As June 1st officially arrives, the 2014 baseball season is approximately 1/3 of the way over. This time of year is typically when we see many of the young superstar prospects arrive in the MLB. The business of the MLB dictates this time due to some of the financial aspects of the game. With arbitration starting after three years of service, and the “Super 2″ rule in affect, it is usually after June 1st, before a team will bring up a player they expect to contribute to the big league club. Thus, giving the club an extra year of paying a lessor contract saving the owner Millions.
So with the start of June officially upon us, I thought I would take an early look at the front runners thus far for Rookie of the Year (R.O.Y.) in American Leagues.
Offensively there are 4 players that have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the mix. The leader of this group seems to be Boston Red Sox Xander Bogaerts. His War is currently at a 1.6 thanks to a triple slash of .304/.397/.835. To go with this high average is a propensity to draw the walk early on, with an added 25 bases on balls.
The second person, and probably the most well-known of the rookies (offensively speaking) after the bidding war he had this offseason would be Cuban national, and Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu. Abreu has already launched 15 home runs and plated 42 RBIs. For a power hitter he is hitting for a pretty acceptable average, but his triple slash shows some real back end promise (.260/.312/.908). His stint on the DL may be the only reason for the drop below Bogarts for me now. Though with lots of time left in the season, his power and RBI numbers may over take Bogarts.
The other two players making runs are George Springer, and Yangervis Solatare. Springer is the highly acclaimed prospect from the Houston Astros. He got out to a less than stellar start, but has since come on strong, with a fantastic week leading up to the 1/3 mark of the season. As of today he is hitting .255, but has 10 homeruns and 29 RBIs.
Yangervis Solatre of the New York Yankees is the quiet guy of the group. Which is hard to believe a Yankee could be the least well known of the group. Solatre has had a wonderful start to his rookie campaign. In his first 174 at bats he has 52 hits for a .299 ba, with 6 homers and a WAR of 1.3 (which is second amongst A.L. Rookies).
Other notable position players on their rookie campaign include: Nick Castellanos of the Tigers, Marcus Semien of the White Sox, Jonathon Schoop of the Orioles, and Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox. All are currently on the outside looking in, but who knows what the last 2/3 of the season could hold for them or another up-in-coming prospect.
The list of Pitching rookies is a little bit shorter than that of the position players. Currently there are 3 that have distanced themselves from the rest. But one of those (even though he played 7 seasons in the Japanese Major Leagues) “Rookies” stands out a little bit further! Masahiro Tanaka is appearing to be just about everything he was promised to be. After a few months long bidding war, the Yankees finally landed the ace for 7 years at $155 million. If it is possible for that to pay of, it has. Tanaka is currently 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA and a .95 Whip. He is currently showing a 2.9 WAR, and is currently in the top 5 of ALL pitchers in Wins, ERA, Whip, WAR, Strikeouts, and Quality Starts. This may be a runaway at the position, but there are two more guys making some waves….at a much younger age.
Yordano Ventura is probably second on the list of Rookie Pitchers. Ventura currently has a 3.45 ERA and is 2-5. Obviously Wins and Losses have some effect on voters, but here is a prime example of why wins are not a great stat. He currently has 6 quality starts, and 9.32 k’s/9. Ventura is also #1 in the MLB for average fastball velocity at 96.0 MPH. Pair that with a devastating curveball and you have a young gun honing his skills. Assuming this arm injury is as mild as the Royals are making it out to be, I would put Yordano Ventura as the one to watch of all the R.O.Y. candidates!
Roenis Elias is the last current pitching prospect for Rookie of the Year. The Seattle Mariner is probably a distant third, but a definite player of the future. Elias is currently 4-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 74 innings. Elias is also a strong strikeout pitcher with 65 under his belt already. Pair that with a 1.23 Whip, and you can see a lot of tough times ahead of A.L. West hitters.
It is interesting to note that many people are starting to call for a change to the Rookie of the Year Award. With a rise in veteran players from other countries coming to the league, more and more polished professionals are entering their first year with in the MLB and competing against 20 year olds who are seeing Major League caliber players for their first time.
This year has a very real possibility of two veteran “rookies” winning the award in Abreu and Tanaka. Both are making Multi-Millions, and playing against talent that they are not as unfamiliar with. I am not opposed to these guys being honored, but I do see the unfair playing field created by them. Also they will get far more exposure, just due to the business of baseball, so this too could tilt the scales in their favors. Of course all that means they still have to preform…and maybe at a expectation level higher than that of the younger guys (at least nationally).
It is still early, and there are some true superstars in the making waiting to play their first Major League minutes. But if you ask me who I think will win the Award I say Tanaka is probably the odds on favorite. But don’t be surprised if Yordano Ventura and his flame thrower of an arm start to turn enough heads that his age, and true “rookie” title tip the scales of the voters!
**Stay tuned for the National League R.O.Y coming soon.