Miguel Sano looks like the third candidate in a two-man race tonight.
Baseball’s awards season starts today, with the AL and NL rookies of the year announced on the MLB Network shortly after 5 p.m., and Sano will be prominently featured. He was revealed as one of the “finalists” for the award — a recent designation in order to give analysts on the awards show something to talk about, but which means he has finished in the top three of leaguewide voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
It’s a nice honor for Sano, who was also voted the Twins MVP by members of the Twin Cities chapter of the BBWAA, but it likely won’t come with the big trophy, which hasn’t been won by a Twin since Marty Cordova, 20 years ago this month. As good as Sano’s half-season was — despite making his debut on July 2 and playing just 80 games, he clubbed 18 home runs and drove home 52 runs — this race has long been regarded as a showdown between two future superstar shortstops.
Houston’s Carlos Correa has been the favorite for the award for much of the season, and his 22 homers, .279 average and solid play at short make him a good choice. But Francisco Lindor of the Indians may have overtaken Correa over the second half of the season, in part because of his .313 average and 12 home runs, but also because of his superior defense.
While Correa is considered a good fielder, Lindor likes like a great one, and it’s reflected in their overall Wins Above Replacement numbers: According to Baseball-reference.com, Lindor piled up a 4.6 WAR despite debuting in mid-June, while Correa rated a 4.1, with defense being the biggest factor. (Sano, hurt by contributing only as a designated hitter, had a 2.1 WAR.)
Still, Sano is certain to become the first Twin to finish in the top three of the award balloting since Danny Valencia finished third (behind Neftali Felix and Austin Jackson) in 2010. Only Danny Santana, seventh last season, has even appeared on a ballot since that season.
Since voters are given only three spots on the ballot, it’s possible that Eddie Rosario won’t receive a vote, despite a notable rookie season of his own. Rosario, who debuted May 6, led all major-leaguers in triples with 15, and threw out 16 runners on the bases, second in the majors behind White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia’s 17.
If Rosario were to appear on a ballot, he would become the 12th Twin to get a vote since Cordova’s honor in 1995, joining Sano, Valencia, Denard Span (tied for sixth in 2008), Nick Blackburn (tied for eighth in 2008), Francisco Liriano (third in 2006), Jesse Crain (eighth in 2005), Bobby Kielty (tied for fourth in 2002), Tony Fiore (tied for eighth in 2002), Dustin Mohr (tied for eighth in 2002), and Mark Redman (tied for sixth in 2000).
On Tuesday, the BBWAA will announce this year’s managers of the year — Paul Molitor is one of three AL finalists — followed by the Cy Young awards on Wednesday and the MVP awards on Thursday.