It’s that time again, time for awards! I’m going to make it nice and simple and list the top 5 rookies from each league (which makes it tougher for me but easier for you, the reader). Over the past few years the NL ROY has been won by such great players as Albert Pujols (01), Dontrelle Willis (03), Jason Bay (04), and everyone’s favorite Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (05). The AL ROY has not had the same company, with Ichiro (01, good pick), Eric Hinske (02), Angel Berroa (03), Bobby Crosby (04) and Huston Street (05). A player winning the ROY award doesn’t exactly project them to all-star status. For every Scott Rolen (97) or Carlos Beltran (99), there’s Ben Grieve (98). So it’s not like we’re handing out the hall of fame plaques just yet.
Still, it’s a good indicator that this guy may actually be something. And let’s list the guys that did the best so far in their young careers. And for all the Phillies fans, I’m going to say right off the bat that King Cole Hamels ain’t there, I just liked the picture:
There was some weak rookie hitting in the AL this year, but the pitching was there.
5. Jered Weaver (SP, Anaheim Angels)
- 11-2, 123 IP, 2.56 ERA 1.03 WHIP .209 OBA
- 94 hits, 15 homers, 33 walks, 105 Ks 46.1 VORP
With only six starts before the all-star break, Weaver had a tough road to getting the ROY award. He didn’t, but it’s not his fault. He was lights-out as a pitcher when the Angels brought him up, so much so that his own brother was cut loose by the Angels to make room. With 50 more innings, he might have netted this. And he did all this against some pretty tough offenses. The only problem I see is that he allows a lot of fly balls…which could signify he was getting a bit lucky this season with the ERA and the WHIP. There’s a reason that he’s below Francisco Liriano on this list.
4. Kenji Johjima (C, Seattle Mariners)
- 506 AB, 291 avg/332 OBP/451 SLG = 783 OPS 23.1 VORP
- 25 doubles, 18 homers, 20 walks, 76 RBI, 61 runs, 3 SB
His numbers aren’t that impressive on their face, but the guy is a catcher making a complete adjustment to a new country. He fairs well with other catchers, and his Japanese numbers show he has more patience and power to come. His home/away splits are fairly extreme too, meaning that Safeco stole a lot of power from him. He may be 30, but he’s the 4th best rookie in the AL this year.
3. Francisco Liriano (SP, Minneosta Twins)
- 12-3 121 IP, 2.16 ERA 1.00 WHIP .205 OBA
- 89 hits, 9 homers, 32 walks, 144 Ks, 50.5 VORP
For a two month stretch there, he was the best pitcher in baseball. The guy induced ground balls, prevented home runs, and whiffed anyone and everyone. And then he got hurt, and then he was shut down. As with Jered Weaver, it’s not his fault that he wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the season, and it’s not his fault he didn’t pitch more than 120 innings, but it does prevent him from consideration for either the ROY or the CY Young awards. Still, let’s hope this guy heals properly so we can marvel at the 1-2 punch of Liriano and Johan Santana (a beast in his own right).
2. Jonathan Papelbon (RP, Boston Red Sox)
- 4-2 35 saves, 68.1 IP, 0.92 ERA 0.75 WHIP .167 OBA
- 40 hits, 3 homers, 13 walks, 75 Ks, 38.2 VORP
He was outstanding, simple as that. He was essentially unhittable until August, when he became merely great. Then he got hurt, and didn’t pitch much in September. Still, Papelbon had a great rookie season, and there’s no reason to think he won’t succeed next season as a starter. I can’t help but think that maybe the Red Sox would’ve hung around longer if they had Papelbon as a starter, though. Getting only 68 innings out of this masterpiece of a season seems like a bad allocation of resources.
1. Justin Verlander (SP, Detroit Tigers)
- 16-9 186 IP 3.63 ERA 1.33 WHIP, .266 OBA
- 187 hits, 21 homers, 60 walks, 124 Ks, 46.2 VORP
I don’t see this as picking Verlander #1, I see this as him lucking out in that both Liriano and Weaver didn’t have enough innings, and Papelbon was a reliever the whole year. I don’t think the guy’s great, even though everyone loves the heat he brings on his fastball. Still, he did a very good job, and I’d expect him to start to learn how to strike guys out and rely less on his defense. As his pedestrian WHIP and opponent’s batting average suggest, there’s still room for improvement here.
And now, the National League. Although it was a worse league overall, it had some fine rookies. There were several guys that would’ve made the cut on the AL side that won’t here. Scott Olsen had a great year for a rookie pitcher, posting a 4.04 ERA and striking out 166 guys in 180.2 innings. Matt Cain also had some good stats, but he pitched a lot at home, gave up some homers, and his ERA was simply a bit too high. Thus, he doesn’t crack the top 5. 2B Josh Barfield really came on in the 2nd half of the season at the plate, and Prince Fielder had a good season at first base. Andre Ethier wishes he was brought up the Dodgers earlier, as does King Cole Hamels. As a Phillies fan I wanted to put him in there, but he simply didn’t get enough innings (132 IP). Still, expect both his ERA and WHIP to be much lower next season as he was GREAT in the 2nd half. Anyway, here we go:
5. Josh Johnson (SP, Florida Marlins)
- 12-7 157 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .236 OBA
- 136 hits, 14 homers, 68 walks, 133 Ks, 40.5 VORP
Yeah, so I don’t really trust the ERA that much, and his WHIP was average, but he produced the most of the NL rookie pitchers this year. He also didn’t have huge home/away skews like Matt Cain.
4. Dan Uggla (2B, Florida Marlins)
- 611 AB, 282 avg/339 OBP/480 SLG = 818 OPS 40 VORP
- 26 doubles, 27 homers, 7 triples, 48 walks, 90 RBI, 105 runs, 6-12 SB
He had a great season at second. While his glove was often times left at home, he swung the bat well. Although he labored in the 2nd half, his overall line remained very good. The problem I see is he’s kind of a hacker, but that can be reigned back a bit without losing proper aggressiveness. He’s no Chase Utley, but he’s close, he’s young and he’s here to stay. As a Phils fan it pains me to list all these Marlins, but there are two more to come.
3. Ryan Zimmerman (3B, Washington Nationals)
- 614 AB, 287 avg/351 OBP/471 SLG = 822 OPS 28.3 VORP
- 47 doubles, 20 homers, 3 triples, 61 walks, 110 RBI, 84 runs, 11-19 SB
Being the youngest on this list, Zimmerman still had a great first season at third base, playing both sides well. He hit at home and struggled on the road, but he was fairly consistent throughout the season. This is why I give him the edge over Uggla, who faded a bit after the all-star break. Look for him to continue to improve and add some dingers to his total, and perhaps reach 30 next season. Also expect to see more patience.
2. Josh Willingham (LF, Florida Marlins)
- 502 AB, 277 avg/356 OBP/496 SLG = 852 OPS 28.5 VORP
- 28 doubles, 26 homers, 2 triples, 54 walks, 74 RBI, 62 runs, 2 SB
His counting numbers aren’t as good as some, but his rate stats are nice. He also improved throughout the season, and flashed some serious power down the stretch. Although his VORP is low compared to his teammate Uggla, his still had a better output in regards to getting on base and hitting for power. They weren’t close enough to merit putting Uggla over him because of defense (not that Uggla is that tidy with the glove, either).
1. Hanley Ramirez (SS, Florida Marlins)
- 633 AB, 292 avg/353 OBP/480 SLG = 833 OPS 55.9 VORP
- 46 doubles, 17 homers, 11 triples, 56 walks, 59 RBI, 119 runs, 51-66 SB
OK, so after talking all about how I won’t overvalue VORP (value over replacement player), I’m going to overvalue it here. He is heads above everyone else on this list in VORP, and is equal to only Josh Willingham in EQA (total offensive value per out, adjusted for everything). However, he was at hte plate a lot more than Willingham was, and thus had more of an impact for the Marlins. As you can tell, I value players actually playing a lot, thus why I didn’t give the awards to guys like Liriano, Papelbon, Hamels, etc. They all had great first seasons…but were not used enough to merit getting the award. They simply didn’t have enough of a balance between quantity and quality. Ramirez did, though, and set the table pretty well for the Marlins throughout the season. He also showed some good power, and I see no reason why that will stop. It wasn’t a fluke, and neither was his season.