NL Rookie of the Year Rankings: Wade Miley and Todd Frazier Angle for an Edge
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The race for the NL Rookie of the Year award is going to be a fun one to follow for the final five weeks of the regular season.
Essentially, it's become a two-man competition between Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley and Cincinnati Reds infielder Todd Frazier. Many view Miley as the favorite the rest of the way, but if Frazier stays in the lineup regularly, his numbers might be too good to be denied.
This is a classic debate: Is a starting pitcher or everyday player more important to his team? The Rookie of the Year award isn't a Most Valuable Player award, of course. But that's what this race could come down to. Is Miley more valuable to his team, or is Frazier?
There wasn't much change between last week's rankings and the set we put together this week. San Diego Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso continues to hover around the top five. He had a strong week, batting 6-for-12 (.500) with a home run and four RBI. But he played in only three games. If he keeps that up, however, he could crack the top five again.
Here are this week's top five contenders for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Chime in with your responses and suggestions in the comments. (You can also reply to me on Twitter. My address is at the end of this article.) That feedback is definitely considered when doing these rankings each week.
All statistics cited here are current as of August 28.
5. Lucas Harrell, Houston Astros
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Last week: No. 5.
As mentioned in the introduction, I deliberated whether or not to put Yonder Alonso here. But he's been a pretty streaky player this season, which has been reflected by his frequent entries and exits from these rankings.
Lucas Harrell convinced me he should be listed among the NL's top five rookies for at least one more week with his effort against the New York Mets this past Sunday (Aug. 26).
The Houston Astros right-hander pitched seven innings, allowing one run and two hits. He also struck out seven batters and walked two. The only run he gave up came on a fourth-inning home run by Ike Davis. That was arguably the one bad pitch Harrell made in his seven innings, getting too much of the plate on a pitch down and in on Davis.
It was a nice rebound start for Harrell after getting knocked around for six runs and eight hits in his previous start. Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco thinks the difference might have been having veteran Chris Snyder behind the plate, as he's caught most of Harrell's starts this season.
With 158.1 innings on the season, Harrell is close to the career-high 161.2 innings he threw in 2010 between the minors and majors. The Astros will surely monitor his workload closely through September, though general manager Jeff Luhnow says no innings limit has been set for Harrell, according to the Houston Chronicle's Zachary Levine.
4. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies
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Last week: No. 4.
Wilin Rosario hasn't been able to move up in our NL Rookie of the Year rankings, but he keeps hitting home runs to make a case for himself.
Since last week's rankings, the Colorado Rockies catcher hit 4-for-19 (.211) in five games. But two of those hits left the yard and helped him drive in four runs.
Those two homers padded Rosario's home run lead among NL rookies. He now has 21, three more than Todd Frazier. Only Mike Trout has more homers this season with 24. Rosario's 53 RBI are the NL's second-highest rookie total. His .812 OPS places him third.
With those numbers, Rosario continues to be one of the few bright spots in what's been a dismal season in Colorado.
Rosario continues to keep his wild pitches and passed-balls allowed down, which has to be encouraging for the Rockies. He's already done a fine job throwing out runners on the basepaths this season, gunning down 64 percent (27-of-42) of attempted base stealers.
3. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
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Last week: No. 3.
Zack Cozart's 11-game hitting streak came to an end on Saturday (Aug. 25) with an 0-for-4 performance versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
After batting 1-for-14 in the weekend series, including going hitless in his last nine at-bats, Reds manager Dusty Baker gave his rookie shortstop the night off on Monday (Aug. 27). All indications are that he'll be back in the lineup for Cincinnati's next game, however.
With the 0-for-9 skid, Cozart's OPS dropped back below .700 for the first time since Aug. 14. He's hovered around the .700 mark for most of August, dipping below it and then getting above it. At this point of the season, the Reds have surely accepted that Cozart is that type of hitter.
Cozart still leads NL rookies with 123 hits, but Yonder Alonso is closing in on him with 121. Alonso has reached his total in 59 fewer at-bats as well. A continued slump would conceivably drop Cozart down a spot or two in our rankings, but he seems to bounce back with at least a warm streak every time it appears that he may be in a slump.
The question in September might become whether or not the Reds decide to call up speedster Billy Hamilton with his staggering 154 stolen bases and give him some time at shortstop.
Baker typically doesn't mess around with what's working, but he has to be intrigued by the idea of putting Hamilton's speed in the lineup to see what happens. He's admitted as much in talking to reporters, though Hamilton's future is likely in center field. The Reds already have a shortstop.
2. Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
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Last week: No. 2.
I imagine that Wade Miley supporters are not going to be happy with this week's No. 2 rankings.
"The guy pitched eight scoreless innings in his last start," a fan might say. "He's allowed one run in his past two games. What more does he have to do to be ranked No. 1?"
That's an excellent question. In his past 14 innings, the Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander has given up just one run and 12 hits. He's struck out 10 batters while walking only one. To emphasize Miley's control even further, he's walked four total batters in his past six starts.
I totally agree that a pitcher can't do much better than that. To me, the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year is a virtual tie.
Though it may not be fair, I must point out that Miley's two most recent starts were against the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros, two of the worst offenses in the major leagues. Of course, Miley did exactly what he should have against those teams: shut them down.
But let's see how Miley performs in his next appearance, Tuesday night (Aug. 28) against the Cincinnati Reds. If he's able to shut down one of the stronger lineups in the NL, that will truly be impressive and should put Miley over the top (though I realize many of you think he should be on top already).
In the meantime, check out this excellent article by Michael Barr at Fangraphs, which details how Miley has been so successful this season.
1. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
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Last week: No. 1.
Staying on top for the second week in a row is the Cincinnati Reds infielder, who's ahead of Wade Miley by just a step.
In six games since last week's rankings, Todd Frazier batted 6-for-22 (.273) with two doubles and five RBI. With a .293 batting average, he's close to going over the .300 mark for the first time since May 13.
Frazier leads NL rookies with a .902 OPS. The only first-year player in the majors with a higher mark is Mike Trout. Frazier's 18 home runs are second to Wilin Rosario among the league's rookies, but his 60 RBI put him on top.
The guess would be that Frazier eventually takes over the rookie home run lead, but Rosario doesn't seem willing to give it up.
With Joey Votto set to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday (Aug. 28), he should return to the Cincinnati lineup within the next week. Though the Reds will probably ease Votto in for a week or two before playing him full-time again, that could cost Frazier some playing time.
Couple that with Baker's apparent preference to play Scott Rolen at third base when he's healthy, and Frazier could be relegated back to the bench role he played for much of the early season. That reserve role is what prevented Frazier from being listed in these rankings until the past month or so.
Could that be what ultimately decides the NL Rookie of the Year race between Frazier and Miley? It would be kind of a shame if that's how it played out for the rest of the season.
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