Midseason Award Watch: Rookie of the Year
We’ll start with the Rookie of the Year award. It’s a tale of two leagues, as you’ll see when you look at the NL contenders as opposed to the AL contenders. The rookies though are the hardest award to handicap halfway regardless though, because rookies who started later in the season can still overtake players that have been with the big club since April. Last year’s winners, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, are prime examples of this.
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers No, he won’t hit .392/.424/.622 for the entire season, and yes it’s only been a month. That said, the backlash is starting to get ridiculous. Puig has shown to be an exciting, if raw, talent. His walk and strike out rates need work, especially once the hits stop falling at this rate, but he’s not going away. The question for this year and this award is what the final numbers will be. Puig might not be Rookie of the Year at the exact moment, but I suspect he will be by September, and it won’t be due to hype.
Shelby Miller, Cardinals Miller came into the season as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and he’s showed so far in his first full big league season. His first 10 starts were brilliant. However, Miller has struggled in June and particular in July so far, with 7 walks in 11 innings. His overall numbers though remain very good: 9-6, 2.92 ERA, 112 K (9.6 K/9), 1.12 WHIP. If he can rebound from the rookie wall, he’s the best chance to take the award from Puig. Even if he doesn’t though, Miller is one of the big pieces in the Cardinals’ bright future.
Jose Fernandez, Marlins When the 20 year old was called up by the Marlins, most thought he wasn’t ready. Now he’s the only rookie All-Star. His ERA is lower than Miller’s at 2.83 while striking out a man an inning. The walks are a little high at 3.4 per nine, but given his age and lack of experience, Fernandez has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. The question is will he hit a wall, and what kind of innings limit will he put on.
Julio Teheran, Braves Teheran has been a top, albeit fading, prospect for some time now. This year he finally got his shot in the Braves rotation, and he is taking it. Teheran sports a 3.09 ERA, and while he’s not striking out guys quite like Miller and Fernandez, he’s been stingier with the walks, issuing just 21 on the year. His big issue is homers, as he gives up more than one per nine. He’s one step behind the other two so far, but right in the mix.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers The Korean import hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but has been steady all year. He also sports a 3.09 ERA. He started the year striking out over 10 per nine. The last few months though he’s turned into more of a pitch to contact guy who induces ground balls. Both strategies have worked so far, and Ryu has stabilized a rotation that dealt with a lot of injuries early in the year. Ryu doesn’t have the hype the others on the list have, but he’s older than more used to a standard pitching workload. That could help him over the second half.
Others: If Gerrit Cole’s second half is anything like his first six starts, he could sneak into this race. Injuries have pushed Evan Gattis and Jedd Gyorko back in the field. A.J. Pollock and Nolan Arenado have the best WARs of the position players after Puig, but that’s mostly for defense as both have a sub-.300 OBP.
If I Had to Vote Now: 1. Fernandez, 2. Miller, 3. Puig
How I Think It Will End Up: 1. Puig, 2. Miller, 3. Ryu
Jose Iglesias, Red Sox He has only 172 ABs, but out of nowhere is hitting .384/.435/.483. Iglesias profiled as an all glove, no bat shortstop. His glove is still good of course, and his hot start with the bat means he is the WAR leader among AL rookies. Will he stay there when his BABIP drops from .436? We’ll see.
David Lough, Royals He’s hitting .296/.313/.457 in 162 ABs and was impressive enough that Kansas City DFA’ed Jeff Francoeur. It’s not been an impressive class so far.
Nick Franklin, Mariners Unlike seemingly every other hitting prospect in Seattle, Franklin has gotten off to a good start, hitting .275/.329/.463 at shortstop. Solid, but not spectacular, which is very much an improvement in Seattle.
Dan Straily, Athletics Only four rookie starters have double digit starts in the AL, and Straily is the only one whose ERA isn’t over 4.8 (4.28 to be specific). He’s also back in the minors.
Cody Allen, Indians Allen is tied for the AL rookie lead in appearances with 40. His ERA is a solid 2.27, with 52 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. He’s even picked up 2 saves so far, and could eventually close if Chris Perez implodes again.
Caleb Thielbar, Twins He went scoreless his first 17 appearances. Not bad for an 18th round pick who was playing independent ball two years ago.
Others: Martin Perez of the Rangers has a 2.08 ERA is his first five starts and is worth watching. Aaron Hicks is still hitting below the Mendoza Line but is providing great defense. Jurickson Profar hasn’t figured it out in the big leagues yet. Wil Myers is hitting .271/.308/.396 in his first 96 ABs, but could adjust quickly.
If I Had to Vote Now: 1. Iglesias, 2. Allen, 3. Franklin
How I Think It Will End Up: 1. Franklin, 2. Myers, 3. Iglesias
What are your picks for Rookie of the Year now? Who do you think it will be at the end of the season? Is the AL class one of the worst ever?