Another Fantasy Baseball season is in the books, but some of us are unwilling to leave it behind just yet.
We could make like the Game of Thrones crowd and respond with the indignation of a jilted lover, provoked by its mere mention into fits of fury and an accounting of grievances. Or we could commemorate it with some awards.
I choose the fun option.
And indeed, these are mostly meant to be fun. You won't see the BBWAA adopting them anytime soon, and in fact, most of them wouldn't be year-to-year staples for me either. I'm sort of like Michael Scott at the Dundies, already knowing who I want to recognize and then figuring out what I can recognize them for (but something more suitable than "longest engagement" or "whitest sneakers").
Hey look, I'm only four graphs in and have already met my quota for TV references. Better get to it, then.
HOU Houston • #35 • Age: 37
Gerrit Cole SP
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #45 • Age: 30
These two were far and away the most productive pitchers in a year so skewed toward hitting that high-end pitching was the only true currency. Shame only one can get a Cy Young for it.
Ketel Marte 2B
ARI Arizona • #4 • Age: 27
While some may have predicted a breakout, no one thought he had the power to hit 30 homers or the upside to be the top second baseman.
Piling up innings and strikeouts, Bieber was the most consistent of aces apart from Verlander and Cole, yet he was drafted with the likes of Chris Archer and Nathan Eovaldi.
OAK Oakland • #10 • Age: 30
Ketel Marte got the more prestigious award, but Semien similarly ascended from fringe mixed-leaguer to MVP candidate, beginning the year hot and ending it even hotter.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #27 • Age: 26
Though once considered the game's top pitching prospect, Giolito's 6.13 ERA last year was, to many, the last straw, and it's not like he was a popular breakout pick coming in.
Yu Darvish SP
CHC Chi. Cubs • #11 • Age: 34
It was easy to write him off after he lost most of 2018 to injury, but once he got full command of his arsenal back, he was overpowering hitters like in his prime, compiling a 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 13.0 K/9 in his final 13 starts. Jack Flaherty would have been another worthy candidate here.
Jorge Soler DH
KC Kansas City • #12 • Age: 28
Awarded to a player who makes a significant power contribution for a small investment, Jorge Soler finally made good on some six-year-old prospect hype, setting the Royals home run record by 12 and leading the AL with 48.
Ronald Acuna RF
ATL Atlanta • #13 • Age: 22
There wasn't anyone who made a significant steals contribution for a small investment, really, so I'll go with the player who exceeded our wildest expectations for steals. It again took a move to the leadoff spot for Acuna to showcase that particular skill, but once he did, he ran wild.
Pete Alonso 1B
NYM N.Y. Mets • #20 • Age: 25
It took until spring training (when it became apparent he was ready and the Mets were holding open the door for him) for me to hype Alonso hot and heavy, and at that point, I tried to make the nickname "Pete the Bat" catch on. It didn't.
Our first dual award winner was perhaps the trendiest breakout pick among starting pitchers and yet still turned out to be a value pick at a position with so few of them.
MIL Milwaukee • #22 • Age: 28
"Yeah, Christian Yelich was a deserving MVP, but with his batted-ball profile, there's no way he's hitting 36 home runs again." I mean, some weren't even picking him in the first round.
Max Fried SP
ATL Atlanta • #54 • Age: 26
How can someone who so completely exceeded expectations be an underachiever? Turns out Fried considerably underperformed his 3.32 xFIP.
The Y is purportedly pronounced like a J, making him Jordan Alvarez, at least phonetically. We handled the reverse well enough -- the J as a Y, as in Johan Santana -- so why, from Astros broadcasters to manager A.J. Hinch to Adam Aizer and myself, do we continue to get this one wrong?
SF San Francisco • #5 • Age: 30
Bonus: He's the grandson of an all-timer, whose name I can now also spell despite his not-at-all-helpful nickname of Yaz.
Another dual award winner, Yordan Alvarez jumped to the top of prospect stash lists with a monstrous April in Triple-A and ended up being the eighth-best hitter in Head-to-Head points per game from the time he got the call.
OAK Oakland • #44 • Age: 23
He would have made the team out of spring training if not for a strained rotator cuff and would joined it in June if not for a strained lat. In the end, Luzardo didn't make a single big-league start but looked good in six relief appearances.
DJ LeMahieu 2B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #26 • Age: 32
The only question surrounding him this spring was how badly his numbers would suffer out of Colorado, so of course he was the best he's ever been, emerging as a viable MVP candidate.
Ian Desmond CF
COL Colorado • #20 • Age: 35
By the looks of September, the Rockies will need to find spots for both Garrett Hampson and Sam Hilliard in 2020, which means they're running out of excuses for running Ian Desmond's ill-advised contract out there time and time again. And Daniel Murphy has become an obstacle in his own right.
Tommy Edman 3B
STL St. Louis • #19 • Age: 25
He started filling in for an injured Matt Carpenter in July, but it was in September that Edman began to make something of himself, hitting .304 with what would translate to about 20 homers and 30 steals over a full season.
SEA Seattle • #17 • Age: 29
The guy ruptured a testicle, which is not soft tissue, so you can just imagine the force of the impact to an area where merely a graze will double you over in pain.
Chris Sale SP
BOS Boston • #41 • Age: 31
Just look at the peripherals. He would have trailed only Gerrit Cole in K/9 and only Cole and Max Scherzer in xFIP if he had the innings to qualify.
Nelson Cruz DH
MIN Minnesota • #23 • Age: 40
That he put up the numbers he did at age 39 is miraculous enough, but when you consider he tore a ligament in his wrist in mid-August and still went on to hit .351 (46 for 131) with nine homers the rest of the way, it's reasonable to start asking if he's more machine now than man.
CIN Cincinnati • #44 • Age: 26
You probably hadn't heard of Aristides Aquino before he hit 11 homers in his first two weeks on the job, and then you couldn't stop hearing about him. And then you didn't hear any more about him. He hit just .227 with eight homers over the final seven weeks, and ... really, who knows what comes next?
LAA L.A. Angels • #9 • Age: 31
All those early-season debates over whether a 30-year-old contact hitter could emerge as a viable home run source in today's environment came to an abrupt halt when La Stella fractured his tibia in late July, and seeing as he didn't return until the second-to-last day of the season, it's as hazy a memory as whatever you dreamed last night.
STL St. Louis • #13 • Age: 35
He's 33, again struggled with injuries, and just saw his strikeout rate increase, his walk rate decrease and all of his "expected" stats take a significant hit. By season's end, his relatively healthy version was sitting in favor of Tommy Edman. Yup, he gone.
COL Colorado • #1 • Age: 26
The preseason hype machine hit .343 (24 for 70) with five homers and seven steals over the final 2 1/2 weeks, which was about 6 1/2 weeks too late to do anybody any good. But it'll re-energize the hype machine heading into next year, whether or not he has a starting job to start out.