Rookie of the Year: Fernandez and Puig battle it out in a strong NL race
Here's Eric's take: Rookie of the Year always is up for some interpretation. Is this just who had the best year among the rookies, or does the perceived future of the year matter? It’s hard not to wince when seeing Todd Hollandsworth and Chris Coghlan on the Rookie of the Year list. This debate might come into play with the American League race.
I’ll start with the NL though, which had a fantastic rookie class. The favorite is likely Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. Most baseball pundits (self included) thought the Marlins were insane for bringing up the 20 year old to the bigs so soon. Fernandez proved his team and everyone else wrong very quickly. He finished the season with a 2.19 ERA, second best in the entire league. Fernandez struck out almost 10 batters per 9 innings. It was a great season for anyone, much less a rookie.
The other major contender in the NL is Dodgers outfield Yasiel Puig. The Cuban came up in June and hit like gangbusters immediately, helping break the Dodgers out of their early doldrums and into a 42-8 hot streak that essentially took them to the playoffs. He cooled off a bit from the scorching start, and seemed to piss some old fart or Atlanta Brave each week with his style of play. He still finished the season with a .319/.391/.534 battling line. There’s some rawness still, but also a lot to like about Puig in the future.
There were a few other pitchers who had fantastic rookie years given the usual norms. Shelby Miller of the Cardinals and Julio Teheran of the Braves were two highly regarded prospects who showed that talent in the bigs. Hyun Jin-Ryu of the Dodgers also had a fine first season coming over from Korea. However, the excellence of Fernandez and Puig make this a two person race, and really, it’s not even that.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Fernandez. It was truly a rookie year for the ages, and if it had been anywhere but the black hole of Miami, it would’ve gotten even more attention than it did (not that it was ignored). Puig was great, but Fernandez was otherworldly.
My Ballot: 1. Fernandez, 2. Puig, 3. Miller
WHO WILL WIN: Fernandez. Those numbers can not be ignored, and frankly I’m guessing at least a few of the voters won’t be fans of Puig anyway, which takes out Fernandez’s only realistic competition.
Pat's take: There's really no question about this one. Puig's performance was spectacular, he's fun to watch, and he definitely gave the Dodgers a huge spark. BUT... Fernandez is a Cy Young candidate and did it almost all year.
Miller was also fantastic for the beginning of the year, but he started to tail off a bit towards the end of the year. Fernandez, on the other hand, seemed to get stronger as the year went on. It was a shame to see the Marlins shut him down in September, to be honest.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Fernandez. Not only was he incredible on the mound, he also gave us one of the best moments of the season with his home run against the Braves.
My ballot: 1. Fernandez, 2. Puig, 3. Miller
WHO WILL WIN: Fernandez. And he should also finish top 3 in Cy Young voting.
Pat: In the American League, the race doesn't include any major MVP or Cy Young candidates, but it does include a guy who will likely take home a mantle full of gold glove awards. Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who started the year with the Red Sox, had a hell of a year, particularly for a guy who wasn't supposed to be a good hitter. Along with the spectacular defense that we've come to expect from him, he also hit .303 in almost 400 at bats.
He might have been overshadowed by the emergence of Wil Myers, however. The uber-prospect whom the Rays obtained in the much-maligned (for the Royals) James Shields trade didn't disappoint once he reached the Major Leagues. He hit 13 HR and drove in 53, but more importantly he had an outstanding 132 OPS+ and his numbers, if stretched out over 162 games, would have resulted in 24 HR, 98 RBI with 92 runs and 42 doubles. He had a great year, and gave a glimpse of what we might expect in his future.
Last but not least, Myers' teammate Chris Archer had a hell of a season as well. His 118 ERA+ in 23 starts is one of the reasons the Rays made the playoffs, and he had a spectacular 1.13 WHIP. Still, I'm not sure he was quite as impressive as Myers or Iglesias.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Iglesias. His glove alone is worth noting, but when he also hits .303, you have to be pretty impressed.
My ballot: 1. Iglesias, 2. Myers, 3. Archer
WHO WILL WIN: Myers. He's the biggest name, and his power numbers will be particularly appealing to voters.
Eric: The AL race is much less interesting. Not a single rookie, hitter or pitcher, hit the minimum requirements for qualifying for the statistical titles. The AL rookie leader in WAR was David Lough of the Royals with 2.7.
For the contenders, the top prospect in the group is the Rays Wil Myers. He didn’t get called up until mid-June because the Rays were holding him back for service time and arbitration purposes. Myers still went on to hit .293/.354/.478, easily the best of any rookie that had significant at-bats. He is likely the pick of those who consider future prospects in this vote.
The pitcher with the best chance at the award is Myers’s teammate Chris Archer. In 23 starters, Archer posted a 3.22 ERA, including a scorching 5 starts in July with an ERA of 0.73. His strikeout and walk ratios were also solid.
Then there is the third major contender, Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, who of course started the year in Boston before being traded in July. Iglesias came into the bigs with the reputation as an all-glove, no-hit shortstop. His defense has been amazing, and given the weak field, puts him in the running almost by itself. However, Iglesias surprised everyone by hitting .303 in 350 at-bats. There’s a catch though. His Batting Average in Balls in Play (BABIP) for the season was .356, which is higher than what is usually sustainable. Sure enough, Iglesias cooled off big time at the end of the year. Still, the .303 average did happen, and for award purpose, that’s all that matters.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Myers. Any of the above three could win, as each have legitimate arguments. In the end, I sympathize with the argument (made most prominently by ESPN’s Keith Law) that for this award at least, future prospects matter, and Myers had the most star potential of the class. I’m loath to punish him for the Rays doing what the Rays do to mess with his service time. Again though, I have no issue with any of the top three winning it.
My Ballot: 1. Myers, 2. Archer, 3. Iglesias
WHO WILL WIN: It’s a tight enough that I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s a toss-up between Myers and Iglesias, which Archer a bit behind in third.