NL awards not an easy decision

Unlike the American League, NL teams are still immersed in division and wildcard battles.

But those aren’t the only battles worth watching as the fight for baseball’s annual awards is also in full swing.

Here’s how the races in the NL should shake out:

MVP: Joey Votto [1B], Cincinnati Reds

Another year, another Canadian comes home with some hardware.

Larry Walker claimed the prestigious award in 1997, Justin Morneau did it in 2006 and it appears Votto will repeat the feat in 2010.

The third-year Reds slugger was a triple-crown threat most of the season and currently sits second in batting average [.323], third in home runs [37] and RBIs [111]. He also ranks first in slugging [.601] and on-base percentage [.425].

What separates Votto from his competition is his ability to lead the Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

Honourable mention

The other two involved include three-time MVP champ Albert Pujols and Colorado Rockies rookie phenom Carlos Gonzales.

Both are equally worthy based on stats alone, but neither St. Louis nor Colorado will see post-season action, giving Votto a discernible advantage.

Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

One of the most dominating pitchers of this generation has done it again, arguably putting together the best season of his illustrious career.

The former Jay collected 21 wins—nine of which were complete games— and finished with a career-high in strikeouts [219] while he posted his best ERA [2.44] since an injury-shortened season in 2005.

Doc was simply outstanding this year and should easily walk away with his second career Cy Young award, an honour he claimed back in 2003 with Toronto.

Honourable mention

Cardinals co-ace Adam Wainwright will have to settle for runner up yet again.

In 2009, Wainwright became only the second player in MLB history to receive the most first place votes and not win the award when he was beaten by Tim Lincecum.

Wainwright [20-11, 2.42 ERA, 230.1 IP, 230 K’s] won’t fall into that category this time, but his impressive season will not be enough to supersede Halladay.

Rookie of the year: Buster Posey [C], San Francisco Giants

The rookie race in the NL is another contest that could go down to the wire.

Based on a variety of variables, Posey should emerge as the top dog.

For starters, he is a catcher, a taxing position that often limits the ability to get in the lineup on an everyday basis.

Although he has only played in 104 games, Posey has hit 17 home runs with 66 RBIs, is leading NL rookies in slugging [.511] and is second with a .313 average.

He is not the runaway favourite, but his well-rounded offensive game should push him to the top of the voter list.

Honourable mention

Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward came into this season with a lot of hype—and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

It would not be surprising to see Heyward emerge as the winner, considering he leads NL rookies in OBP [.394] and has hit 18 home runs along with 71 RBIs.

Marlins first basemen Gaby Sanchez should also get some consideration after putting together a very strong, power-hitting season.

Manager of the year: Bud Black, San Diego Padres

The manager of the year rarely seems to go to the guy who has led his team to a league-best record, but rather the skipper who surprises in his role.

With that in mind, this year’s award should go to Black.

He has guided a team with the second lowest payroll in baseball into the final week of the season only 2.0 games back of a wildcard spot and 3.0 back of the division-leading Giants.

Considering the Padres were widely expected to top out around the 70-win mark, and have surpassed last year’s win total by 13 games with four remaining, it’s hard not to give the award to baseball’s feel-good team.

Honourable mention

Dusty Baker has taken his NL Central champion Reds to new heights this season.

Not only has Baker led his club to the playoffs, he also helped produce the first winning season in Cincinnati since 2000.

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will also receive consideration due to the team’s success [95 wins] and its ability to overcome injury adversity.