The pageantry of the Midsummer Classic at a stunning Marlins Park, the clutch swing of Robinson Cano that gave the American League victory in the 88th All-Star Game, and the astonishing talent of Aaron Judge on display in the Home Run Derby are in the books.The second half of a
The pageantry of the Midsummer Classic at a stunning Marlins Park, the clutch swing of Robinson Cano that gave the American League victory in the 88th All-Star Game, and the astonishing talent of Aaron Judge on display in the Home Run Derby are in the books.
The second half of a scintillating 2017 season in baseball awaits, and with it comes more Major League mystery. While some conclusions seem to be approaching foregone status, unanswered questions abound in the long season. A 162-game grind always offers surprises, many that come in September or later.
Here is an attempt to answer those questions. Our group of more than 50 experts from MLB.com and MLB Network shared their prognostications for division winners, Wild Cards for each league, pennant winners, World Series outcome and traditional Baseball Writers' Association of America award recipients.
Here are the results:
AL EAST: Red Sox
They've built a comfortable cushion in the division with a potent combination of a solid staff anchored by ace Chris Sale and a deep lineup anchored by AL MVP Award candidate Mookie Betts. The Yankees and Rays also received votes.
AL CENTRAL: Indians
They came as close as a team can come to winning it all last year, and they're clinging to first place despite key first-half injuries. Experts seem to expect the Tribe to go on a midsummer tear soon, although the Twins and Royals got votes, too.
AL WEST: Astros
They've gone from potential and promise to pure devastation for opponents. The Astros have the best record in the AL and an enormous division lead, which makes them a unanimous choice in this category.
AL WILD CARDS: Yankees and Royals
Our survey likes the chances of the young, powerful Yanks to stick around in the AL East and grab an October berth, and Kansas City's recent run of inspired play earned Ned Yost's gang our second AL slot in a tight vote over the third-place Rays. Other clubs getting love in this category: the Twins, Rangers, Red Sox, Mariners, Blue Jays, Angels and Indians.
AL CHAMPION: Astros
The momentum from Houston's torrid first half should power the Astros right through most of the postseason all the way to the World Series, according to our panel. The Indians finished second in this voting, edging out the Red Sox, and the Yankees also got some attention.
NL EAST: Nationals
Washington's division lead is almost double digits and the rest of the teams in the East are under .500 at the moment, so that added up to the Nats being a unanimous choice here.
NL CENTRAL: Cubs
The defending World Series champions haven't hit their stride yet, but our experts are expecting it any day now. The Cubs, who added starter Jose Quintana in a trade Thursday, got most of the votes, with the division-leading Brewers in second.
NL WEST: Dodgers
The Dodgers' recent tear made them an overwhelming choice in this category, but a small group of voters still held out hope for the D-backs and Rockies, who tied for second in votes.
NL WILD CARDS: D-backs and Brewers
Neither team seemed to be on any expert's radar in this spot before the season began, but Arizona and Milwaukee have turned things around and landed in the top two slots here. The Rockies also garnered plenty of attention, as did the Cubs, Dodgers and Cardinals.
NL CHAMPION: Dodgers
The Dodgers begin the second half with the best record in all of MLB, which makes them our big favorite for the National League pennant. The Cubs' magic of 2016 is still lingering for several voters who picked them to rally into October once again.
WORLD SERIES CHAMPION: Dodgers
It hasn't happened since 1988 and the Kirk Gibson home run, but our panel foresees a Blue October, with the Dodgers winning it all for the first time in 29 years. The Astros came close in this voting before a steep drop-off to votes for the Indians, Nationals and Red Sox.
AL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD: Aaron Judge, Yankees
Our group of analysts sees Judge's mind-blowing all-around season continuing and the hulking outfielder sweeping this honor and the AL Rookie of the Year Award for the first time since Ichiro Suzuki pulled it off in 2001. Others receiving acknowledgment for this award were Astros Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer plus last year's winner, Angels outfielder Michael Trout.
AL CY YOUNG AWARD: Chris Sale, Red Sox
The wins (11) are there, the ERA (2.75) is there, and, wow … the strikeouts (178 in 127 2/3 innings!) are there. Sale simply rolled in this category, and was followed by two former AL Cy Young Award winners: Indians righty Corey Kluber and Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Judge
See AL MVP Award description above. This one, however, was unanimous.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD: A.J. Hinch, Astros
Hinch's mastery of his youthful roster is showing up in the standings and with our voters, who gave him this nod in overwhelming fashion over Rays skipper Kevin Cash, Paul Molitor of the Twins, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Red Sox skipper John Farrell.
NL MVP AWARD: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs
He's been knocking at this door for years and our voters think he'll bust it down, although Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who won this honor unanimously in 2015, got his share of votes to place second here, and Reds first baseman Joey Votto wasn't far back in third. Others getting attention here include Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer and Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.
NL CY YOUNG AWARD: Scherzer
Scherzer won this last year and our voters like his chances to win it again. This is a tall order, of course, because Clayton Kershaw is competing in this category, but as of right now, our panel has Scherzer eking this one out in a tight vote over the Dodgers' ace.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
Bellinger was expected to be in the Minor Leagues for a good portion of 2017, but life and 25 first-half home runs come at you fast. Bellinger, the first-year sensation of the NL, almost swept this category, with Rockies starter Kyle Freeland the only other player garnering any votes.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD: Craig Counsell, Brewers
Counsell's club is playing hard, and a recent surge has Milwaukee comfortably atop the standings in the NL Central, and those good vibes are making people Brewers believers. Our voters are among them, with Counsell ahead of D-backs skipper Torey Lovullo, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Bud Black of the Rockies and Dusty Baker of the Nationals for this honor.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.