Less than four weeks remain in the 2016 Major League Baseball season, so the majority of the season played. There’s still more to go though, and this represents a fun point to discuss how the individual awards races might shape up. Let’s do that with the AL Rookie of the Year race.
Before we dive in, let’s point out that these aren’t our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. It’s a snapshot of where things stand, and we’re making subjective judgments on how the vote could turn out based on recent historical voting tendencies.
Unlike the other races, Rookie of the Year voting is generally not impacted by team quality. Players don’t get extra credit if their teams make the postseason. The Rookie of the Year debate still appears to be all about Michael Fulmer , but Gary Sanchez has spiced up the downballot conversation. Here’s our current snapshot look at the AL race.
The obvious and deserving choice. Michael Fulmer has spent the majority of the season in the majors, and has performed well throughout. Remember that white-hot stretch where he allowed three runs in eight tries? He hasn’t been quite as good lately, but six quality starts in nine post-break attempts is nifty.
In addition to winning the Rookie of the Year award, expect Fulmer to earn Cy Young award consideration. He’ll be hurt by the lack of a full-season workload — that’s just how it goes — but he’s a big reason why the Detroit Tigers are pawing at a playoff spot. Oh, and in case you were wondering — batters have missed on more than a third of the swings they’ve taken against Fulmer’s slider and changeup.
Tyler Naquin has two things working in his favor: his bat and his circumstances. His 14 home runs ranks third among AL rookies, and his .562 slugging percentage ranks second — behind Gary Sanchez, who has less than half as many plate appearances. Don’t discount the importance of Naquin being known Michael Brantley ‘s replacement, either. Narrative is a powerful tool during awards season, folks.
The things working against Naquin? His glove — or the attempts at quantifying his glove, anyway. As you can see from the WAR total listed above, he’s graded as one of the worst fielders in baseball. Defensive metrics are like suntan lotion — you have to be careful with the application, or otherwise you’ll create an unforgivable mess. In Naquin’s case, he’d rather voters risk the burn.
Tim Anderson gets the nod here for two big reasons: he’s put up comparable (or superior) offensive numbers to the likes of Max Kepler , Nomar Mazara , and Cheslor Cuthbert — and he’s done it while playing shortstop rather than a corner position. Anderson’s plate discipline still leaves much to be desired — he’s walked eight times … and he’s struck out 88 times — but the bat-to-ball skills and athleticism make him an exciting player to watch. We’ll keep watching to see if he can make the necessary adjustments to develop into a superstar.
Who knows quite where Gary Sanchez is going to end up in this race. His performance is hard to ignore — yup, that’s 11 home runs and a slugging percentage north of .700 over 30 games — but the sample size is small — to the degree that he’s going to be a polarizing candidate. Over the last five years, the lowest at-bat total to earn a ROY vote belonged to Stephen Piscotty — and he finished down the ballot with 233; Sanchez currently has 115. Sanchez’s extremity in performance demands attention, he just probably won’t finish with enough playing time to climb much higher.
Yup. Dylan Bundy is still rookie eligible despite debuting nearly four years ago. You might recall that Bundy went on a ridiculous run right after joining the Baltimore Orioles rotation — if not, he had a four-start stretch where he fanned 29, walked three, and posted a 1.90 ERA. He’s cooled a bit since, though he ought to receive consideration anyway — just probably not as much as he would if he’d been unleashed from day one. Ah, well; c’est la vie.
Honorable mention: Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins ; Edwin Diaz , Seattle Mariners ; Cheslor Cuthbert, Kansas City Royals ; Hyun Soo Kim , Orioles; Chris Devenski , Houston Astros ; Tony Barnette , Texas Rangers ; Alex Bregman , Astros; Nomar Mazara, Rangers.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / AL Rookie of the Year Power Rankings: Michael Fulmer’s to lose