The Connie Mack Top Manager Award:
1. Kirk Gibson
2. Joe Maddon
3. Jim Leyland
It may be the trendy choice, but leading a team that nearly lost 100 games the year before to the playoffs is a pretty phenomenal feat. There were some cornerstones in place, but the Diamondbacks were largely a team consisting of an under performing Justin Upton, a couple of pitchers with potential, and a bunch of role players coming into the year. But Gibson got a career best season from Upton, a fantastic performance from his pitching staff, and a lot of key contributions from both veterans (Miguel Montero) and rookies (Paul Goldschmidt) alike. Maddon deserves a ton of credit for losing his 7 highest paid players in the offseason and still finding his way into the playoffs, but his offense still sported more talented names than Gibson's. Leyland had his fair share of diversity as well (another Miguel Cabrera DUI), but again, his team's performance isn't as much of a surprise.
The Willie Mays Top Rookie Award:1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Eric Hosmer
3. Freddie Freeman
Easy choice here as Kimbrel was nearly unhittable for 5 1/2 months this season. I pegged him high in my fantasy drafts because I thought the Braves would win a lot of games, but with that stuff, he's a top notch closer regardless of what team he plays for. 2nd and 3rd place is a bit of a toss-up. Both of these guys are the next wave of power hitting 1st baseman, and both found themselves in a situation more pressure filled than any 21-22 yr old should have to deal with in the majors. In the end, their counting stats were very similar, but I give Hosmer the nod because I think his SB totals will increase and he's the closest thing to a 5 tool player at 1st base we've seen in the majors in a long time.
The Goose Gossage Top Reliever Award:1. Craig Kimbrel
2. John Axford
3. Mariano Rivera
Saves are a statistic that I will never fully understand the importance of, so instead of going with the guy who was 49 for 49 in Jose Valverde, I find myself asking the question "who do you want to close for your team?" That guy is Craig Kimbrel. He blew 5 saves and the end to his season was a bit shaky, but he was arguably overused and out of gas as the season wound down. But if every closer in baseball was available and fully rested for Game 7 of the World Series and my team was nursing a 1 run lead, I want the guy with the best stuff and right now, Kimbrel would be my man. Axford had a rough start, but was dominant the rest of the way, but would still play 2nd fiddle on my team. Mariano Rivera gets my third vote because his name alone strikes enough fear in his opponents eyes that he can get the job done, even if his stuff isn't as good as it used to be.
The Walter Johnson Top Pitcher Award:1. Justin Verlander
2. Clayton Kershaw
3. Roy Halladay
4. Cliff Lee
5. Jered Weaver
I don't see any other way to list this one. When was the last time the Pitching Triple Crown was won in both leagues? 1924. Justin Verlander takes the cake as the best pitcher in baseball this year and everyone else is a distant second. At one point, the Tigers were headed to the playoffs as a .500 team in games in which Verlander didn't pitch. And as much as I want to be a homer, Clayton Kershaw had the better season than Roy Halladay. You can try to justify Halladay having the better season by using walk rates and obscure SABR stats, but I'm just not seeing it. 4th and 5th are tight, but distant from the rest of the pack. I give the nod to Cliff Lee for his month long stretches of domination and his turnaround from a rough start to the season.
The Stan Musial Top Player Award:1. Matt Kemp
2. Ryan Braun
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Curtis Granderson
5. Jose Bautista
6. Justin Upton
7. Adrian Gonzalez
8. Justin Verlander
9. Prince Fielder
10. Roy Halladay
I love quality pitching, but I just don't give the same merit to pitchers that I do to position players. While Verlander may win the MVP award, I need to see a full range of skills from the guy I'm voting as the top player. If Verlander his a few HRs and won a Gold Glove, it's all his! Matt Kemp is the most complete player in the game right now and probably the only guy in baseball capable of chasing down the elusive Batting Triple Crown. And he does it with Gold Glove caliber defense and the ability to steal 30 bags a year. And he does it on a dreadful team. The rest of the guys at the top of this list compile their numbers with a great supporting cast, Kemp does it on his own. While the rest of the guys on the list can do 3 or 4 of the things Matt Kemp can, he's the best 5 tool player in the game and probably the best of my generation not named Barry Bonds.