MLB Awards: Will Rocco Baldelli take home AL Manager of the Year honors in his first season with the Twins?

We have just a little more than two weeks left in the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season. Postseason races will be decided over these next two weeks, as well as the major awards races. As such, this week on CBS Sports we’re running through every award for each league. We previously covered races for the American League and National League MVP, AL and NL Cy Young as well as AL and NL Rookie of the Year.

For today’s focus, we’ll be taking a closer look at the American League Manager of the Year award. Last year, Oakland Athletics skipper Bob Melvin took home the award. Typically, the recipient of this award either oversaw the best team or the most surprising team. Here are the best candidates for the AL Manager of the Year award at this point in time:

The favorites

Rocco Baldelli, Twins: In his first season with Minnesota and his first season as manager, Baldelli has guided his Twins to first place in the AL Central, a spot they’ve held for most of the season. Last season, the Twins went 78-84 and missed the postseason. With Baldelli at the helm in 2019, he changed things around for the club. Entering Thursday, the Twins are 89-56 (.614) and hold a four-game lead over the Cleveland Indians. Minnesota’s historic offense sports a plus-169 run differential, only the Yankees, Dodgers and Astros have a better mark. The 2019 season has been a strong debut for Baldelli, 38, who began his coaching career with the Rays in 2011, and it could see him take home the hardware in November.

Aaron Boone, Yankees: Boone has been in the AL Manager of the Year conversation for quite some time now. While most of the club’s superstars were on the injured list (a record 29 players, to be exact), Boone managed to keep the team in the playoff hunt, navigating what seemed like a different lineup every week. Now with most of the team’s big names healthy and back in the everyday lineup — Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Giancarlo Stanton have still yet to make their respective returns — Boone’s Yankees are living up to their potential. 

Others to watch

These next batch of managers are each leading their respective teams in the midst of a three-team AL wild card battle. So, the likelihood of one of them winning the award will depend on where they finish in the postseason picture at the end of this month. Entering Thursday, the Rays (87-60) hold the first wild card spot, followed by the A’s (86-60) with the Indians (86-61) trailing by just a 1/2 game, so this race is going to come down to the wire.

Kevin Cash, Rays: Cash’s Rays are once again using their concept of an opener this season, and their reinvented pitching rotation has proved to be effective enough to have this team in the playoff race once again. It’ll just be a matter of if the club can hold onto that wild card spot through the end of September.

Bob Melvin, Athletics: Oakland follows in Tampa’s footsteps as another small-market club that has been creative with its roster this season. And again, in order for Melvin to win this award in back-to-back years, it’s going to depend on the A’s reaching the AL Wild Card Game.

Terry Francona, Indians: Francona wasn’t given any big-name offseason signings as Cleveland was quiet in the winter. On top of that, the Indians were dealt multiple injuries to a handful of their big stars (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Jose Ramirez, among others). But Francona’s injury-depleted roster has a lower payroll than New York’s. Francona’s Manager of the Year case would be improved if Cleveland catches Minnesota to win the division title, but a wild card berth would keep him in the conversation.

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