With about three weeks left there are a TON of good looking rookies in the NL. For awhile I thought it was Jaime Garcia, then Buster Posey took a slight lead, then Gaby Sanchez, and now Jason Heyward is remaking his case for the ROY award with a hot streak. What I’ve found most interesting about the NL ROY race is that guys like Mike Stanton have 20 homers, Tyler Colvin has 19 homers, Ike Davis has 18 homers, Neil Walker has a .306 average, John Axeford has 21 saves, Stephen Strasberg was insanely good for a bit, and none of these guys are going to be considered for the award. It’s has been an insane year for the youth in the NL, and will probably be just like the NL West race coming down to who has the best final weeks of the season. I’m going to take a look at the top five candidates, and try to figure out which one is the best choice. I’m already leaning towards Heyward during his resurgence, and being in the big leagues all year helps his case. Gaby Sanchez is so underrated that I feel like I should almost just pick him for shock value, but I just can’t do it. Here’s my thoughts on the top five candidates in no particular order. I heavily weighted one thing in my list, and that was the word YEAR, as in playing a complete season.
Let’s start with my least likely to win candidate, Starlin Castro. The Cubs haven’t been anything worth watching this season, but they do have a great shortstop of the future in Castro. He was called up on May 7th, and hasn’t looked back hitting in his first game as a Cub, and he continued to hit throughout his first big league stint. He’s fourth in the entire NL (not only rookies) in batting, with a .312 average. He’s also had the most hits and doubles for any player in all of baseball since he was called up. If the Cubs were relevant, we’d be hearing a lot more about this kid.
From the least likely candidate to win to my current favorite for the award, Jason Heyward. He was a starter opening day with more hype than anyone I’ve seen since A-Rod made his debut. I guess you could throw Strasburg in that conversation on the hype machine, but Heyward was hyped much more over the preseason, because everyone knew he’d be on the opening day roster. After a quick start, and being named rookie of the month for April and May, he struggled and came back to earth slightly. Since August 21st though, he’s been tearing the cover off the ball to the tune of .437 BA. He’s also raised his batting average with runners in scoring position to .324 on the season. Showing that he can hit when it matters is a stat I lean on for these kinds of picks. It’s not an easy choice, but I’m taking Heyward at this point because he’s been getting it done for longer. He’s also a great defender with a good arm, so you can’t knock him on the defensive side, he’s a true five tool player.
Buster Posey is waay better than I thought he’d be. I might just be a semi-Giants hater (maybe because I’m jealous of their prospects), but that’s what happens when you root for the other side of the bay growing up. I’m still having trouble figuring out what kept this kid from being in the big leagues opening day, but maybe he needed to work on his catching defense/game calling abilities. The biggest knock on Posey isn’t his production, but how long he’s been in the majors. He has the highest batting average of these offensive rookies at (.321). He’s slugging a ridiculous (.504), and has the longest hitting streak in the entire NL at 21 games. He plays the toughest position on the field, and has lifted a lineup that was offensively challenged. He made the whole team more confident. I’m sure I’d be handing him the award if the Giants had called him up in April instead of late May.
Gaby Sanchez is easily the most overlooked player in this race. He has been tearing it up all year, and unless your into fantasy sports you might not even have heard about him that much. Just like Heyward, he’s been in the bigs since opening day. All he’s done is lead all rookies in hits (141), doubles (35), and RBI’s (76). Is he a great first baseman? No, not that I’ve seen. Is he coming through in the clutch, and keeping the Marlins watchable in a not so impressive season? Yes. Can he be the Marlins fourth ROY in barely over a decade of existence?!? I don’t think he will, mainly because he’s a little too far off people’s radars, but his numbers should be taken into consideration. He should be on everyone’s radar after his epic close line of Niger Morgan. I think that closeline alone made me a bigger fan of his, and bumped him over Posey in my rankings.
Jaime Garcia is the only pitcher to make my list, and is probably the hardest out of any of these candidates to compare to the others. He is an interesting wild card in this ROY race. It’s impossible to compare pitchers to hitters, which is why I think he has a great shot at stealing away votes and winning this award, because it’s much easier to justify voting for him. Your reasoning doesn’t need to be as concrete on why you picked him over the hitters because it’s subjective. He’s been in the rotation since opening day (puts him in the top three), and has dominated the NL with the sixth best ERA (2.70). Garcia hasn’t been as dominant since the All-Star break with a 3.75 ERA opposed to 1.74 ERA pre-break, so hopefully it’s just tough opponents and not a sign he’s wearing down in this stellar rookie campaign. Side thought, if you were Albert Pujols surrounded by aces on the pitching staff, would you want to resign there if you still weren’t winning? It’s just something I’ve been questioning lately on whether we’ll see Pujols in another uniform anytime soon.
As it stands right now, my NL ROY list looks like (1) Jason Heyward, (2) Gaby Sanchez, (3) Jaime Garcia, (4) Buster Posey, and (5) Starlin Castro.