The All-Star break is the traditional halfway point of the baseball season, and even though this particular season is now closer to 60% gone, now is as good of a time as any to take a step back and consider who the Reds’ first-half MVP should be. And despite the injuries and the frustration this team has gone through, there are actually several viable candidates for this made-up award.
Todd Frazier – The third baseman, first time All-Star and National League Home Run Derby champion has been the Reds’ most consistent bat this season. He leads the team in multiple offensive counting stats, including hits, runs scored, home runs and RBI. This is at least somewhat due to the fact that Frazier also leads the team in games played and plate appearances. But that in itself has significant value, particularly with the crowded disabled list. His defense at third base continues to improve and he appears to be emerging as a clubhouse leader. He’s been a rock of consistency in a chaotic season.
Johnny Cueto – After an injury marred 2013, Cueto has returned to his vintage 2012 self. Since Clayton Kershaw decided to stop giving up runs for a while, Cueto is no longer the consensus pick for the National League Cy Young Award, but he’s certainly still in the conversation. He leads the team in innings pitched, and leads the starters in ERA. His stats aren’t always eye-popping, but he’s thrilling to watch when he’s on, and he’s been much more on than off so far this year.
Devin Mesoraco – The Reds’ surprise All-Star pick has been having a breakout year despite two separate trips to the disabled list. In late April, between his DL stints, he hit better, by his own admission, than he had ever hit at any level in his entire life. Even though he has cooled from that torrid pace, he still leads the team in most of the offensive categories that Frazier does not, including batting average, slugging, and OPS, and is second only to the injured Joey Votto in OBP (the caveat here being that he’s appeared in about two thirds as many games as Frazier).
Alfredo Simon – After being pulled from the bullpen and placed in the starting rotation during spring training to replace the then-injured Mat Latos, Simon has surpassed all reasonable expectations and even some unreasonable ones. He leads the National League with 12 wins (in 18 starts) and is second to Cueto among starters in ERA. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his career.
Billy Hamilton – What is there to say about Hamilton that hasn’t already been said? While he has been caught stealing more often than many of us would have predicted, he still leads the team in stolen bases (with over twice as many as second place Frazier) and he has used his speed to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples, leading the team in both those categories as well. He’s hit with surprising power with five home runs already, all of which were of the outside-the-park variety. And he’s done all this while providing excellent center field defense despite being a relative newcomer to that position. In short, he’s been among the most exciting players in baseball to watch this year.
You may be able to justify other candidates as well. Aroldis Chapman comes to mind, although he’s pitched less than thirty innings this year. I’m not sure who else could be in the discussion, although I’m open to ideas. Perhaps you believe Brayan Pena’s winning smile is worth a couple of wins, or you’re excited that Logan Ondrusek is currently sporting the best FIP of his career. Either way, vote below and discuss.