Taking stock of the Astros' front runners for 2024 awards

November 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

HOUSTON -- For the first time in recent memory, the Astros didn’t have a player who was among the finalists for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards, which consist of: Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. The awards are voted upon at the end of the regular season.

Dusty Baker, who retired at the end of the season and was replaced by bench coach Joe Espada, finished fifth in the American League Manager of the Year voting after leading the Astros to 90 wins and the AL West championship. Catcher Yainer Diaz finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting -- the ninth time in the past 10 years the Astros have had a player finish in the top five. That’s a nod to Houston’s player development system.

Diaz finished fifth despite playing in only 104 games and getting 377 plate appearances. Among AL rookies with at least 350 plate appearances, he ranked first in slugging (.538), second in batting average (.282) and OPS (.846), tied for third in homers (23), sixth in extra-base hits (45) and tied for fifth in RBIs (60).

Astros lefty Framber Valdez finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting after going 12-11 with a 3.45 ERA in 31 starts. Valdez was one of the front-runners for the award at the All-Star break. He posted a 2.51 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his first 17 starts and was elected to the All-Star team, though Baker urged him not to pitch. Valdez tailed off in the second half with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in his final 14 starts, which included a no-hitter against Cleveland.

Here's a quick look at who could contend for BBWAA awards for the Astros in 2024:

Manager of the Year: Espada will take over a loaded club in his first year as a manager, so it’s hard to imagine he’d get much Manager of the Year consideration unless the Astros run away with an AL West division that now includes the two most recent World Series winners.

Rookie of the Year: The Astros have such a stacked roster that it’s hard to envision many young players making an impact, though that’s been the case for most of the last decade as they continue to produce ROY candidates. Perhaps outfielder Kenedy Corona (team’s No. 11 prospect by MLB Pipeline), who was added to the 40-man roster last week, will find a way to make an impact. Or maybe right-hander Spencer Arrighetti (No. 3 prospect) pitches enough meaningful innings to warrant consideration.

Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander will be 41 years old next year and is only two seasons removed from winning his third AL Cy Young. He was 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA between the Mets and Astros this past season, so you can’t count him out to win another Cy Young in his 40s. This is Verlander, after all. Valdez, of course, could right the ship and put himself in consideration again. The same could be said for Cristian Javier, who was a dark horse Cy Young candidate at the start of last season and went 10-5 with a 4.56 ERA after struggling for much of the second half.

Most Valuable Player: It may be only a matter of time before outfielder/designated hitter Yordan Alvarez wins an AL MVP, and perhaps Kyle Tucker, too. Alvarez hit .293 with 31 homers and 97 RBIs in only 114 games this past season, having missed six weeks with a right oblique injury. He finished 13th in AL MVP voting this year and would certainly have been higher with a full season of work. Tucker, who slashed .284/.369/.517 with 29 homers, 30 steals and an AL-leading 112 RBIs, finished fifth. The only Astros players to win an MVP are Jeff Bagwell in the NL in 1994 and Jose Altuve in the AL in 2017.