The Sports Xchange

With the mathematical midpoint of the season still big in the rearview mirror and the All-Star Game break coming up fast, it is a perfect time to take stock of the race for baseball's big awards. Here then are our choices if we had to pick them today.

American League MVP

Houston Astros Jose Altuve wears a cold wether under armor mask in the 6th inning against the New York Yankees on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 5, 2016. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
In a league where 11 of 15 teams - including the three division leaders -- are within five games of a playoff spot, offense has been the rule of thumb. Of the 40 MLB players who had more than 50 RBI after Wednesday's games, 26 came out of the AL. Of the 32 players with 18 or more home runs, 18 play in the AL.

Still it is a player who is not known for his power that appears to be the front-runner: the Astros' Jose Altuve. The second baseman leads the league in batting average (.350) and stolen bases (22), is second in on-base percentage (.422), is fourth in runs scored (62) and has 14 homers and 49 RBI, mostly out of the leadoff spot.

That combination just basely puts him ahead of the Red Sox' David Ortiz, who is having a freakishly good final season before retiring. Big Papi is hitting .337 with 20 homers, 69 RBI and 55 extra-base hits with an OPS of 1.106.

RELATED National League: Top picks for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year

The top five: 1. Altuve, 2. Ortiz, 3. Mike Trout (Angels), 4. Manny Machado (Orioles), 5. Ian Desmond (Rangers).

AL Cy Young

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) delivers to the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning at Camden Yards in Baltimore, May 1, 2016. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Victories have been less the measure of this award in recent years, but it just so happens that the pick so far this season is also the AL leader in wins: Chris Sale of the White Sox. Chicago has stumbled as of late but was 44-41 entering play Thursday and Sale was 14-2 in 17 starts with a 2.93 ERA and 118 strikeouts against 24 walks in 120 innings pitched. He has the win in an impressive 32 percent of his team's victories, which is saying something in the era of the five-man rotation. It nearly reminds of 1972 when Steve Carlton won 27 for a 59-win Philadelphia team - that's 46 percent, though it was in the four-man rotation era.

Sale gets the nod over Danny Salazar, who is 10-3 with a league-leading 2.36 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 99 innings for the red-hot Indians.

The top five: 1. Sale, 2. Salazar, 3. Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays), 4. Cole Hamels (Rangers), 5. Zach Britton (Orioles).

AL Rookie of the Year

Texas Rangers Nomar Mazara. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Right now this is a two-man race and the Tigers' Michael Fulmer stands just barely ahead of the Rangers' Nomar Mazara. There is an apples-and-oranges to this debate because of their positions. Fulmer - the key piece in the trade of Cespedes to the Mets last season - is 9-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 13 starts for Detroit.

Mazara is batting .287 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI.

The top three: 1. Fulmer, 2. Mazara, 3. Tyler Naquin (Indians).

AL Manager of the Year

Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona (C) taps starting pitcher Danny Salazar as he is relieved in the fifth inning. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
For delivering the best in team in the toughest division the front-runner has to be Cleveland's Terry Francona. The club isn't exactly a bunch of household names, yet it's in the driver's seat in the AL Central and leads the league with a plus-79 run differential.

The top three: 1. Francona, 2. Jeff Bannister (Rangers), 3. Buck Showalter (Orioles).

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