TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson's second-half surge was enough to overtake Justin Smoak in a tight vote for the Blue Jays' Player of the Year Award as announced by the Toronto Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday afternoon.Marcus Stroman was the unanimous selection for Pitcher of the Year and reliever
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson's second-half surge was enough to overtake Justin Smoak in a tight vote for the Blue Jays' Player of the Year Award as announced by the Toronto Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday afternoon.
Marcus Stroman was the unanimous selection for Pitcher of the Year and reliever Danny Barnes was recognized as the top rookie in the annual awards. Smoak won Most Improved Player while former public-relations staffer Mal Romanin was named the John Cerutti Award recipient.
Donaldson received nine first-place votes and eight second-place votes for Player of the Year while Smoak received the exact opposite. That meant the award came down to one ballot, and in the end it was Donaldson who finished on top for the third consecutive year.
Smoak was the front-runner for Player of the Year until his performance dipped over the final two months of the season. The 31-year-old hit .213 with eight home runs over his final 53 games, and his struggles came at a time when Donaldson was experiencing a resurgence at the plate. By comparison, Donaldson hit .302 with 22 homers in August and September.
Donaldson appeared in 45 fewer games than Smoak but he held the edge in WAR (4.8 vs. 3.2), OPS (.944 vs. .883) and walks (76 vs. 73). Smoak had more home runs (38 vs. 33), RBIs (90 vs. 78) and total bases (296 vs. 232). This marked the first time in Smoak's three-year career with the Blue Jays that he finished in the top three in voting for the top award.
Stroman was the clear-cut choice for the top pitching honor after going 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA, which ranked fourth in the American League. Stroman surpassed 200 innings for the second consecutive year and established himself as the bona fide ace of a rotation that was decimated by injuries. He received all first-place votes, while Roberto Osuna and J.A. Happ rounded out the top three.
Barnes received 15 of 17 first-place votes to take the Rookie of the Year Award. The 28-year-old Barnes did not break camp with Toronto but joined the Blue Jays in mid-April and quickly became a favorite of manager John Gibbons. Barnes settled into a high-leverage role as one of the primary setup men for Osuna and finished the year with a 3.55 ERA and 62 strikeouts over 66 innings. Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez received the other two first-place votes after hitting eight home runs in September.
Romanin earned the John Cerutti Award, which is given annually to an individual who best exemplifies a positive image for baseball. It was named after the late Blue Jays lefty who passed away at the age of 44 in 2004. Romanin was Toronto's longtime manager of baseball information prior to being let go by the organization at the end of the year, along with several other members of the communications department.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.