Monday, August 26, 2013

Rookie of the Year Predictions

I was sidetracked so I'm late with my Rookie of the Year predictions, which I'm sure has my 15 readers in various levels of distress. When I wrote about this in June I made the following predictions:
AL MVP  Jose Iglesias
NL MVP  Yasiel Puig
As a reminder, players are considered eligible if they have fewer than a career total of 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days on a major league roster, which explains why players such as Manny Machado and Jean Segura are not eligible.

American League
Here are the position player front runners using Baseball-Reference WAR numbers (all numbers through Sunday, August 25th)--I used a WAR of 1 or greater as my threshold:
These are the pitchers:
Forget the pitchers, I'm not sure a single one will get even one vote. The position players are a whole lot of "meh"--I wrote in June that Brandon Barnes had an outside shot but that's clearly gone, and 27-year-old rookies who bat .236 with no power on bad teams have difficulty making the transition to second-year players. Nick Franklin is that rare breed, the second baseman with some power but needs to be more selective at the plate and improve the batting average.

It will be a two-way race between Jose Iglesias and Wil Myers. If the Royals can get hot in September and make some noise perhaps David Lough will receive some attention, but a corner outfielder needs to hit with more power to be taken seriously. In addition, the better part of his WAR value (around 62%) is derived from his defense, something that doesn't exactly entice MVP voters to place a check mark by a name.

Jose Iglesias is a tale of two parts of the season:

Interesting numbers for shortstop--no power (fine), no base running speed (odd) and no willingness to take a walk (not good). The Tigers may eventually regret giving up Avisail Garcia to obtain Iglesias, but he's their shortstop of the future. I was very surprised that Boston was willing to trade him and stick with Stephen Drew, but perhaps they have someone in the minors waiting in the wings. As long as Miguel Cabrera continues to have his other-worldly offensive numbers Iglesias will be allowed to concentrate on defense, but the jury is still out as to who Jose Iglesias is--the excellent hitter of the first half, the average hitter of the second half or somewhere in between.

When I first discussed the rookies Wil Myers wasn't even on the Rays roster. His numbers prorated over an entire year would be very acceptable for a rookie, somewhere in the 18 HR/70 RBI range and hitting for average. The Rays seem to have an inexhaustible supply of young pitching and hitting talent proving it is possible to generate sustained success through the draft--they picked in the top 10 from 1999-2008 and selected players like David Price, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Josh Hamilton. As of today's writing they have an 91.2% chance of making the playoffs, and playing on a winning team helps, which is why I dismissed Lough pretty much out of hand.

Rookie of the Year   Wil Myers
2nd                             Jose Iglesias
3rd                              David Lough

National League
Position players
I chose Puig in my last writing after he had played a grand total of seven games and nothing has occurred to cause me to change my mind. The only question will be by how much.

NL rookie pitchers are having very solid seasons. Jose Fernandez will do very well in the voting but has no shot of winning because he pitches for Miami. If a 20-year-old pitcher can put up the record he has with the team the Marlins put behind him, imagine what he could do on a decent team. He's almost unhittable, and this chart from Brooks suggests why:

Is this sustainable? Who knows, his arm could fall off tomorrow, but this is the new trend in baseball--bring up the new pitchers, let them throw their hearts out (within reason--he's coming close to the 170-inning cap the Marlins imposed on him) and then start over with new talent. Is he the next Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden? Only time will tell.


Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Hyun-jin Ryu have been key components to their team's success, and I think it will be a tight battle between Ryu and Fernandez--for second.

My previous post showed both offensive and defensive WAR contributions, and Nolan Arenado and Juan Lagares rank as high as they do because they play key defensive positions--in fact, almost 80% of Arenado's value and 65% of Lagares' is from defense. Arenado may have a higher WAR than Puig but it took him 100+ more plate appearances--I'll be surprised if Arenado gets more than single-digit votes. When I was seemingly writing about Puig on a daily basis my constant refrain was "There's no way he can maintain this"--I very well could be wrong on that count.

In a Dodgers lineup with Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and a healthy Matt Kemp, where should Puig bat? He is NOT good at driving in runners--of the 159 base runners only 17 have scored, 11% when the MLB average is 14%. Since there's nothing I enjoy more than extrapolating from a small sample size, this is how Puig performs with runners in scoring position and the bases empty:

This won't continue, and if Puig can hit 20-25 home runs a year AND the Dodgers can keep their power hitters healthy, they have one of the greatest luxuries in baseball--a power-hitting #2 hitter. There were five #2 hitters with 20+ homers in 2012 (Aaron Hill, Bryce Harper, Curtis Granderson, Colby Rasmus and J.J. Hardy), which was an aberration--a typical year has only one or two. The Dodgers will be poised on the knife's edge in the next couple of years, with excellent YOUNG pitching and older position players--it will be very interesting to see how those conflicting dynamics play out.

NL Rookie of the Year  Yasiel Puig
2nd                                  Hyun-jin Ryu
3rd                                   Jose Fernandez

I've written before on how some experts believe baseball is in a phase where pitching is better than the hitting, and the rookies in both leagues seem to demonstrate this. Only Puig, Jedd Gyorko, Evan Gattis, Darin Ruf, Conor Gillaspie, Nick Franklin and Oswaldo Arcia are in double digits in home runs. Whether this is a short-term aberration or a long-term change in baseball fortunes is yet to be determined. Rookies of the Year are fickle--for every Bryce Harper and Mike Trout there's a Chris Coghlan and Geovany Soto. I'm willing to bet that Puig and Myers are more like the former (not necessarily THAT good, but not busts) than the latter.


  1. I don't really understand why Julio Teheran is a passing mention in the article, even though statistically he is having at least as good a season as Ryu (their stats other than WAR and K/BB ratio are almost exact, while Teheran leads both of those).

  2. To be perfectly honest, I had nothing interesting or of value to say about him--he's had a very good season (as well as Miller) and all three will be on playoff teams. I had no intent of trying to diminish the season he's had, I had nothing to add--I'll leave that to folks smarter than I am, which is a pretty sizable group.