Young sluggers lead GIBBY Breakout Hitter nominees
Davis with 53 homers, Carpenter with 199 hits among candidates for award
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was nominated for the Breakout Hitter of the Year GIBBY award after last season. As it turned out, that was just the opening act of his breakthrough performance.
"My goal was actually to hit 60 [home runs], so I'm a little disappointed this year," Davis joked at the end of the season.
Fresh off that "disappointing" 53-homer campaign, Davis is once again among the finalists in the Breakout Hitter category. He's got some tough competition, however, including another hitter who, like Davis, is also up for the Hitter of the Year GIBBY: Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter.
It's an impressive list of qualified candidates, and fans can help decide who ultimately receives the Breakout Hitter of the Year award.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home 2013 GIBBY trophies -- the ultimate honors of the industry's awards season -- based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This year's GIBBY Awards feature nominees in 22 categories. Individual honors will go to the MLB MVP, in addition to the year's best starting pitcher, hitter, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout hitter, breakout pitcher, comeback player, defensive player, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's top play, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, walk-off, Cut4 topic, regular-season moment and postseason moment, from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
In the past five years, fans have cast more than 50 million votes across the various GIBBY categories, none of which was restricted to individual league affiliation. Fan voting runs through Dec. 1.
Winners will be presented their GIBBY trophies at the MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards extravaganza during the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
It would be hard to form an argument against Davis considering what he did at the plate. He was coming off a nice season in 2012, and all he did for an encore was bat .286/.370/.634 with an MLB-leading 53 homers and 138 RBIs. The 27-year-old's 96 extra-base hits and 370 total bases were also team records, and he became the third player in Major League history to have at least 50 homers and 40 doubles in a season, joining Babe Ruth and Albert Belle.
"I couldn't have [imagined this season's numbers]. I've said that before," Davis said. "Never dreamed of hitting 50 home runs, much less breaking the single-season record. ... But it's one of those things where if I didn't have the guys in front of me and behind me in the lineup, I would have never been here. We all know how much I like to swing. It makes it a lot easier to hit when there's guys in scoring position."
For the Cardinals, Carpenter was one of those guys seemingly always in scoring position. He won St. Louis' second-base job in Spring Training and finished the year tied for the Major League lead with 199 hits. The 27-year-old All-Star broke Stan Musial's single-year franchise record for doubles by a left-handed batter with 55 and finished the season batting .318/.392/.481 with 126 runs scored, easily the most in the Majors.
A's third baseman Josh Donaldson, another 27-year-old slugger, was great with the glove while hitting .301/.384/.499 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs. According to FanGraphs, he finished third in the Majors with 7.7 Wins Above Replacement, behind only Mike Trout (10.4) and Andrew McCutchen (8.2).
Boston outfielder Daniel Nava, 30, finished eighth in the American League in batting average (.303), including a .322 mark against right-handed pitchers. The switch-hitting outfielder also posted a .385 on-base percentage and slugged .445, hitting 12 homers and 29 doubles in 536 plate appearances for the World Series champion Red Sox.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis saw his average climb to .284 while making big jumps in his on-base (.366) and slugging (.452) percentages. Despite a slow start, he hit 17 homers and 36 doubles while driving in a team-high 84 runs, making him the first Tribe second baseman to lead the club outright in RBIs since 1948. He was the fourth player in Cleveland history to have at least 15 homers, 30 stolen bases, 75 walks and 85 runs in a season.
"It's fun when you see young players start to get it -- what winning means, as opposed to just getting hits. It was fun to watch," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Kipnis. "He took it about as hard as anybody that night that we lost [the Wild Card Game]. He'll be very hungry to want another shot at it."
Like Kipnis, Jason Castro was a 2013 All-Star who set career highs in nearly every offensive category. The 26-year-old Astros catcher, finally healthy, hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 homers and 35 doubles, driving in 56 runs and scoring 63.
People might not have expected much out of third baseman Chris Johnson when he was seemingly just the "other" part of the trade that brought Justin Upton to Atlanta, but he quickly proved that notion wrong. Johnson posted the National League's second-highest batting average (.321) and a career-high .358 on-base percentage.
Rounding out the group is Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown, a once-hyped prospect who burst onto the scene in 2013. In his age-25 season, the Phillies slugger announced his presence with a big month of May that included a .303 average, 12 homers, 25 RBIs and a .688 slugging percentage. He wound up leading the Phillies and finished among the NL leaders in homers (27) and RBIs (83).