With only a few weeks left in the regular season, the recipient of this year's National League Rookie of the Year award appears to be a sealed deal.
Stop most people on the street, especially in the Windy City, and they'll tell you it's Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who has helped create a long-absent buzz in Chicago with his silky smooth swing.
While he's certainly the frontrunner to win Rookie of the Year in the NL this season, Bryant's not the only worthy candidate of receiving the award.
As Bryant has boosted the Cubs towards their first postseason berth since 2008, there's another rookie 800 miles east who has been a key contributor to a team that's experienced an even longer playoff drought.
While trade-deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes has received the bulk of the praise for the Mets' second-half turnaround, New York's pitching staff has been paramount to the fate of their season, and rookie Noah Syndergaard has been an integral component of the Mets' rotation since making his major-league debut in May.
In 21 starts this season, Syndergaard has compiled an 8-6 record with a 3.20 ERA and is tied with Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani for the most strikeouts among NL rookies at 137 K's.
With his mid-to-upper-90s fastball and wicked curveball, the imposing 6-foot-6, 240-pound right-hander, who carries the nickname "Thor," has provided the Mets with a dominant middle-rotation option who would be the ace on some teams.
In fact, it's not outrageous to declare that Syndergaard's success in his rookie season is a principal reason the Mets are within spitting distance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Without Syndergaard, the Mets would have been stranded with maligned starter Dillon Gee, which would have left New York with plenty of uncertainty at the back end of its rotation.
Without the Mets' dynamic pitching staff, which also includes reigning NL ROY Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, there is no chance the team would have a 47-42 record prior to the All-Star break with the most anemic offense in baseball.
The position the Mets pitching staff put them in in the first half of the season subsequently allowed them to sustain a 2-6 start after the All-Star break and still remain contenders in the NL East, as they trailed the division-leading Nationals by a mere three games following the skid.
That granted general manager Sandy Alderson and the Mets brass the confidence to go all-in at the deadline and acquire Cespedes, who has had gargantuan success since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers.
In conclusion, one could make a viable argument that Syndergaard is the impetus for the Mets' improbable run.
However, Syndergaard's main competition in the NL ROY race is stiff.
With his 24 home runs, 93 RBI, and .274/.368/.492 slash line, Bryant has provided the Cubs with pop in the middle of the lineup that has transformed their offense.
Syndergaard's Mets teammate deGrom possessed a 3.5 WAR in his NL ROY season last year, but he didn't have much competition on that front, as the pitcher with the second-highest WAR was at 1.7, and the position player with the highest WAR, Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, barely exceeded deGrom at 3.6.
So, does Syndergaard truly stand a chance of being honored as the league's top rookie and making history with deGrom as the first starting pitchers from the same team to win the Rookie of the Year award in successive years?
Recent history suggests he has a chance, as three of the last four NL Rookies of the Year have been pitchers.
Nonetheless, the balance tends to tilt in the favor of players that take the field every day as opposed to those who play at most twice a week, and Bryant holds a sturdy case to be granted the award as is.
Unless something bizarre happens in these next few weeks (e.g., Bryant doesn't get a hit for the rest of the season and Syndergaard throws a no-hitter), Kris Bryant will win the NL Rookie of the Year award.
However, Syndergaard can sleep soundly knowing he's had a tremendous impact on one of the most exciting runs in Mets history.