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Ohtani, Trout lead Halo charge for top MLB honors

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Shohei Ohtani is a finalist for AL Rookie of the Year, while Mike Trout will try to bring home MVP Award No. 3

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Good job, pal!
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

CARLSBAD — The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced the finalists for their 2018 post-season awards Monday here, and you can color the American League side of your ballot Angel red.

Shohei Ohtani, 24, who took MLB by storm last season by being the first player since Babe Ruth 100 years ago to pitch and hit at an elite level, is a marginal front-runner for the 2018 AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.

Ohtani should be a slight favorite for AL rookie of the year over New York Yankees infielders Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. (Ohtani is the odds-on favorite with Las Vegas bookies at 1-1).

Mike Trout is no stranger to being on these lists. The Halo superstar has won the AL MVP twice and finished second three other times in a career that now seems old news.

It’s not, folks.

The only time Trout didn’t finish in the Top Three in the MVP derby was in 2017, when he had to sit out seven weeks with a damaged thumb, the result of his hyper-aggessive style — and was still great enough to finish fourth.

As awesome as he is, Trout, 27, will probably finish runner-up in the MVP stakes to Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox, whose phenomenal 2018 just got better when he led a stacked Red Sox team to the World Series title.

Ohtani has already been tabbed as AL rookie of the year in the unofficial awards lists of Baseball America and Baseball Digest.

The two-way sensation from Hokkaido, Japan, batted .285 with 22 home runs in 326 at-bats.

People were ready to write him off then. But Shohei Ohtani overcame injury, a waffling front office, as stubborn manager and more to prove his critics wrong.

He had a woeful spring training. That left observers wondering leaving Tempe whether anyone could do what Ohtani planned — but the Japanese executed big-time in the long run.

Ohtani racked up an OPS of .925 as he laid American League pitching to ruin after a damaged ulnar collateral ligament forced him to discontinue pitching.

As a pitcher, Ohtani (4-2, 3.31 ERA) lit up radar guns in the early regular season with 100-mph heat, and struck out 63 batters in 51.2 innings. That’s more than Miguel Andujar can do, IMHO.

An incendiary September bounceback seemed like Ohtani wanted to double-down on his doubters and haters. He crushed seven taters after he replaced aging and injured star Albert Pujols as the Halos’ regular DH — in a tasty taster for 2019.

Trout has had a storied career, but 2018 may have actually been his best. The Angel center fielder led the majors with an other-worldly OPS of 1.088.

Trout hit .312 with 39 homers, 24 doubles and 24 stolen bases. He scored 101 runs despite a supporting cast of non-clutch teammates who rarely cashed in on his excellence in setting tables.

He also played the best defense of his already Cooperstown-worthy career.

Boston’s Betts was a slight second-best to Trout in the majors in OPS with 1.078, but the Beantown star led both leagues in bWAR — largely due to a slight edge in defensive metrics. Despite the fact that Trout plays a more premium position than Betts.

No worries.

Betts, the Red Sox’ right fielder, is not only great at baseball — he’s eminently likeable (he’s a professional-quality bowler, of all things) and doesn’t shy from the media spotlight like the bashful Trout.

So it would be no crime if Betts beat out Trout for MVP. Same goes for Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians, as versatile and superlative as a Swiss Army knife star as can be.

Sunday, there was one thing that Trout didn’t add to his trophy case: An AL Gold Glove award presented by Rawlings.

His buddy got that.

Angel shortstop Andrelton Simmons notched the fourth Gold Glove of a career which defines slick, when those winners were announced Sunday night.

The winners of the BBWAA awards will be released on a day-to-day basis next week.

Ohtani — who is recovering well from Tommy John surgery, by reports emerging today — will learn if he wins Rookie of the Year next Monday, Nov. 12.

The MVP winners for the AL and NL are announced Nov. 15. All major BBWAA awards will be televised by the MLB Network all week.

Despite having a far superior season to their crosstown rivals, the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers only have one finalist for hardware — right-handed ace Walker Buehler.

Buehler would probably walk off with NL Rookie of the Year if not for the presence of Washington Nationals star Juan Soto and Atlanta Braves phenom Ronald Acuna as rivals amongst the finalists.

Post-season performance doesn’t factor into the vote, which was conducted by local BBWAA branches at the end of the regular season. Team performance may be proven a factor, as the Angels finished 2018 with a record of 80-82 which impresses no one.

Injuries and underperformance certainly hurt the Angels in adding more names to the honor roll that was unveiled at the Omni La Costa Resort in this California beach town at the annual general manager meetings.

The Winter Meetings commence next month in Las Vegas.

No Angel pitchers were able to stay healthy enough to join the conversation for AL Cy Young.

That award with come down to ballsy Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays, the ageless Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros, and crafty Cleveland Indians righty Corey Kluber (a home run victim of Ohtani).

AL manager of the year will come down to a choice of Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics, Boston’s Alex Cora, and Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The National League finalists were also announced Monday. Some names include trade or free-agent chips the Angels and GM Billy Eppler may target — New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom heads a cast of pitchers who may be on the move in the wake of the chaos of the Mets’ recent front-office shakeup.

Former Angel pitching coach Bud Black, a Scioscia disciple, is up for NL Manager of the Year for his work with the Colorado Rockies.

*(Carlsbad, California, in addition to being the site of Monday’s GM meetings, is also an awesome surf spot. Stay off my waves, unless your name is Brad Ausmus, Doug White or Jeremy Reed).