It’s been a great year for rookies in the National League.
You’ve had the amazing introductions of a number of players like Gerrit Cole, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Evan Gattis and Tony Cingrani. All have contributed greatly to their team's success and made an immediate impact on Major League Baseball. In any given year all of those guys would have been considered top contenders for Rookie of the Year honors.
Yet in 2013, odds are those guys won’t get a big share of the Rooke of the Year votes. With just a few days to go in the regular season it seems that the race has become a two-man affair.
The favorite has to be the Dodgers Yasiel Puig. Puig hasn’t done much, merely hitting .325 with 19 home runs, 63 runs, 42 RBIs, and 11 steals over 372 AB. OK, I lied. That’s impressive, very impressive. It’s been an amazing run for Puig who defected from Cuba in 2012 and had no Major League experience before this year.
He didn’t come out of nowhere. He was a superstar in Cuba, and he crushed the ball in Spring Trainings, so much so (hitting .528) that many thought he’d open the season with the Dodgers. Instead he played the first two months of the season in the minors before coming up and flashing the offense that has kept him here to stay the rest of the season.
If the numbers weren’t enough to make him a favorite, the media exposure that he’s gotten playing in the bright spotlight of Los Angeles, plus the highlight reels on ESPN and MLB Network, have essentially made him a household name among fans of the game. Basically everyone knows Puig.
The same can’t be said for Marlins starter Jose Fernandez. When you play for the worst team in the Majors -- not to mention in Florida -- you don’t get the same kind of media exposure. Yet Fernandez might well be the very best rookie in all of baseball. In fact, if it weren’t for Clayton Kershaw, Fernandez might be in line to win the Cy Young.
While his record is a mere 12-6 he’s got the second-best ERA in the NL 2.19, has struck out more than a batter per inning (he ranks 13th in strikeouts but has thrown fewer innings than everyone ranked ahead of him. He has 187 strikeouts in just 172 2/3 innings and has the highest K/IP rate among all starters), is third in WHIP at 0.98, and first in BAA at .182.
Like Puig, Fernandez also defected from Cuba, but unlike Puig, Fernandez played high school ball in the United States and was dominating. He was a first round pick of the Marlins in the 2011 draft and got almost two years of minor league experience.
Coming into the season, he was considered to be a can’t-miss prospect, rated the No. 5 overall prospect by Baseball America. He has won two Rookie of the Month honors, was selected to the All-Star team and has 6.55 WAR, ranking him as the 13th most valuable player to his team in all of the Majors.
Basically Fernandez has been a monster. Better than the much-hyped Matt Harvey in terms of numbers and production but without the same level of attention.
Of course the voters -- members of the Baseball Writers of America -- will make the final call. While Fernandez isn’t the household name, they certainly know who he is.
So what matters more? Media exposure? Numbers? Contributions to a team? And can the writers dismiss the fact that Puig plays for the division-winning Dodgers while Fernandez plays for the inept Marlins?
In my mind, both have played unbelievably well but Fernandez should get the nod. He’s put up Cy Young Award-type numbers, and as good as Puig has been, he hasn’t been Mike Trout and put up MVP-type numbers over his brief career.
Either way the future looks bright.
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