Can we start calling for MVP and Cy Young candidates four days into the MLB season?

Nelson Cruz faces the Yankees in 2019. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

Baseball is back and players across the major leagues have been tearing it up after a long-awaited July 23 start. Leading up to the beginning of the season, a lot of the baseball world was unsure of where the sport was headed, many were questioning if a season was even going to happen. However, one thing was evident during MLB’s Opening Weekend 2020 — players came out to play, and play they did.

Take into consideration that the 2020 MLB season is about a third of the length of a normal 162-game season. Since the current season is only 60 games, can we start calling for MVP and Cy Young candidates just four game days into the season?

The answer? Maybe.

For non-pitching players the MVP arguments might be a little more valid considering some position players in the league have played four games, providing more evidence for such an argument.

MLB MVP Early Candidates

Nelson Cruz, designated hitter for the American League Central’s Minnesota Twins, has a monster 2020 stat-line. In his three game appearances during MLB’s Opening Weekend, the 40-year-old recorded a batting average of .538, hit three homers, two doubles, scored seven runs and knocked in an astounding 10 RBIs. With three bombs, in three games, Cruz is still on track to hit 60 homers in 60 games for the 2-1 Twins.

Nelson Cruz’s Opening Weekend Stats After Three Games (MLB.com)

Will he win the AL MVP? Probably not, at least not in the words of Boston’s J.D. Martinez.

According to NBC Sports Boston, Martinez told reporters at JetBlue Park in 2019 on the possibility of him winning the AL MVP as a DH probably wasn’t going to happen because “there’s no way the analytic guys are going to ever let that happen.”

“For a DH to win MVP they’re going to have to walk on water,” he added.

Will Cruz walk on water? We’ll have to wait and see. Most of his stats did come from his extremely productive July 26 game, where he added two homers and seven RBIs to his totals.

The other side of the major leagues looks somewhat mixed.

The early National League MVP race is looking fairly close, with players like Miguel Rojas of the Miami Marlins, Marcell Ozuna of the Atlanta Braves and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies starting out their seasons strong.

Top 5 OPS Players After The National League’s Opening Weekend (MLB.com)
MLB Early Cy Young Candidates

Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs and Trevor Bauer of the Cincinnati Reds both had MVP caliber outings over the weekend.

Hendricks pitched a complete game shutout, giving up no walks while allowing only three hits. He also struck out nine Milwaukee Brewers in his spectacular start, including two strikeouts against the 2018 National League MVP, Christian Yelich.

Although Bauer did not go the distance like Hendricks, his 6.1 inning start proved highly successful. The Reds pitcher allowed only two hits, including a one-run homer. Bauer had great command of the zone, giving up only one walk and striking out a bakers’ dozen worth of Detroit Tigers. Even though Bauer could not come away with a decision, he still looks like he could have a great year in the NL.

An equally impressive start came from the Cleveland Indians’ Shane Bieber. The right-handed starter tossed six innings and fanned 14 Kansas City Royals, giving up four runs and walking one, making him an early candidate for AL Cy Young. Bieber did give up four runs, but if he can manage to keep adding strike outs at the same pace, he might be on to something.

What A Relief That Would Be!

Professional baseball has not had a relief pitcher take home the Cy Young since Éric Gagné did it with the Los Angeles Dodgers way back in 2003, but the early case can be made for Matt Andriese of the Los Angeles Angels.

Andriese came in early to relieve Shohei Ohtani, who had arguably one of the worst starts of the 2020 MLB season so far (to be fair he has not pitched since Sept. 2, 2018). Ohtani failed to record an out, however he succeeded in having five earned runs, on three hits and three walks. But this is not about Ohtani and his struggles, it is about Andriese and his strong relief appearance against a confident looking team in the Oakland Athletics.

Down five runs, Andriese held the A’s to just those runs during his 5.2 inning relief appearance. The Angel struck out five and gave up just three hits. Although his performance on the mound was not enough for an Angels win, he is one of the top pitchers in the league so far.

The former Arizona Diamondback, traded earlier this year, is expected to fight for a starting spot in the rotation for the Angels, but he was used exclusively in relief while with Arizona. If Andriese does make the rotation and Angels manager Joe Maddon does not use him from the bullpen, then the Gagné argument is done, but one can dream.

Takeaway

The 2020 MLB season still has a lot of games left, so it might be too early for a true MVP or Cy Young call, but it does not hurt to speculate a bit. Of course we could have a pitcher outshine and outclass the rest of the league and take the MVP and Cy Young awards like Justin Verlander did with the Tigers in 2011.

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