The much-anticipated announcement of the Esurance MLB Awards is set for 8 p.m. ET Friday, live on MLB Network and MLB.com, and that includes the biggest prize after all the industry-wide debate and balloting: Best Major Leaguer.
The 2017 Baseball Writers' Association of America MVP Award winners -- Jose Altuve of the Astros and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins -- and Aaron Judge of the Yankees are presumptive favorites among the 10 nominees. We're talking about one player who simply ruled over 2017 in Major League Baseball, with no regard for league, from Opening Day through the World Series. That trio left us breathless and we're holding our breath for the big reveal.
Altuve was a model of consistency in leading Houston to its first World Series title and winning his third career batting title with an MLB-best .346 average. The second baseman became the first player to lead the American League in hits (204) in four consecutive seasons. He hit 24 regular-season homers, drove in 81 runs and scored 112, stole 32 bases, led the AL in multihit games (59) and had a .957 OPS.
"I showed up to Spring Training early this year, and I looked around and I said, 'OK, something's going on now,'" Altuve told NBC's Jimmy Fallon after celebrating the title. "I've never been in a situation like this. This is my seventh year in the league, but this year was a little different. A lot of talent, but a couple veteran players and everything was so good. So, I was like, 'OK, this is the year,' and it was."
Judge smashed Mark McGwire's rookie record with 52 home runs, instantly becoming a face of the game and an "All Rise" sensation at Yankee Stadium. The 6-foot-7 outfielder ranked first in the AL in runs (128) and walks (127), led the Baby Bombers to an unexpected Game 7 finish in the AL Championship Series, and recovered from a six-week slump to crush 15 homers in September, his biggest month. Even scarier for opposing pitchers, the winner of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby just recently called himself a "work in progress."
"It was incredible," Judge said of the big finish to 2017. "That's what you play for. The opportunities like that, the crowd feels like they're right on top of you. The atmosphere is amazing, and it's win or go home. There's no better stage to play on."
One player hit more homers than Judge, and that was Stanton, the Marlins' superstar and key figure in this Hot Stove season. Think back to the final Thursday of the regular season, when he hit his 58th and 59th homers (his 10th multihomer game), making it 33 homers since the All-Star break at his home park in July. Stanton joined Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth as the only Major Leaguers to go deep at least 59 times in a season, and he also posted a .376 on-base percentage and .631 slugging percentage while putting Miami on his back in a late National League Wild Card bid.
"It's crazy to be in that company," Stanton said after No. 59. "It doesn't sink in yet. It doesn't make sense, really, yet. But it's really cool. It's everything I've worked for and it's something really cool."
Other nominees for Best Major Leaguer include Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies, Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs, Jose Ramirez of the Indians, Michael Trout of the Angels, Justin Turner of the Dodgers and Joey Votto of the Reds.
J.D. Martinez just missed making the list after his huge year for Arizona, and that speaks volumes for the magnitude of this powerful 10.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor MLB's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: Media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the AL and NL from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Voting began on Sept. 18 at mlb.com/awards, serving as the grand entrance of a program that has gradually added nominees right through BBWAA Awards week. Other categories include: Best Pitcher; Personality of the Year; Best Defensive Player; Best Play, Offense; Best Play, Defense; Best Performance; Best Fan Catch; Best Player-Fan Interaction; Best Rookie; Best Manager, Best Executive; Best Call: TV/Radio; Best Major Leaguer, Postseason and Best Postseason Moment.