Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz looks for his pitch...

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz looks for his pitch against the Yankees during the first inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

PHILADELPHIA — On the eve of the regular season, as we wait for the playoffs to begin, what better time to hand out our own 2016 awards? Due to the fact that I’ll be voting for the National League’s Manager of the Year in the official BBWAA balloting this season, we’ll have to skip that category.


1. David Ortiz

2. Manny Machado

3. Mike Trout

4. Mookie Betts

5. Jose Altuve

6. Josh Donaldson

7. Adrian Beltre

8. Francisco Lindor

9. Rick Porcello

10. Robinson Cano

We know what you’re thinking. Big Papi? It’s a legitimate question. But in going over this list, we really considered the meaning of “most valuable” and how it might pertain to the AL East champs. You might also notice two other Red Sox players on this ballot, and by definition, shouldn’t that take away from the Ortiz candidacy? Often times, yes. But Ortiz, at age 40, not only put up ridiculous numbers — 37 homers, AL-leading 124 RBIs, a slash line of .316/.401/.622 — he remains the Sox leader, and there is value in that, even if it doesn’t show up in a player’s WAR. Below Ortiz, take your pick. Machado continues to prop up the pitching-deficient Orioles, Trout again was spectacular on a 72-win Angels team, Betts is going to win this award as soon as Ortiz retires. Just feels like Big Papi’s year. Everyone else is just playing in it.


1. Kris Bryant

2. Daniel Murphy

3. Nolan Arenado

4. Corey Seager

5. Anthony Rizzo

6. Yoenis Cespedes

7. Max Scherzer

8. Joey Votto

9. Freddie Freeman

10. Jose Fernandez

We had Kris Bryant in the fifth spot a year ago, and he didn’t take very long to climb to No. 1, with 39 homers, 120 runs and 101 RBIs to go with a slash line of .293/.387/.560. Obviously, the Cubs were loaded, and Anthony Rizzo keeps showing up as a perennial MVP candidate, too. But Bryant appears to be the biggest wrecking ball on the North Side, giving him the nod over Daniel Murphy, the bat responsible for propping up the Nats during a subpar season for the defending NL MVP, Bryce Harper. Murphy should probably get extra credit. As much as he helped the Nats all season, Murphy particularly tortured the Mets, their biggest rival, finishing with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 19 games against the club that dismissed him last winter. He also batted .413 (31-for-75) against the Mets with a 1.218 OPS. That’s pretty darn valuable, too.


1. Rick Porcello

2. Corey Kluber

3. Chris Sale

4. J.A. Happ

5. Justin Verlander

No offense to Porcello, but it’s hard to believe his name is atop this list, especially coming off a brutal debut season with the Red Sox (9-15, 4.92 ERA) a year ago. Against that backdrop, this is quite the rebound for Porcello, who went 22-4 with a 3.14 ERA and the AL’s best WHIP at 0.990. Porcello also made 32 starts and logged 217 innings, so he took the ball every time, something that’s become even more important these days. He’s also 13-1 with a 2.88 ERA at Fenway, no easy accomplishment in that bandbox. Granted, it was a special year for Porcello spearheading the Sox’s rotation, but the AL has a solid pack, with Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA) doing it for the AL Central champ Indians and Justin Verlander (3.10 ERA, 10.03 K/9, 220 2/3 IP) back among the elite again.


1. Max Scherzer

2. Kyle Hendricks

3. Jose Fernandez

4. Jon Lester

5. Madison Bumgarner

In a close race, we give it to Max Scherzer, based on a few categories, and no, we’re not necessarily talking about wins. Once again, Scherzer combines being a workhorse (223 1/3 IP) with his usual Secretariat-quality skills, which include the majors’ best WHIP (0.94) and lowest opponents’ batting average (.191) among qualifiers. Now tack on that Scherzer went 19-7 with a 2.82 ERA and 11.16 K/9 ratio and he’s tough to beat on this ballot. Kyle Kendricks makes it tight with a 1.99 ERA, and a tick higher WHIP (0.97) and OBA (.202). As for Jose Fernandez, his tragic death, and the legacy he leaves as a cultural icon, vastly overshadowed his accomplishments on the mound this season: 16-8, 2.86 ERA and baseball’s most dominant strikeout machine, with a 12.49 K/9 pace.


1. Gary Sanchez

2. Michael Fulmer

3. Tyler Naquin

Tough call here. Gary Sanchez’s explosive arrival on the Bronx stage compared to Michael Fulmer’s brilliant opening statement, before settling into a rotation-stabilizer for the Tigers. Before Sanchez was called up by the Yankees on Aug. 3, this was Fulmer’s award, no question. On July 17, Fulmer was 9-2 with a 2.13 ERA over his first 14 starts, and the former Met — dealt for Yoenis Cespedes — held opposing hitters to a .206 average. But Sanchez immediately grabbed the spotlight by becoming the fastest ever to hit 19 home runs, in only 45 games. Through Friday, Sanchez was sitting on 20 dingers, a season’s worth for most players, in 52 games, with 42 RBIs and a 1.035 OPS. Factor in that Sanchez is a catcher, the sport’s most demanding position, and he gets the edge, even for his relatively brief stint in 2016.


1. Corey Seager

2. Trea Turner

3. Seung Hwan Oh

The Dodgers’ Cory Seager has had this award on lockdown for most of the season, despite an early threat from the Rockies’ own slugging shortstop, Trevor Story, who was lost for the season after 97 games — and 27 homers — because of a torn thumb ligament. Seager had a slash of .311/.369/.518 through Friday, with 26 homers and 105 runs, anchoring the lineup for the NL West champs. Turner, like the AL’s Gary Sanchez, was a later call-up, playing just 71 games but hitting .339 with a .920 OPS — and 31 stolen bases. Next season, look for Turner near the top of the MVP ballot. Seung Hwan Oh bailed out the Cardinals after Trevor Rosenthal’s shoulder troubles, with 18 saves, a 1.94 ERA and an 11.67 K/9 rate.


1. Terry Francona

2. Jeff Banister

3. Joe Girardi

Terry Francona should win his second award with Indians in the span of four seasons for managing his way around key injuries to Michael Brantley — -arguably Cleveland’s best player — and two top pitchers, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Brantley played only 11 games after being lost to shoulder surgery, and despite other significant health issues, Francona got the Indians — with a payroll in MLB’s bottom third — over 90 wins to finish comfortably ahead of the Tigers. The Rangers’ Jeff Banister also deserves serious consideration to repeat in guiding the Rangers to the AL’s best record, even after Prince Fielder’s midseason retirement and somewhat lesser contributions from Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Banister’s hurdle? No AL manager has ever won back-to-back honors. Joe Girardi helped keep the Yankees in contention until the final two weeks after they traded away the team’s best players at the deadline. Managing the whole A-Rod distraction also wasn’t easy.

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