As promised, here are my mid-season picks for the three main awards in each league - Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. I listed my choice for each award, followed by the 'Next 5.' As you might notice, the Next 5 are conveniently listed in alphabetical order instead of ranked order. Let me know who I left out or who I included that's not deserving....
AL MVP: Jose Bautista (TOR) - There are a lot of players having great seasons in the AL this year, but Bautista has been mind-boggling. The guy's a dangerous power hitter (leads the planet with 31 HR) but is still a near-impossible out with a .468 OBA. His 74 walks (against just 54 K) shows a patience at the plate not often seen with such sluggers. His current 1.170 OPS (217 OPS+) would be a monster month for even All-Star type players. He also provides some defensive versatility, having recently moved from RF to 3B.
Next 5 - Miguel Cabrera (DET), Adrian Gonzalez (BOS), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Paul Konerko (CHW), Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
NL MVP: Matt Kemp (LAD) - Kemp has recovered from a disappointing 2010 campaign to lead the way for the Dodgers in 2011. His .313/.398/.584, 22 HR, 68 RBI first-half has been about as quiet of a performance at that level as possible. Jose Reyes might be the trendy pick here (at least pre-injury), but even Kemp's speed/base running have been impressive. His 27 SB (against 3 CS - 90% success rate) compare favorably to Reyes' 30 SB/6 CS.
Next 5 - Lance Berkman (STL), Ryan Braun (MIL), Prince Fielder (MIL), Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Jose Reyes (NYM)
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander (DET) - The 28-year-old Tiger put up a tremendous first half and has been a workhorse in the process. His 20 GS and 151.0 IP both lead the league and his 147 K puts him on pace for a third consecutive 200+ K season. Both his H/9 and BB/9 rate have dropped significantly as compared to career averages, leading to a stellar 0.87 WHIP and 4.74 K/BB rate. His 5.4 WAR is already well above his closest pitching competitors (Weaver at 4.9 and Beckett at 4.1) and his no-hitter wasn't bad either.
Next 5 - Josh Beckett (BOS), Dan Haren (LAA), CC Sabathia (NYY), James Shields (TB), Jared Weaver (LAA)
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay (PHI) - Yes, I know this blog is written by a Braves fan. I know Jair Jurrjens leads the league in wins (12-3) and has a substantial lead in ERA (1.87). But Halladay blows the league away in nearly every other pitching category. His 8.12 K/BB rate is so unbelievable you'd think it was a typo. Every Halladay start feels like a complete game waiting to happen (he already has 6 on the year), as he's well on his way to another 250+ IP / 200+ K season.
Next 5 - Cole Hamels (PHI), Tommy Hanson (ATL), Jair Jurrjens (ATL), Clayton Kershaw (LAD), Cliff Lee (PHI)
AL ROY: Michael Pineda (SEA) - The 6'7", 260lb Pineda pitched exceedingly well in a stocked Seattle rotation. He leads rookie starters in W (8), IP (113.0), ERA (3.03), K (113) and WHIP (1.03) and has arguably performed better than even his Cy Young award-winner teammate Felix Hernandez. Pineda's running away with this award right now. Oh, and the Braves still beat him.
Next 5 - Jeremy Hellickson (TB), Eric Hosmer (KC), Mark Trumbo (LAA), Jordan Walden (LAA), Casper Wells (DET)
NL ROY: Craig Kimbrel (ATL) - The National League has a talented stockpile of rookies, but Kimbrel's performance in June and July vaulted him to the top of the group. With 27 saves, the 23-year-old flamethrower now owns the major-league record for saves by a rookie before the All-Star break and is on pace to shatter Neftali Feliz's record for saves in a season by a rookie (47 vs. 40). He's struck out nearly 40%(!!) of the batters he's faced this year and has gotten his BB/9 rate down to a respectable 3.5. Not only may he be the best rookie in the NL, he may be one of the best couple relievers in all of baseball.
Next 5 - Darwin Barney (CHC), Brandon Beachy (ATL), Danny Espinosa (WSN), Freddie Freeman (ATL), Dillon Gee (NYM)