This morning, I detailed my picks for the Silver Slugger awards in the American League. And now I’m going through my picks in the National League. Cool? Cool.
Pitcher–Michael Lorenzen, Cincinnati Reds: There are two arguments for NL pitcher Silver Slugger, and one’s side depends entirely on whether or not to classify Michael Lorenzen as a pitcher. To be clear, Lorenzen is most definitely a pitcher, but his plate appearances came primarily not through his relief appearances but as a pinch-hitter. But his offensive production was too irresistible to pass up. Lorenzen only had 34 plate appearances, low even for a pitcher, but he was the top offensive pitcher in baseball by Offensive Runs Above Average, exhibiting legitimate power via four home runs and manging a 173 wRC+, better than any qualified hitter in the National League, despite a wholly pedestrian .278 batting average on balls in play. Clayton Kershaw, probably the best hitting starting pitcher on the season thanks to an uncharacteristically poor Madison Bumgarner hitting season, had a wRC+ of less than half of Lorenzen.
Catcher–J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins: The gap between Realmuto and also-rans Yasmani Grandal or Francisco Cervelli isn’t massive, but it is definitive. By wRC+, Realmuto was best (not by much, but he was the best). By plate appearances, Realmuto had the most. By Offensive Runs Above Average, Realmuto was tops. The largely overlooked Realmuto carried the Marlins to a better-than-expected season and when they inevitably ship him to a contender, he’s going to be a productive part of a good team. Just give it time.
First Base–Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks: Unlike the American League, shockingly devoid of strong candidates for the first base Silver Slugger, the National League is loaded with several viable candidates, including Matt Carpenter and Freddie Freeman, either of whom would lap the AL winner for the award. Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman (slash occasional utility man) Max Muncy has an intriguing case, as he was a superior hitter to Paul Goldschmidt by wRC+, but his 209 plate appearance deficit is impossible to ignore. Goldschmidt, with 690 plate appearances to go with a juicy .290/.389/.533 triple-slash line, is the safe and strong pick for the award.
Second Base–Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs: Although Baez is arguably more of a utility man than a true second baseman, this was his true position if forced to declare one, and given this, Baez was the best offensive player of the bunch. Scooter Gennett of the Cincinnati Reds at least kept it somewhat interesting, but Baez had an edge by plate appearances and wRC+, the latter buoyed by a substantial edge in power–while Gennett’s 23 home runs were certainly more than acceptable for a second baseman, the 34 of Baez made the total look comparatively tiny.
Third Base–Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals: The perpetually underrated Rendon faces tough competition from third base moonlighters Muncy and Carpenter, as well as full-timers Nolan Arenado, Justin Turner, and Eugenio Suarez, but while Rendon doesn’t have quite the home run pop of most of his competitors at the hot corner, his ability to avoid strikeouts (Max Muncy, for instance, more than doubled Rendon’s strikeout rate) makes him a well-rounded offensive threat, culminating in the most Offensive Runs Above Average of any full-time third baseman, and a .308/.374/.535 triple-slash.
Shortstop–Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies: He got off to a hot start in his career and then quickly became forgettable. But in 2018, Trevor Story rebounded to become one of the National League’s better shortstops. He gets the Coors Field bump by raw numbers, so feel free to mentally adjust a few home runs off his raw total of 37, and consider his .345 BABIP an unfair advantage beyond his control, but his 127 wRC+, a park-adjusted offensive metric, was easily tops in the National League among full-time players at the shortstop position. Unless you want to squint and call Javy Baez a shortstop, this is one is a pretty easy call.
Left Field–Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers: There really isn’t much that needs to be said here. Terrific rookie campaigns from Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto were mere footnotes to the incredible 2018 season, particularly the incredible second half, for Christian Yelich. He nearly won a Triple Crown, seemingly out of nowhere, and even by rate statistics (he had nearly 160 more plate appearances than either Acuna or Soto, so by gross numbers he had a huge advantage), Yelich’s 166 wRC+ made him a very easy choice for National League left field Silver Slugger.
Center Field–Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers: Nearly a Silver Slugger/Gold Glove double-winner alongside Mookie Betts, Cain didn’t have much in the way of power numbers–his ten home runs certainly don’t leap off the statsheets–but he draws walks, he doesn’t strike out much even in an era where such a thing is not stigmatized, and he still has the speed to get on base on balls in play at an above-average clip. No other full-time center fielder topped Cain’s 124 wRC+.
Right Field–Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets: Brandon Nimmo, who played a fair amount at all three outfield positions but spent most of his time in right field, had one of the most overlooked seasons in baseball this year. He played for a bad team where the attention was focused mostly (deservedly) on Jacob DeGrom, but Nimmo was remarkable at the plate, walking in 15% of his plate appearances, so while his triple crown stats of a .263 batting average, 17 home runs, and 47 RBI look unexceptional, he managed a 149 wRC+ and a .404 on-base percentage.