Two Washington Nationals players are in contention for baseball’s highest honors, Major League Baseball announced, along with all of its end-of-season award candidates Monday evening. Max Scherzer was named a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award, while Juan Soto is one of three players who could be named NL rookie of the year.
The awards are selected by baseball writers across the country, and the finalists for each honor received the first-, second- and third-most votes. The rookie of the year for each league will be announced Nov. 12, and the Cy Young winners will be revealed Nov. 14.
Scherzer has won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards, adding to the American League Cy Young he won while pitching for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. But it is unlikely that he adds a fourth to his trophy case, with New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom having established himself as a near-lock for the award.
DeGrom, who also generated NL MVP buzz but was not named a finalist for that honor Monday, finished with a microscopic 1.70 ERA but had a 10-9 record because of a severe lack of run support. He edged Scherzer in most advanced statistics, too, though Scherzer has a considerable edge in wins (he finished with an 18-7 record) and strikeouts (a league-leading 300 to deGrom’s 269). Scherzer ended the season with a 2.53 ERA and led the NL with 220.2 innings pitched. Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola, the third NL Cy Young finalist, had a 17-6 record, 2.37 ERA and 224 strikeouts in 33 starts.
Soto, who turned 20 in late October, was named a rookie of the year finalist alongside Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler. It has been expected that Soto and Acuna would joust for the award after standout seasons, and Buehler slid into the race with dominant pitching down the stretch. Soto and Acuna had similar statistics at the plate, though Soto proved to be a more disciplined hitter.
Acuna made his major league debut a month before Soto did in mid-May, but Soto ended up with slightly more games played (116 to 111) and plate appearances (494 to 487). Acuna, however, holds a slim edge in home runs (26 to 22), runs scored (78 to 77), hits (127 to 121) and batting average (.293 to .292).
Soto finished with more RBI (70 to 64), a better on-base plus slugging percentage (.932 to .917), walked significantly more times (79 to 45) and struck out in fewer at-bats (99 to Acuna’s 123). That led Soto’s on-base percentage of .406 to stick out against Acuna’s .366. But the 21-year-old Acuna showed more promise as a left fielder, and defense should factor into voting.
Buehler burst into the conversation as the Dodgers' 24-year-old sensation. He finished the season with an 8-5 record, 2.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 137.1 innings pitched, using an electric high-90s fastball to tear through opposing lineups. It is hard to measure his statistics against those belonging to Soto and Acuna, but it seems that Buehler is on the outside of the rookie of the year race.