Rookie of the Year Races in Both Leagues

As Major League Baseball approaches its halfway point in just about a week, critics will begin to examine major parts of the season, breaking down their predictions for the second half of the season and beginning to look into the playoff race. What comes along with this, of course, is an in-depth examination of rookies. 2015 has seen some incredible debuts, from the much-anticipated arrival of Addison Russell and Kris Bryant in Chicago to the Norse phenom Syndergaard in New York to others across the league. Here’s who I see contending for Rookie of the Year in both the AL and NL as we begin to enter the more competitive part of the season.

American League

  • Billy Burns, CF, Oakland Athletics. Since being called up on May 2nd, Burns has started all but two games. He hits more for speed than for power, but been of immense value to the team with 15 stolen bases (83% success rate), 4 triples, and 29 runs in just 200 at-bats. He’s slashing a very solid .320/.363/.415 and has recorded a hit in 27 of his last 30 games. If he can keep up the pace that he’s on, Burns should be a heralded contender for ROY. Because he doesn’t hit for power or RBI’s he won’t be talked about, but the value – and WAR (1.3 in just 47 games played) – is there.
  • Steven Souza Jr., RF, Tampa Bay Rays. There’s a lot to disagree with about the fact that Souza will very likely be considered one of the top contenders for AL ROY throughout the season. His batting average peaked at .289 on April 19th. He will very likely approach about 200 strikeouts. His OBP for the month of June is exactly .300; however, he’s proven to be a consistent starter on a surprisingly good Tampa Bay team who can run (10 SB in 15 attempts; 39 runs), hit (14 HR’s and 31 RBI’s), and draw walks (31 so far this season, which salvages an abysmal .228 BA). It’s a little scary that his BABIP is about 20 points higher than his career average, but if he can stay a starter and function in a good lineup, he’ll contend.
  • Nate Karns, SP, Tampa Bay Rays. Karns has been consistently good this season. He’s throwing almost a strikeout an inning (77 in 85 IP), with a solid ERA (3.28) and WHIP (1.22). Additionally, his WAR is comparable to Sousa and Burns at 1.2. His position in the Rays’ rotation is not in question, and if he can keep putting up solid numbers, there’s a good chance he’s considered. While there isn’t much room for regression, there’s nothing showing Karns won’t keep producing the way he has been.
  • Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros. I’m not going to say a ton about Correa because he was called up only about two weeks ago. But, if continues playing the way he has been, Astros fans have a reason to be excited. In just 15 games, Correa has 4 homers, 12 RBI’s, 10 runs, 4 stolen bases, and 21 hits. The strikeouts (more than 1 per game) aren’t great, but everything else so far for Correa has been ridiculously good. If he can maintain the torrid pace, there’s no way he isn’t considered for ROY. Astros fans, rejoice.

Honorable Mentions: Carlos Rodon (SP, Chicago White Sox); Lance McCullers (SP, Houston Astros); Chi Chi Gonzalez (SP, Texas Rangers); Devon Travis (2B, Tampa Bay Rays); Joey Butler (DH, Tampa Bay Rays); Delino DeShields, Jr. (LF, Texas Rangers)

National League

  • Joc Pederson, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers. The NL discussion, it appears, will largely be a debate between Pederson and Kris Bryant. Both have been ridiculously good, and their numbers are very comparable. Pederson has hit 19 HR’s with 36 RBI’s and 40 runs, but is only batting .248 and is 2 for 7 in steal attempts. Outside of these numbers, though, Pederson has a lot to offer. He has an OPS of .930 with 50 walks this season. His WAR – 3.1 – is good for 11th best among all NL hitters. He has all the tools to eventually be a top ten hitter in the MLB, and he’s having a very good rookie season. And the homeruns don’t hurt either – he’s tied for fourth in the MLB.
  • Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs. After all of the hype, Bryant has surprisingly not only lived up to expectations, but very likely has surpassed them. What may separate him from Pederson, however, are his numbers across the board. He can hit for power (on pace for 23 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, and 28 doubles), average (.278 and on pace for 148 hits), and even speed (6 steals in 7 attempts to go along with 40 runs and 2 triples). His shining 2.2 WAR even further demonstrates his value, and even though it’s not as good as Pederson’s, that may change if Bryant can continue on his torrid pace. On Monday, he hit two homers off of Clayton Kershaw. The sky’s the limit.
  • Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets. This is extremely debatable, as he only has played in eight games this season and is currently 2-4 with an ERA over 4. But, the stuff is all there. In his first 24.2 innings, ‘Gaard only let up 5 earned runs and whiffed 22. He is averaging almost 10 K/9, has only one game where he walked more than 2 batters, and has almost 5 strikeouts for every walk. He’s not great right now, but all the pieces are there, and if the MLB’s most popular Norse God can get his stuff together, he’ll be dirty the rest of the season, and a definite contender for ROY.

Honorable Mentions: Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies); Anthony DeSclafani (SP, Cincinnati Reds); Yasmany Tomas (3B, Arizona Diamondbacks); Michael Blazek (RP, Milwaukee Brewers); Matt Duffy (3B, San Francisco Giants)



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