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AL Rookie of the Year Rankings: Yu Darvish Reclaims Spot in Top 5

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterMay 31, 2016

AL Rookie of the Year Rankings: Yu Darvish Reclaims Spot in Top 5

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    Yu Darvish is back.

    He may not be back for long, mind you. Just when Darvish seems to be putting himself together, he tends to fall apart again, much to the chagrin of the Texas Rangers.

    For now, they can hope. Darvish has pitched well in his last three starts, and he showed no ill effects from having to be skipped a start with a bad wheel when he took the mound on Tuesday night. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, he put together his best start in months.

    We'll see if he can keep it up, but for the time being, it's time to welcome Darvish back to the American League Rookie of the Year race. For the first time in several weeks, he has a spot in this week's rankings for the award.

    Scroll ahead to see where he ranks in the top five.

    Note: All stats are current as of the start of play on Wednesday, August 29, and they come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Honorable Mentions

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    Sean Doolittle, RP, Oakland A's

    Oakland's rookie lefty may be the best-kept secret in baseball. Doolittle's 3.38 ERA is just so-so, but he leads all American League rookie relievers in FIP by a wide margin at 0.74, according to FanGraphs. He also has a K/9 of 13.81. 


    Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox

    We probably won't be seeing Will Middlebrooks again this season, as he's out for the foreseeable future after suffering a broken wrist in Cleveland on August 10. He leaves behind a triple-slash line of .288/.325/.509 and 15 home runs.


    Tommy Milone, SP, Oakland A's

    Milone has had his ups and downs this season, but certainly more ups than downs. He's 11-9 with a 3.73 ERA and has allowed a single earned run over 14 innings in his last two starts.


    Jesus Montero, C/DH, Seattle Mariners

    Montero had his best month this season in July, hitting .300/.375/.443. He's gone back to slumping in August, as he's hitting just .229/.247/.386. His OBP is back under .300 for the season, which isn't very encouraging.

    Hey, at least he's still having a better season than Michael Pineda.


    Addison Reed, RP, Chicago White Sox

    Reed was knocked around in his last two appearances, giving up four runs (three earned) in an inning and two-thirds against the Mariners. He still leads all AL rookies in saves with 24.


    Robbie Ross, RP, Texas Rangers

    Ross has the best ERA of all qualified AL rookie pitchers at 1.81, and only three AL rookies have made more than his 51 appearances. It's not always pretty when he pitches, but he gets the job done.

On the Cusp

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    Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles

    Chen pitched well on Monday against the White Sox after getting a little extra rest. He gave up two runs (one earned) in six innings. He didn't pick up a win, but he still has a 12-7 record and a solid 3.78 ERA. According to FanGraphs, he ranks fourth among AL rookie hurlers in WAR.

    Chen was in the top five last week, and there's certainly a case for him to be in the top five again this week. I'll explain why he isn't in just a moment.


    Ryan Cook, RP, Oakland A's

    Cook is looking like his old self again. He hasn't allowed a run in any of his last six appearances, striking out 11 and walking just one in 5.2 innings of work. He's lowered his ERA to 2.45 for the season, and he's sitting on six wins, 13 holds and 12 saves.

     

    Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland A's

    Parker lost three straight decisions to open the month of August, but he's rebounded nicely in his last two starts. In 14 innings, he's given up three earned runs with nine strikeouts. He ranks second among AL rookie pitchers in WAR at 2.7.


    Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox

    Quintana has been pretty shaky in his last three starts, but he's managed to limit the damage well enough. As a starter this season, he's 5-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 16 starts. Much like Jake Peavy, he deserves more wins next to his name.

5. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

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    Last Week: Unranked (honorable mention)

    Yu Darvish started for the first time in 11 days when he took the mound against the Rays on Tuesday night. The extra rest ended up doing him some good.

    As far as game score is concerned, Darvish's start on Tuesday night was his second-best of the season after his domination of the New York Yankees way back in late April. He earned a game score of 73, and he got that by giving up just six hits and two walks in seven innings with 10 strikeouts. He notched a season-high 21 swinging strikes.

    Which isn't all that surprising, really. After all, the Rays are a team that helped Felix Hernandez reach a season-best 24 swinging strikes in his perfect game against them on August 15.

    Tuesday's start did wonders for Darvish's numbers. It ran his record to 13-9 and dropped his ERA from 4.51 to 4.31, the lowest it's been in a month. It was his second straight 10-strikeout game, giving him a total of 182 strikeouts on the season. That's good for fourth in the American League.

    So why Darvish over Chen for the No. 5 spot?

    It's partially because of the "What have you done for me lately?" question. Darvish has pitched more innings and allowed fewer runs in his last three starts than Chen has in his last three starts, and he's of course struck out more hitters.

    There's also the matter of whether Chen was really that much better than Darvish to begin with. Darvish has been on top of his fellow AL rookies in WAR most of the season, and he currently has a fairly wide lead in that department now as far as FanGraphs is concerned.

    This is thanks in no small part to the fact that Darvish's ERA is somewhat misleading. His FIP of 3.62 is significantly lower than his ERA, whereas Chen's 4.17 FIP is higher than his 3.78 ERA.

    Chen's certainly been the more consistent pitcher of the two, but the numbers point towards Darvish being the better pitcher of the two.

4. Scott Diamond, SP, Minnesota Twins

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    Last Week: No. 3

    Scott Diamond may be the most underappreciated rookie in either league, which would make sense seeing as how most people gave up on the Twins a long time ago.

    Diamond has made headlines for reasons other than his pitching in the last week, but his pitching is the reason he's on this list. Ever since the Twins called him up in early May, he's been one of the most dependable starters in all of baseball.

    Diamond got knocked around by the Seattle Mariners for five earned runs in seven innings on Tuesday night, losing for the first time since the first of the month. Even still, his ERA only rose from 3.04 to 3.21, a figure that is still good enough for seventh in the American League.

    Minnesota's sinkerballing lefty also only walked one, so his sparkling walk rate is still very much intact. His 1.38 BB/9 is second only to Bartolo Colon among qualified major league starting pitchers, and we all know that Colon wasn't exactly playing fair when he took the mound.

    Diamond can get ground balls with the best of them with his sinker, and he can certainly induce ground balls better than his fellow AL rookies. His 55.4 ground-ball percentage is tops among his comrades, according to FanGraphs.

    Diamond's WAR of 2.1 ties him for fifth among AL rookie hurlers with the next guy on this list. 

3. Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Last Week: No. 4

    Matt Moore put together yet another solid start the last time he took the mound on Friday against the Oakland A's at Tropicana Field. He had to battle a little bit, but he only allowed three earned runs in 6.1 innings of work.

    Moore didn't pick up a win, but it was his fourth straight quality start, and he managed to keep his ERA at a respectable 3.60. 

    So it goes for Moore since the All-Star break. In eight starts in the second half, he has a record of 5-1 and a 1.97 ERA. He's struck out 49 and walked 16 in 50.1 innings of work while holding opponents to a .208 batting average.

    Moore's excellent work since the All-Star break is the main reason why he ranks ahead of Diamond in this week's rankings. Beyond that, the two are having very similar seasons. According to FanGraphs, Moore and Diamond both boast a FIP of 3.90 and a WAR of 2.1.

    Moore has definitely been the better strikeout artist, as his 8.70 K/9 dwarfs Diamond's 4.78 K/9. The trade-off is that Diamond's 1.38 BB/9 is far prettier than Moore's 3.96 BB/9.

    So there's a case to be made for Diamond to be ahead of Moore based on their larger bodies of work. But neither of them is an obvious favorite, and Moore has been the better pitcher of late, so he gets the nod.

2. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland A's

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    Last Week: No. 2

    Yoenis Cespedes has hit the skids a little bit in August, as he only has a .737 OPS to go along with two homers and eight RBI this month.

    Things have been particularly difficult for him in the last 10 days. In nine games, Cespedes has hit at .206/.270/.353 with no homers and just two RBI. At .294, his batting average for the season is the lowest it's been in over a month.

    Still, Cespedes is having the best offensive season of any AL rookie not named Mike Trout. His batting average has been right around .300 for much of the season, and right now, his slugging percentage is at an even .500. His 16 home runs and 62 RBI are second only to Trout among AL rookies.

    Cespedes has a .369 weighted on-base average, according to FanGraphs, and that puts him in pretty good company amongst other AL hitters. Albert Pujols is at .370 this season. Adrian Beltre is at .371.

    There's no question that Cespedes is the best AL rookie position player beyond Trout, but he's going to have to heat up again if he wants to finish as the runner-up to Trout in this year's ROY voting. As you can tell, there are a lot of good young pitchers in the AL this year, and Cespedes' lead over them is dwindling.

    Stay tuned. 

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

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    Last Week and Every Week: No. 1

    All gather for the weekly Mike Trout worship.

    On Tuesday night, Trout hit his 25th home run in the first inning of the Angels' tilt against the Red Sox and then hit a game-tying RBI single in the ninth inning. Ho hum.

    With his 25th home run in the bag, Trout became the youngest player ever and the first rookie to record 25 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season. He's also hitting an AL-best .340, and he leads the league in other categories such as stolen bases, runs scored, slugging and OPS.

    According to FanGraphs, Trout leads all of baseball in wOBA and WAR.

    He had the AL Rookie of the Year award locked up months ago. Even if the Angels don't make the playoffs, I'd still be in favor of him winning the AL MVP award.

Last Week's Rankings

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    5. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles

    Down and out this week, but maybe not for long.

     

    4. Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

    One-up!

     

    3. Scott Diamond, SP, Minnesota Twins

    Down one, but still hanging strong.

     

    2. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland A's

    Steady as she goes.

     

    1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

    Theory: Mike Trout is the next coming of Alexander the Great, except better in every way.

     

    Feel free to check out last week's rankings.

     

    If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

    Follow zachrymer on Twitter

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