Minors : : General
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 Rookie of the Year candidates

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

The Rookie of the Year was first awarded on a national basis in 1947, when Jackie Robinson was the inaugural winner. It took 40 more years before the powers that be decided to honor Robinson by having the award named the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award. Robinson and the 1948 winner, Alvin Dark, were selected from all Major League teams from both leagues; since then it has been broken down into American League and National League winners.

The first thing one must realize about the Rookie of the Year winners is that some really, really good players have won over the years. Sure, there are some flameouts such as Joe Charboneau, Bob Hamelin or the immortal Mark Fidrych. But future Hall of Famers are much more common than below average future big leaguers. 2012 was definitely a star studded year, with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper winning their league’s awards with record setting seasons.

Taking a look at an imaginary game between American League and National League ROY winners is a pretty quick and instructive way to illustrate this point.

National League (batting order)

2B Jackie Robinson
LF Pete Rose
CF Willie Mays
3B Albert Pujols
1B Willie McCovey
C Johnny Bench
RF Frank Robinson
DH Andre Dawson
SS Rafael Furcal

SP: Tom Seaver
CL: Craig Kimbrell

Manager: Alvin Dark

Bench: Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Billy Williams, Orlando Cepeda, Darryl Strawberry
Bullpen: Dwight Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela, Rick Sutcliffe

American League (batting order)

RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Derek Jeter
DH Eddie Murray
1B Mark McGwire
LF Tony Oliva
3B Cal Ripken Jr.
CF Fred Lynn
2B Rod Carew
C Carlton Fisk

SP: Justin Verlander
CL: Dave Righetti

Manager: Lou Pinella

Bench: Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Luis Aparicio, Nomar Garciaparra, Lou Whitaker, Evan Longoria
Bullpen: Herb Score, Gregg Olson, Stan Bahnsen

A quick look at the rosters above does show one thing in particular. There have been 19 pitchers whose careers started after 1947 who have been elected to the Hall of Fame, with numerous others such as Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine and Mariano Rivera poised to potentially join them. But only one, Tom Seaver, was ever a rookie of the year. The list of position players, on the other hand, is littered with with Hall of Famers.

The most important factor in winning a Rookie of the Year award still boils down to one simple thing: Playing time. There have been exceptions, but if a player isn’t going to get at least 450-500 plate appearances, 30 starts or serve as his team’s closer for a majority of the year, the weight of the numbers is going to go in favor of the everyday regular.

Probably the most notable exception to the playing time rule was in 1959, when Willie McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year despite playing in only 52 games. But they were a spectacular 52 games, as McCovey hit .354-13-38/1.085 OPS and even managed to garner some MVP votes. Is it possible that someone such as the Cardinals Oscar Tavares or the Dodgers Yasiel Puig could do that in 2013? Certainly, but very unlikely.

Rather than just present the favorites for the award in each league, we’d thought we’d go down team-by-team to see who all the initial candidates actually are.

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks:
The Diamondbacks would be full of candidates if everyone was healthy, except that CF Adam Eaton and SS Didi Gregorious are both injured, costing them the chance at first glance to begin the season in the starting lineup. Eaton, in particular, could post ROY numbers if he got enough playing time in the crowded Arizona outfield. LHP Tyler Skaggs will likely get a shot to start at some point but won’t have the opportunity to duplicate fellow southpaw Wade Miley’s 2012 numbers, the 2012 runner-up to Harper.

Atlanta Braves: RHP Julio Teheran has the prospect pedigree, the outstanding spring to build on and a place in a championship contender’s starting rotation. That’s a great recipe for a ROY award.

Chicago Cubs: The only ROY scenario one can imagine with the Cubs is if 32-year old Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa ends up with the closer’s job and the Cubs win enough games for him to post some saves.

Cincinnati Reds: Since the Reds don’t have a single rookie on their projected Opening Day roster, it’s hard to project a candidate. LHP Tony Cingrani may be next in line for a starting spot, should one open. Then there is the possibility that the Reds centerfield defense is so mediocre that speedster CF Billy Hamilton is called up at some point.

Colorado Rockies: Not much going on here after Chris Nelson won the third base job over Nolan Arenado.

Los Angeles Dodgers: While 2012 Cuban signee Yasiel Puig has been the sensation of spring training, the reality is that, a). he has 82 professional at-bats, and, b). the Dodgers starting outfield of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Either is being paid as much or more as some entire team’s rosters in 2013 and beyond. Korean LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu is a much better bet to contend for ROY honors if he makes a quick adjustment to Major League hitters.

Miami Marlins: The Marlins will start two rookies from the beginning of the season, neither of them named Christian Yelich, who hasn’t played above Hi-A ball yet. SS Adeiney Hechevaria won’t likely hit enough to garner many votes, even if he plays every day, but C Rob Brantly could do so if last season’s September performance is an indicator.

Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Willie Peralta will be in the starting rotation for a team that should score plenty of runs once they get completely healthy. He’s also old enough that the Brewers won’t be putting much of a hold on the number of pitches/innings he throws, a relevant concern in this day and age.

New York Mets: RHP Matt Harvey exceeded his innings limit by nine innings to qualify in 2013 and RHP Zach Wheeler and C Travis D’Arnaud are both wisely being started in AAA. The Mets last ROY was Dwight Gooden in 1984 and it looks like that streak should continue.

Philadelphia Phillies: No candidates, appropriate but worrisome for one of baseball’s oldest teams.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Wait until 2014 when Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are more likely to make their debuts, if Cole doesn’t burn through his rookie status later this year. Don’t sleep on Kyle McPherson, though, if he finds his way into the starting rotation early enough, as he has a better track record and stuff than many realize.

St. Louis Cardinals: OF Oscar Tavares would be the odds on ROY favorite if he had a starting spot, but the Cardinals outfield is full at the moment, with the reality that one hamstring twinge from 36-year old RF Carlos Beltran could put Tavares in the big leagues. Better bets would be hard throwing RHPs Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal, especially if Miller wins the fifth starter’s job.

San Diego Padres: 2B Jedd Gyorko looks like a classic ROY candidate as an established hitter with a starting job from opening day, albeit at a position that he isn’t especially experienced at yet defensively. With the fences moved in at Petco Park, a .280-15-80 season will get Gyorko plenty of votes.

San Francisco Giants: No reason to disrespect the two-time World Champions, but the farm system is a bit dry in upper level prospects right now.

Washington Nationals: As long as 3B Jordan Zimmerman remains healthy and 3B Anthony Rendon stays in the minor leagues, the Nationals are going to make a run at the NL East title without much rookie assistance.

American League

Baltimore Orioles:
Top RHP prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman would be on any ROY candidate list if they were in the Major Leagues. However, they aren’t.

Boston Red Sox: OF Jackie Bradley is a very intriguing prospect with a bright future, as is RHP Allen Webster. Whether the Red Sox will open Bradley in the big leagues is a matter of daily speculation.

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox have a history of moving players quickly up the ladder, but it is very difficult to envision a scenario where one of their players will get ROY votes this year.

Cleveland Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer would seem to have been the obvious candidate for the pitching strapped Indians but getting beaten out by Scott Kazmir is not a big resume builder. Still, expect him in the starting rotation at some point in the year.

Detroit Tigers: Three closers have won ROY titles in the last four years: Craig Kimbrell, Neftali Perez and Andrew Bailey. You can debate the relative value of saves all you want, but the writers who vote for the award value them. If RHP Bruce Rondon harnesses his overpowering fastball and wins the job outright, he could wrack up 35-40 saves, which is often a winning ticket.

Houston Astros: You’d think the Astros would be ripe grounds for a ROY candidate, but that will have to wait until next year. There’s no need to rush players like OF George Springer or 1B Jonathan Singleton now, even if Singleton hadn’t been suspended for the first 50 games of the season.

Kansas City Royals: The off-season trade of OF Wil Myers shot any chance a Royal had of winning the AL ROY. The team’s master plan probably had 2010 first round pick 2B Christian Colon playing second base as a rookie in 2013 instead of a platoon of Chris Getz and Miguel Tejada, but that hasn’t worked out.

Los Angeles Angels Angels: No obvious or even imaginable candidates at this point.

Minnesota Twins: CF Aaron Hicks will be a strong candidate if given the job straight out of AA, as still seems likely. RHP Kyle Gibson should get a place in the starting rotation early in the season and is positioned to perform immediately.

New York Yankees: Unless the Yankees decide to play OF Melky Mesa instead of the newly acquired Vernon Wells, there won’t be too many rookie at-bats or innings for either New York team this year.

Oakland Athletics: You can debate whether veteran Japanese players should be eligible for the award, but 30-year old SS Hiroyuki Najajima should get plenty of at-bats and has shown enough offensive ability in his JPL career to be a legitimate candidate. RHP Dan Straily will also be in the starting rotation.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners “Big Three” prospect set of C Mike Zunino, LHP Danny Hultzen and RHP Taijuan Walker are all likely a year away from meaningful big league time, unless Hultzen can regain the command that eluded him after his promotion to AAA in 2012. Hard throwing reliever RHP Carter Capps and spring training standout RHP Brandon Mauer are the most likely among the Mariners rookies to contribute in 2013.

Tampa Bay Rays: OF Wil Myers and RHP Chris Archer would be integral parts of most Major League teams to open the season, but the Rays aren’t a normal Major League team, so both will start the year in AAA. Myers should still be considered a strong ROY candidate, though, as the Rays offense may not be able to wait too long for his power bat.

Texas Rangers: Surprisingly for a team with title aspirations, the Rangers have a couple of serious ROY candidates. Even more surprising is their names are not SS Jurickson Profar and 3B Mike Olt, who will start the year in AAA with no obvious path to the big leagues with 3B Adrian Beltre and SS Elvin Andrus entrenched at their positions. Rather, CF Leonys Martin and surprise No. 5 starter RHP Nick Tepesch will be the Rangers primary rookies to start the season.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are in the same boat as the Angels, in that there is no obvious rookie that will even get at-bats or innings at this point.

National League Pre-Season ROY Favorites

1.  Jedd Gyorko
2.  Julio Teheren
3.  Shelby Miller

American League Pre-Season ROY Favorites

1.  Bruce Rondon
2.  Wil Myers
3.  Jackie Bradley

Thanks to Jason Martinez at mlbdepthcharts.com for how much easier his outstanding website makes writing this type of article.

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