NL Rookie of the Year Rankings: Will Todd Frazier Overtake Wade Miley for No. 1?
Most of our leading contenders for the National League Rookie of the Year award stayed consistent over the past week, so there's not much change among our top five.
One big name drops out of the top five this week, however. Bryce Harper looked like the favorite for the award through May and June, but he's been on a rather steady decline since July. It's gotten to the point where he can't really be considered a serious candidate anymore.
I realize many would say pushing Harper out of the top five is an overdue decision, but I still felt like he earned consideration for playing a notable role on a Washington Nationals team that looks like the best in the NL. But other rookies are simply playing better than him.
With that minor shake-up in our rankings, here are this week's five leading contenders for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Your responses and suggestions in the comments are welcome. (You can also respond to me @iancass on Twitter.) That feedback plays a role in putting together these rankings each week.
All statistics cited are current as of August 14.
What About Mike Fiers?
One player for whom several readers voiced support in our comments and on Twitter was Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers.
How could a pitcher with a 1.80 ERA be overlooked? My issue was that Fiers made only 12 starts and pitched 80 innings, far fewer than Wade Miley or the Houston Astros' Lucas Harrell.
Apparently, I was in the minority with that opinion, as I saw several writers throughout baseball mention Fiers as a Rookie of the Year contender.
But it may have become a moot point with Fiers' most recent start. Facing the Colorado Rockies, he was bombed for eight runs and nine hits in just two innings of work.
One game shouldn't knock Fiers out of consideration, but with so few starts on his resume, that one bad game stands out more than it would for someone with 20 to 24 appearances and more than 130 innings for the season. Let's see how he bounces back from this.
At this point, however, Harrell looks like a better candidate to me. Tuesday night (Aug. 14), he allowed one run and six hits in eight innings versus the Chicago Cubs. He also struck out seven batters.
5. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
Last week: Unranked.
Returning to our NL Rookie of the Year rankings this week is a player who looked like a favorite for the award earlier in the season.
In his past five games since last week's list, Yonder Alonso batted 8-for-20 (.400) for the San Diego Padres. That pushed his season triple-slash average up to .276/.345/.398.
Alonso leads NL rookies with 111 hits and 31 doubles. His 42 RBI are the third-highest total among the league's first-year players. Alonso also has 42 walks for the season—second-most for NL rookies—resulting in a .345 on-base percentage that ranks fourth.
Despite missing a game recently due to a sore hamstring, Alonso has appeared in 112 games, more than any other major league rookie. Obviously, that's provided him with more opportunities to put up numbers than his peers. But Alonso keeps cranking out hits and doubles.
4. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
Last week: No. 4.
After losing some playing time recently to veteran Ramon Hernandez, Wilin Rosario has been getting regular starts for the Colorado Rockies again.
Though Hernandez is the superior defensive player at this point, perhaps the Rockies realized that Rosario is only going to get better at blocking pitches and throwing out baserunners if he gets more repetitions behind the plate.
(That, and there's less need to showcase Hernandez for a possible trade. The New York Mets were interested in Hernandez but acquired Kelly Shoppach from the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 14.)
Rosario leads major league catchers with 14 passed balls, but he was recently passed by the Chicago White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski for the lead in wild pitches allowed. Still, 40 wild pitches are more than the Rockies would like to see at that position, especially with a young pitching staff.
With 19 home runs, Rosario leads all NL rookies in that category. His 47 RBI rank second, one behind Todd Frazier. Rosario is also one of four rookies in the league with an OPS over .800. His .827 OPS is the fourth best among his NL peers, powered by a .533 slugging percentage.
3. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
Last week: No. 3.
With the Cincinnati Reds struggling through a five-game losing streak, Zack Cozart came through with a key hit that helped his team get back on the winning track.
On Aug. 10, the Chicago Cubs cut the Reds' lead to 9-8 in the eighth inning. With Aroldis Chapman closing, that was probably enough of a margin to win. But Cozart provided some welcome insurance with an RBI double that increased the Reds' lead to 10-8 and an eventual victory.
That was one of three doubles Cozart hit in his past six games, along with a home run and two RBI. Cozart batted 6-for-27 (.222) during that span.
His .245/.292/.403 slash average doesn't look terribly impressive compared to his fellow NL rookies, but Cozart's 109 hits are the second-highest total among the league's first-year players. Batting leadoff for the Reds has allowed him 478 plate appearances, however, and that's more opportunities than any of his peers have received.
Cozart has slipped a bit in defensive rankings, falling to sixth among NL shortstops in Fangraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating. But he's played 915 innings at the position—more than four of the players ranked ahead of him.
2. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Last week: No. 2.
With the news that Joey Votto will miss an additional seven to 10 days after re-injuring his left knee and undergoing another arthroscopic procedure to remove loose cartilage, the Cincinnati Reds will continue to rely on Todd Frazier as a capable replacement at first base.
Actually, Frazier has been more than capable at the position. In 19 games playing first base, Frazier has batted .301/.333/.479 with four doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI in 79 plate appearances.
In seven games since last week's rankings, Frazier batted 10-for-25 (.400) with two doubles, a home run and six RBI. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Reds broke their five-game losing streak and starting winning again once Frazier snapped out of a 1-for-13 slide.
Frazier leads NL rookies with 48 RBI, and his 14 homers rank second. Only the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter has a higher OPS among the league's first-year players than Frazier's .862.
Even when Votto returns, Frazier might be needed again over at third base, as Scott Rolen has been struggling with back spasms. As the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay reports, the Reds might have to put Rolen on the DL so they can add an extra player to the active roster if Rolen continues to be unavailable.
Fortunately for the Reds, they wouldn't miss a beat with Frazier replacing Rolen. He's done a great job of it all season long.
1. Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Last week: No. 1.
Wade Miley's status as front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year took a bit of a hit in his most recent start.
Facing the Washington Nationals, Miley was pounded for six runs (four earned) and nine hits in less than five innings. It was one of his worst outings of the season.
More troubling, as pointed out by Fox Sports Arizona's Jack Magruder, was that Miley couldn't hold a fourth-inning 4-1 lead. But to be fair, errors by Chris Johnson and Miguel Montero contributed significantly to Miley's five-run meltdown.
As a result, Miley's ERA went from 2.85 to 3.02, dropping him to 11th in the NL. But his 1.12 WHIP is still tied for the league's seventh-best mark.
Miley still leads the Diamondbacks' starting rotation with 13 wins and that 3.02 ERA. He's also third on the staff with 99 strikeouts. With Arizona still in the NL West race, 5.5 games behind the Giants and Dodgers, he'll need to maintain a consistent performance for the D-Backs to stay competitive.
As we mentioned last week, there shouldn't be any worries about an innings limit for Miley, despite his rookie status. Last year, he pitched 160 innings between the minors and majors. Going up to 200, if needed, shouldn't be an issue.
Follow @iancass on Twitter