Those five players and the man who helped put the whole team together, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, are now nominated in this year's Esurance MLB Awards. Betts, one of the league's premier defensive outfielders, is up for Best Defensive Player; Sale and Kimbrel are nominated for Pitcher of the Year; Benintendi is up for Best Rookie; and Devers is up for Best Player-Fan Interaction. Dombrowski will be competing for Best Executive.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor MLB's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: Media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American and National Leagues from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Voting led off with seven categories on Sept. 18 at mlb.com/awards, serving as the grand entrance of a program that unveiled nominees for Best Call, TV/Radio; Best Major Leaguer, Postseason; and Best Postseason Moment following the Fall Classic's final out. The ninth inning of voting began around BBWAA Awards week, which opened when the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winners were unveiled Monday, Nov. 13. Voting in the Best Executive, Best Rookie and Best Manager categories went live earlier this week, preceding balloting in the Best Pitcher category, as well as Thursday's Best Major Leaguer nominee reveal.
Voting led off with seven categories on Sept. 18 at mlb.com/awards, serving as the grand entrance of a program that will unveil nominees for Best Call, TV/Radio; Best Major Leaguer, Postseason; and Best Postseason Moment following the Fall Classic's final out.
MLB Awards season will culminate Friday, when winners are announced live on MLB Network and MLB.com starting at 8 p.m. ET.
Betts won a Gold Glove Award in right field last year and has consistently ranked among the league's top defenders. His 31 Defensive Runs Saved rank second among all players and tops among outfielders, while his 20.5 Ultimate Zone Rating paced all players by five runs.
Sale could hardly have been better in his first year in Boston as he became the second pitcher since 2003 to rack up more than 300 strikeouts in a single season. The southpaw held a 2.90 ERA with 308 strikeouts and led baseball with 214 1/3 innings. He even struck out 10 or more batters in eight of his first nine starts.
Kimbrel turned in a gem of a season in his second year in Boston as he led baseball with a 49.6 percent strikeout rate and a 93.9 percent left on base rate. He earned his sixth All-Star selection and was selected as the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year winner. Kimbrel held a 1.43 ERA with 35 saves over 69 innings and cut his walk rate from 13.6 percent to a career-low 5.5 percent.
Benintendi posted a .271/.352/.424 slash line with 20 home runs for the Red Sox as their everyday left fielder. The 23-year-old had three multihomer games this season, and belted six homers with a .979 OPS in August. He also homered in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Astros. Benintendi finished second in the BBWAA's Jackie Robinson AL Rookie of the Year voting announced on Monday, behind the Yankees' Aaron Judge.
Devers was only up in the Majors for a little over two months, but he made a big impact with 10 home runs. One of those came at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 13 and led to a viral reaction from Yankee fan Joez McFly. The fan met up with Devers three weeks later and gave the rookie a custom hat, receiving an autograph in return.
Dombrowski completed his first full season with the Red Sox in 2017, coming to Boston after a 14-year tenure in Detroit as general manager. His biggest move of the offseason, trading for the southpaw from the White Sox, paid off big with Sale a first-time finalist for the AL Cy Young Award.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter at @benweinrib. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.