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 NL 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.
And this one is over.
Sure, there’s down-ballot interest — notably with how starting pitchers and relievers are valued here, in addition to if budding Nationals star Trea Turner can make an impact in the voting despite having not even played in a third of a full season.
At the top, though, thanks in part to two key injuries, there shouldn’t be any discussion.
Seager was going to win this away anyway with the type of season he’s having, but injuries to No. 3 and No. 4 on this list really opened the door to the blowout. There may have been some discussion. Instead, no one else is on the same stratosphere as Seager.
Thanks to hitting .318/.378/.536 with 39 doubles, three triples, 24 homers, 66 RBI, 94 runs and providing good glove work at the premium defensive position of shortstop, Seager is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Here are his respective ranks in the NL (all players, not just rookies): third in average, ninth in slugging, ninth in OPS, sixth in OPS+, third in runs, second in hits, fifth in total bases, first in doubles, sixth in extra-base hits, seventh in times on base and third in WAR (behind only Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado).
Again, this thing isn’t close.
|W-L: 14-8||ERA: 3.29||WAR: 2.7|
Normally, if there were two Rookie of the Year candidates from the same market, there might be a vote-splitting problem. I don’t think Seager’s presence prevents Maeda from finishing second, however, because I think Seager is going to get either every single first-place vote or all but one or two. There will also be zero NL West people voting for Maeda over Seager. Instead, it’s going to be most voters trying to figure out who deserves to finish second, and Seager being in first does nothing to preclude Maeda from getting the most second-place votes.
The 28-year-old right-hander is a rookie by definition, so if you don’t like the fact that he was a veteran in Japan, take it up with the MLB rule. Voters can’t just decide on their own definition.
Meada has helped the Dodgers‘ rotation through a vast number of injuries this season. They have gone 17-10 in his 27 starts. He is 14-8 with a 3.29 ERA (118 ERA+), 1.08 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 153 innings. He figures to finish with 16 or 17 wins, and that’s shiny to the old-school voting bloc.
|HR: 27||At-bats: 372||WAR: 3.0|
Story only managed 97 games before a thumb injury ended his rookie campaign far too early. He was probably going to end up with more than 40 home runs. Coors Field or not, that would have turned plenty of heads.
Instead, Story hit .272/.341/.567 with 21 doubles, four triples, 27 homers, 72 RBI and 67 runs this season. He’s a good, albeit not great, defender at short, too.
Seager’s case is far too overwhelming to think Story can even make a dent in first-place votes, but he still has a real shot at second.
|AVG: .312||WAR: 3.2||OPS+: 137|
Here’s the other injury to have a significant impact on the first-place situation. To reiterate, I think Seager would be in first no matter what, but Diaz was having a good enough year to garner some support until his fractured thumb.
Through only 96 games, Diaz is hitting .312/.376/.518 with 25 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, 57 RBI and 64 runs. Several advanced metrics don’t like Diaz at short — and certainly not nearly as much as Seager.
Diaz, however, is eyeing a return to the lineup. He can’t get to first, but if he continues to hit like before the injury, second place is the most realistic landing spot. I’ve mentioned second place on three straight players, which should tell you all you need to know about this race. It’s a bit of a sports cliche, but everyone other than Seager really is playing for second.
|IP: 132.1||ERA: 3.40||WAR: 2.5|
Another injured player. C’mon, baseball gods. This isn’t even cool.
We got an extended look at Matz last season, but the postseason doesn’t affect his rookie eligibility, so he is still a candidate this year. We saw flashes of brilliance, but overall Matz has only worked in 132 1/3 innings. Good innings, for sure, as his 3.40 ERA (118 ERA+), 1.21 WHIP and 129 strikeouts illustrate. But that innings total is low, as are the nine wins (9-8 record).
The hunch here is Matz can’t go anywhere but down. There’s an excellent reliever and a guy hitting .346/.366/.537 behind him (Turner, by the way, would still only see action in 83 games all season if he plays every single game the rest of the way, which would be good enough to garner down-ballot support but most certainly zero first-place votes).
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / NL Rookie of the Year Power Rankings: Dodgers’ Corey Seager the favorite by far