If you took a poll on who the National League MVP and Cy Young were at this point of the season, the vote would be unanimous for Troy Tulowitzki and Johnny Cueto.
Coming into 2014, there were question marks surrounding both players; not necessarily about their ability, but their health. Tory Tulowitzki dealt with several nagging injuries over the past few season, while 2013 was a lost year for Cueto. Tulowitzki only played in 128 games in 2013, and Cueto made just 11 starts last season.
Both are in the prime — Cueto is 28 and Tulowitzki 29 — but while Tulowitzki has already been paid, this was a big year for Cueto because the Reds hold a $10 million club option for the 2015 season.
There were a lot more question marks on Cueto this year, which was evident with his stock position plummeting into the middle rounds of fantasy drafts. But if you were a believer and took him early, you’ve been highly rewarded. With all the pitching injuries this year, though, it’s hard to bet on a pitcher coming off a big injury.
There were less questions surrounding Troy Tulowitzki, who is undoubtedly the best shortstop in baseball when healthy. So far this year, both players are showing exactly how good they can be when healthy, and it’s fun to watch them at their best.
Tulowitzki is off to one of the best starts of his career, hitting .391 with a .497 OBP in 39 games (161 at-bats) with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs. Those stats put him in the top five in all of baseball. Tulowitzki hasn’t registered more than 446 at-bats the past two years, and he’s only been over 500 once in his past four seasons.
When healthy, Tulowitzki is a .298/30/100 type guy. Finally healthy at age 29, Tulowitzki may be the MVP he was touted to be if he can stay on the field for 500-plus at-bats. You never know when an injury is going to strike, and Tulowitzki is a guy we all hope stays healthy, because when he is, he is the best player in the National League, and possibly all of baseball.
On that same note, Johnny Cueto has been one of the best starting pitchers in the National League … when healthy. In the past three seasons, Cueto has an ERA of 2.62, but he’s averaged just 22.6 starts in those three season. He’s also thrown more than 186 innings just once in his career.
But so far, so good this year. Through nine starts, Cueto has a 1.25 ERA, which is best in all of baseball, and he already has thrown three complete games. He hasn’t given up more than two runs or five hits in any start. In 72 innings, he’s struck out 76, while issuing just 18 walks. His WHIP is 0.71, and batters are hitting just .135 against him.
Those numbers are staggering, but even more amazing: He is only 4-2.
In 2012 we got a glimpse of what a healthy Cueto can do over a full season; he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. If he gives us a full season in 2014 — espeically with Jose Fernandez out for the season and Clayton Kershaw missing time — we could see Cueto take home the NL Cy Young.
It’s early, but it sure is nice to see Troy Tulowitzki and Johnny Cueto healthy and doing their thing. As a baseball fan, this is what you really want — to see the best players healthy on the field doing amazing things. There’s no guarantee how long any player can stay healthy, so make sure you’re enjoying the run these guys are on.