MLB players selected Twins slugger Nelson Cruz as the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award winner as part of the 2020 Players Choice Awards presented by Topps. Braves star Freddie Freeman was selected as Player of the Year, and Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson won the inaugural Curt Flood Award, given to a former player who demonstrates devotion to the Players Association and the advancement of players’ rights.
The Players Choice Awards are decided entirely by the men who take the field, and this year’s balloting was conducted in mid-September. Below is a rundown of each of this year’s major award winners.
Marvin Miller Award: Nelson Cruz, Twins
Cruz is a first-time winner of this award, given to the player thought to be the “most respected based on his leadership on the field and in the community.” The Twins’ 40-year-old star continues to set an example for fellow players through his Boomstick23 Foundation, established in 2016 to benefit his native Dominican Republic. In recent years, Cruz has donated a fire engine and ambulance and helped build a police station in his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz, while also giving time and money to expand access to healthcare. Cruz also received the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at this year’s ESPY Awards.
Finalists: Jason Heyward, Cubs; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Curt Flood Award: Andre Dawson
The Curt Flood Award was established this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Flood’s historic judicial fight against baseball’s reserve system that eventually paved the way for free agency. Dawson is the first winner of the award, thanks in large part to his 1987 decision to offer the Cubs a blank contract and ask that Chicago fill in a salary for that season, which came at the height of collusion between Major League clubs. Playing on an undervalued deal, Dawson went on to win the NL MVP Award and strengthened the players’ position with his play -- eventually leading to a settlement between players and ownership.
Finalists: Don Baylor, Mark Belanger, Jim Bunning
Player of the Year and NL Outstanding Player: Freddie Freeman, Braves
The Braves had a plethora of offensive stars in 2020, but Freeman remained the constant leader for the NL East division champions. Freeman’s 3.4 WAR, per FanGraphs, tied Indians slugger José Ramírez for baseball’s highest total, and his career-best marks in batting average (.341), OBP (.462) and slugging percentage (.640) were all second best in the NL behind Nationals wunderkind Juan Soto. Freeman also led the Majors in runs scored (51) and doubles (23), and he hit an incredible .423 with runners in scoring position for baseball’s second-best scoring offense in Atlanta.
Player of the Year finalists: José Abreu, White Sox; Shane Bieber, Indians
NL Outstanding Player finalists: Mookie Betts, Dodgers; Soto, Nationals
NL Outstanding Pitcher: Trevor Bauer, Reds
Bauer had by far the best season of his career, winning the NL ERA title at 1.73 and striking out an even 100 batters in his 11 starts, second in the NL behind Jacob deGrom and third in the Majors behind deGrom and Shane Bieber. The 29-year-old right-hander formed maybe the most formidable starting pitching trio in the Majors with Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Bauer helped pitch the Reds into the postseason with an eight-inning, one-run, 12-strikeout gem on three days’ rest in his last start of the regular season, then threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts in an epic playoff pitchers’ duel with the Braves’ Max Fried.
Finalists: Jacob deGrom, Mets; Yu Darvish, Cubs
NL Outstanding Rookie: Jake Cronenworth, Padres
Cronenworth burst onto the scene, hitting .357 (10-for-28) with seven extra-base hits (three doubles, two triples, two homers) and a 1.201 OPS in his first 10 big league games. He kept it going through August, entering September with a sensational .356/.411/.624 line to go with 16 extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in 31 games. Though Cronenworth cooled off a bit down the stretch, the 26-year-old infielder still finished his first Major League season with an impressive .285/.354/.477 line to go with 15 doubles, three triples, four homers and 20 RBIs.
Finalists: Alec Bohm, Phillies; Devin Williams, Brewers
NL Comeback Player: Daniel Bard, Rockies
Just making his return to a Major League mound for the first time since 2013 would have been impressive enough, but what Bard accomplished in ‘20 was nothing short of remarkable. After the yips forced him out of the big leagues in ‘13, Bard spent the next four seasons battling injuries and mechanical issues in the lower levels of Minor League Baseball before ultimately retiring at the age of 32 following the ‘17 season. He spent the next two years as a player mentor for the D-backs, and he was once again prepared to report to Spring Training in a coaching role this year before electing to embark on an improbable comeback journey. The result? Bard made the Rockies' Opening Day roster en route to posting a 3.65 ERA and striking out 27 over 24 2/3 innings in 23 outings for Colorado.
Finalists: Adam Duvall, Braves; Wil Myers, Padres
AL Outstanding Player: José Abreu, White Sox
Abreu did it all for the dynamic White Sox offense, finishing as the only AL player to rank within the league’s top five in average, hits, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, OPS, extra-base hits and total bases. Abreu’s 60 RBIs led the Majors one year after he topped the AL with 123 RBIs, making him the first AL player to pace his league in RBIs in back-to-back seasons since David Ortiz in 2005-06. Abreu logged the sport’s longest hitting streak of the year at 22 games (Aug. 16 through Sept. 9), and he became just the fourth player in AL history to lead the Junior Circuit in both hits and RBIs in a single season, following Hall of Famers Jim Rice (1978), Carl Yastrzemski ('67) and Lou Gehrig ('31).
Finalists: DJ LeMahieu, Yankees; Mike Trout, Angels
AL Outstanding Pitcher: Shane Bieber, Indians
Bieber left no doubt about this one, earning the Major League Triple Crown after leading all pitchers in wins, ERA and strikeouts. Cleveland's 25-year-old right-hander went 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts in just 77 1/3 innings. Bieber's 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings were the most by any qualified starter in MLB history, breaking Gerrit Cole's record of 13.8 from 2019.
Finalists: Gerrit Cole, Yankees; Lance Lynn, Rangers
AL Outstanding Rookie: Kyle Lewis, Mariners
Lewis and White Sox phenom Luis Robert were dueling rookie sensations in center field this season. Lewis led all rookies with 37 runs scored and 34 walks, and he also crushed 11 home runs and collected 28 RBIs for the Mariners while batting .262 with an .801 OPS. Lewis also made some amazing highlight-reel catches in center field, including a 2020 play of the year candidate -- his Griffey-esque grand slam robbery of Ramón Laureano high above the center-field wall in Seattle on Sept. 14.
Finalists: James Karinchak, Indians; Luis Robert, White Sox
AL Comeback Player: Carlos Carrasco, Indians
Carrasco made his triumphant return to the mound in 2020 following his courageous fight against leukemia. The sudden diagnosis last summer sidelined Carrasco for nearly three months as he battled chronic myeloid leukemia. He returned to the mound as a reliever last September, but re-established himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter this season by posting a 2.91 ERA and striking out 82 batters in just 68 innings over 12 starts.
Finalists: Salvador Perez, Royals; José Ramírez, Indians
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.