With the month of June behind us, we’re now three months of the way through the 2014 MLB season. I think that by this point, we’ve realized which players and teams are good, and which are…well, not so good. I don’t think any of the names you’re going to see on this month’s edition of the best and worst will surprise you, but hey…you never know.
AL Hitter of the Month: Mike Trout. This is the best player in baseball (again), and unlike in prior years, there’s no debate. In June, Trout kicked his game into high gear. He hit .361/.471/.759 for the month, walked more than he struck out, homered seven times, stole five bases, scored 20 runs, and drove in 21. Really, by any way you slice it, Trout was the best player in the league over the past month, and he’s well on his way to his first MVP award and possibly his finest season yet.
Honorable mentions: Adam Jones, J.D. Martinez, Sal Perez, Carlos Santana
April winner: Jose Bautista
May winner: Edwin Encarnacion
AL Worst Hitter of the Month: Shin-Soo Choo. This has been a lost season for the Rangers, and while Choo is healthy, his performance has fallen off a cliff for Texas. In June, Choo hit a paltry .179/.278/.242 with just one home run to go along with some shoddy defense. For the season, Choo is barely above a replacement level player, has homered just seven times, and stolen only three bases in 77 games. Hey, not bad for a guy who turns 32 this month and is still owed over $120 million….
Dishonorable mentions: Xander Bogaerts, Josh Donaldson, Eric Hosmer, David Murphy
April “winner”: Billy Butler
May “winner”: Alejandro de Aza
NL Hitter of the Month: Andrew McCutchen. The 2013 NL MVP has dragged his Pirates back into the playoff conversation thanks to a June that resembles that of Trout. This month, McCutchen hit .343/.410/.686 while hitting eight homers and swiping five bases. While his defensive metrics have once again flipped, McCutchen is actually having a better year offensively than he did last year, trading three points of batting average for 14 points of on-base percentage and 17 points of slugging percentage. If Pittsburgh somehow makes the playoffs, or even is in the race until the end of the season, you need to consider McCutchen a favorite for another MVP award.
Honorable mentions: Evan Gattis, Paul Goldschmidt, Jonathan Lucroy, Aramis Ramirez
April winner: Troy Tulowitzki
May winner: Yasiel Puig
NL Worst Hitter of the Month: Everth Cabrera. Cabrera was a guy who made the NL All-Star Team last year, and looked like he could be a nice building block for the Padres. Since then, he’s served a 50-game PED suspension due to his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, and has been a pretty bad baseball player since. He bottomed out this month, hitting .133/.200/.144 just just two stolen bases, which is good for a wRC+ of just 1. Six different NL players had a higher batting average in June than Cabrera’s .344 OPS. That is…how do you say…not good. For the year, he’s hitting .218/.256/.290 with only 13 stolen bases at just a 65% success rate. Well then.
Dishonorable mentions: Aaron Hill, Carlos Ruiz, Jean Segura, Andrelton Simmons
April “winner”: Danny Espinosa
May “winner”: Yonder Alonso
AL Pitcher of the Month: Felix Hernandez. Bow down to the king. In six June starts, Hernandez threw 44 1/3 innings (notching at least seven innings per start), struck out 54, walked only six, and pitched to a stellar 1.22 ERA. Hernandez’s last start that wasn’t a quality start came all the way back on May 12th against the Rays. He only hasn’t finished six innings once all season. His dominance is stunning, and the man is only 28. For as good as Hernandez was last year, he’s even better this year – and that’s definitely a good thing, considering the Mariners aren’t terrible this year and Hernandez’s win total has increased as a result. How else can I really say “Felix Hernandez is incredible”?
Honorable mentions: Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, David Price, Garrett Richards
April winner: Felix Hernandez
May winner: Corey Kluber
AL Worst Pitcher of the Month: Joe Saunders. I can’t believe Joe Saunders still has job in the year 2014, but here we are. The rotation-deprived Rangers have given Saunders a shot, and he’s pitched like…well, like Joe Saunders. In his six starts, Saunders has walked 15 and struck out 12 in 27 innings while pitching to a 6.68 ERA. Texas has won just two of his eight starts this season. I know the team really needs starting pitching, but Saunders isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire.
Dishonorable mentions: Samuel Deduno, R.A. Dickey, Miguel Gonzalez, Nick Martinez
April “winner”: Ubaldo Jimenez
May “winner”: Brandon Maurer
NL Pitcher of the Month: Clayton Kershaw. For as good as Hernandez has been this year, Kershaw has been even better. In June, he allowed four runs in 44 innings while striking out 61 and walking…four. Yes, that’s a 15.25 strikeout to walk ratio. The 63.9% ground ball rate is just the cherry on top of his awesome month, with the no-hitter he threw serving as the delicious brownie on the side. Despite missing most of April, Kershaw is still sixth in the NL with 107 strikeouts and leads the league in fWAR. Kershaw had one complete turd of a start this year (May 17th in Arizona), and he’s been taking souls ever since.
Honorable mentions: Henderson Alvarez, Jake Arrieta, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann
April winner: Jose Fernandez
May winner: Jeff Samardzija
NL Worst Pitcher of the Month: Juan Nicasio. I hate to pick on another Rockie, but what Nicasio did in June was pretty embarrassing. Before being demoted to AAA, Nicasio made three starts this month and allowed a total of 20 runs in 11 innings. He struck out seven, and walked the same amount while also allowing five homers. For a guy that has shown flashes of brilliance during his career, this month did nothing to convince people that Nicasio is a part of Colorado’s future.
Dishonorable mentions: Tony Cingrani, Marco Estrada, Justin Grimm, Roberto Hernandez
April “winner”: Bronson Arroyo
May “winner”: Franklin Morales
AL Rookie of the Month: Jose Abreu. So Abreu is back, healthy, and mashing once again. In June, the Cuban star smashed ten homers and hit .313/.355/.677 for a White Sox team that isn’t as horrible as many people really expected. With all due respect to the other great rookies in the American League, the AL Rookie of the Year award is Abreu’s to lose.
Honorable mentions: Nick Castellanos, Brock Holt, Kevin Kiermaier, Masahiro Tanaka
April winner: Jose Abreu
May winner: George Springer
NL Rookie of the Month: Billy Hamilton. Playing time matters, and while Chris Owings had an OPS 120 points higher than Hamilton, Cincinnati’s speedy center fielder played in six more games and received 51 more plate appearances. Many expected Hamilton to be a game-changer this season for the Reds, but I don’t think anyone really expected him to play elite defense and show a little pop too. In June, Hamilton hit .327/.348/.500, doubling ten times, homering three times, and stealing 14 bases. For the year, he’s up to 34 stolen bases at a 74% clip, and if he keeps playing like he did in June, the NL Rookie of the Year race will be even more difficult to project.
Honorable mentions: Brandon Cumpton, Jesse Hahn, Chris Owings, Gregory Polanco
April winner: Chris Owings
May winner: Kolten Wong