Toronto Blue Jays News

Toronto Blue Jays Award Watch: May 2018

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TORONTO, ON - APRIL 29: Yangervis Solarte #26 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the second inning during MLB game action against the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre on April 29, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 29: Yangervis Solarte #26 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the second inning during MLB game action against the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre on April 29, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays have been pretty surprising so far this season. They have a better record than even the most liberal projections predicted, and thats due in part to some surprising performances from players.

To start off, I’ll admit this: I was wrong. VERY wrong with my predictions in  April. None of the players I predicted to be making noise in awards voting in April are still there. My top pick for the Jays Cy Young contender, Marcus Stroman has imploded, and likely won’t see this list for the rest of the season.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here is my all new list of Jays players making noise in awards voting.

MVP

Blue Jays contenders: Yangervis Solarte, Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar

Off the list from last month: Josh Donaldson

Last month I had Josh Donaldson as the lone Blue Jay probable to make noise with this award. Alas, he once again encountered injury problems, and has missed significant time.

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This month, I have Yangervis Solarte, Justin Smoak and Kevin Pillar on my list. Admittedly, these three guys likely won’t make it in the top 15 MVP finishers, even if they keep up their numbers.

Right now, Solarte is 10th in home runs in the American League, with seven. This has been a power breakout season for Solarte, as he also has 15 RBIs, and a .250 batting average.

The thing that will keep Solarte from climbing up MVP voter’s lists is that average. Usually an MVP has an average over .270, and even that is on the low side for the best player in the league. With an average of just .250, he doesn’t have a good shot at getting even in the top 20.

Am I the only one with a big sigh of relief that Smoak has earned his way back on this list? A lot of people were unsure of whether his breakout 2017 season was for real, but while the home runs are down, he’s still been a monster at the plate. With four homers and 17 RBIs, Smoak has shown he can still hit the ball well. But, the same thing limiting Solarte will limit Smoak. Smoak’s batting average is at .255. Good, compared to what he has been, but not so great when put up against the best players in the game.

Smoak will continue to be the engine of the Jays offence, plating runners game after game, but that batting average doesn’t look great when it comes to award voting.

And lastly for this category, “Superman” himself, Kevin Pillar. After a hot April last season, Pillar fell back down to earth. This season, we’re all hoping Pillar keeps it up. If he does keep it up, there’s a chance Pillar could be a top 10 MVP candidate.

His numbers in April are close to elite, combining speed and power, for a 1.5 WAR already this season. He’s batting .310 with four homers, 14 RBIs, and four stolen bases. If Pillar keeps this up, as our own Chris Henderson outlined, this could be Pillar’s breakout year, and the year he finally gets notice from award voters.

Cy Young

Blue Jays contenders: J.A. Happ

Off the list from last month: Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez

Let’s not dwell on how incredibly wrong I was about this prediction last month, and go to the positive.

Happ is looking like an ace, and just when the Jays needed one the most. With their two young stars struggling to start the season, Happ has stepped up and given the Jays a reliable starter they can count on every five days.

Happ has 50 strikeouts, and a 3.50 ERA. The next best pitcher on the Jays for K’s is Jaime Garcia with 28. Not only is Happ doing well, he’s leagues above all the other Jays starters.

Happ is second in the AL in strikeouts, only trailing Gerrit Cole, who has 61. If he keeps this up, Happ could be a dark horse Cy Young candidate, but only if he brings his ERA down. If theres two things Cy Young voters appreciate, it’s low ERA, and high strikeouts.

Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year

The Jays still don’t look like they have anyone competing for these awards, despite Lourdes Gurriel Jr. looking like he has a future along with Vlad Gurrero Jr. and Bo Bichette in the Jays future infield.

The AL rookie class is just too darn good for Gurriel Jr. to be making waves. If he gets on a hot streak, maybe, but lets just enjoy watching a young gun tear apart major league pitching.

Next: Blue Jays release Danny Espinosa and Chad Girodo

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