Top MLB Rookie Seasons of 2012

Jereme HubbardContributor IIOctober 15, 2012

Top MLB Rookie Seasons of 2012

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    The 2012 MLB season is coming to a close, and the end of the season brings the yearly awards being handed out.  Historically, being named as Rookie of the Year is a foreshadowing of success in the big leagues.  Recent winners include Justin Verlander (2006), Dustin Pedroia (2007) and Buster Posey (2010).

    The 2011 Rookie of the Year winners saw varying levels of success in 2012, as Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson finished with a 10-11 record, but a very solid 3.10 ERA in 31 starts.  Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel was amazing in 2012, converting 42 of 45 save chances with a 1.01 ERA.

    2012 saw numerous rookies have breakout performances, one even MVP-worthy.  Here are the top 10 rookie seasons of 2012.

Criteria

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    In compiling a list of the top rookie seasons of 2012, there were certain qualifications that were looked for in a rookie season.

    For position players, a minimum of 82 games played was required, which constitutes over half of the regular season.

    Starting pitchers must have started at least 15 games for their teams, while relievers had to appear in at least 20 games.

    Several factors went into ranking the top performances, mainly the overall statistical value of the season.  Quite simply, players who put up bigger numbers were rewarded for their performances.  However, the value of an individual to their team was also considered as a factor.

    And finally, there had to be a balance between quality of work and quantity of work.  A player who participated in only 90 games but hit .310 had a great season at the plate, but is that performance better than a player who played in 140 games but hit only .295?

Honorable Mention

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    While there were many impressive performances by rookies during the 2012 MLB season, only the top 10 could make the list.  But there were several rookies who garnered serious consideration to be included in the top 10.

     

    Wei-Yin Chen, SP,  Baltimore

    Chen's numbers may not jump off the page at first glance, but considering the success the Orioles had during the season and Chen's contributions, his rookie campaign was most definitely a successful one.  Chen won 12 games for Baltimore and had 154 strikeouts in 192.2 innings pitched.  Chen's 4.02 ERA was just above the 4.01 MLB average.

     

    Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati

    With multiple injuries plaguing the Reds in 2012, Frazier was counted on to play multiple positions during his rookie year.  Frazier saw time at both corner infield positions and both corner outfield positions.  Frazier added solid power numbers for a rookie, launching 19 home runs to go along with 26 doubles.  The .273 average Frazier posted was well above the MLB average of .254.

     

    Jordan Pacheco, 3B, Colorado

    Pacheco is the one name not in the top 10 that is going to be the most scrutinized. Pacheco hit .309 in 132 games played in 2012, but only accounted for five home runs in what is most certainly the best hitter's park in the league.  His flexibility on defense makes him extremely valuable to the Rockies, as he saw time at three positions (C, 1B, 3B).

10. Scott Diamond

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    Scott Diamond, SP, Minnesota Twins

    12-9, 3.54 ERA, 90:31 (K:BB), 173.0 IP, 1 Complete Game Shutout in 27 Starts

     

    Fans in Minnesota did not have much to cheer for in 2012.  The team had a terrible record (66-96), its pitching staff had the third-highest ERA in the league (4.77) and its offense was anemic, with the fourth-fewest home runs (131).

    But it did have one bright spot in their pitching rotation with rookie Scott Diamond. Diamond had an outstanding two month stretch in May and June, his first two months in the rotation, going 7-3, including a 2.27 ERA in May.

    The high point in the season for Diamond was a complete game shutout of the Cleveland Indians at home on July 27.  Diamond struck out six in the contest while walking none.

9. Jarrod Parker

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    Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland Athletics

    13-8, 3.47 ERA, 140:63 (K:BB), 181.1 IP in 29 Starts

     

    There is no doubt that the Oakland Athletics were the surprise team of baseball in 2012.  And the most surprising thing about Oakland's run to the AL West title were the contributions of 19 rookies who were on the roster at the end of the regular season.

    The rookie who contributed perhaps more than any other down the stretch for Oakland was Jarrod Parker.  Parker went 4-1 in September and October during his six starts, striking out 33 hitters while only having six walks.

    Parker also had a hot June and July, going 6-2 over that two-month span as well.

8. Norachika Aoki

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    Norachika Aoki, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

    .288, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB, 4 3B in 151 Games

     

    Aoki was one of the more pleasant surprises in 2012.  Aoki was able to swipe 30 bases over the course of the season and adding 10 home runs had to be a pleasant surprise to Brewers fans who did not expect much in the way of power from Aoki, who was a member of the All-Tournament Team during the 2009 World Baseball Classic for Japan.

    The best stretch of his season came at the end, which helped Milwaukee pull close to the second Wild Card position during the last few weeks of the season.  Aoki hit .306 in September and October, with four home runs and adding nine stolen bases.

7. Ryan Cook

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    Ryan Cook, RP, Oakland Athletics

    6-2, 14 Saves, 2.09 ERA, 80:27 (K:BB), 73.1 IP in 71 Games

     

    The second Oakland Athletics rookie to make this list is also the first player on this list who was a member of the 2012 All-Star team.  Cook was named as Oakland's representative at the game in Kansas City by AL West rival manager Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers.

    Cook was a key cog in an Oakland bullpen that was the key component in their AL West title in 2012.  Cook was hot down the stretch, appearing in 16 games in September and October, giving up only two unearned runs and adding 18 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched.

6. Wilin Rosario

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    Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies

    .270, 28 HR, 71 RBI, 19 2B in 117 Games

     

    Rosario, one could argue, benefited from playing his home games in Coors Field.  While he did hit 28 home runs, only 10 of those came on the road, where he also had a .242 average, well below his .297 average in Denver.

    But you can't fault him for where he plays his games, and his overall numbers are pretty impressive.  His home run total is second among all rookies, and he ranks third in the RBI category.  He also added 67 runs scored in 2012, which is sixth among rookies.

    He hit .304 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in August, which was his best month during the season.

5. Yoenis Cespedes

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    Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics

    .292, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 25 2B in 129 Games

     

    Cespedes was a MLB rookie in 2012, but the Cuban defector is far from a wide-eyed newcomer to the professional game.  Cespedes was sought after by several teams offseason, and it was a shock to the baseball world when he signed with Oakland.  But after their run to the playoffs, it appears the Athletics have landed one of the cornerstones of their franchise for the near future.

    Missing time early in the season hampered the numbers Cespedes could have finished with, but his 23 home runs were the third most by a rookie, and his 82 RBI were good for second, just one shy of the lead.

    Cespedes had his best month in September, belting seven home runs and helping Oakland catch the Texas Rangers in the AL West.

4. Bryce Harper

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    Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

    .270, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 18 SB, 98 R, 9 3B in 139 Games

     

    Washington Nationals fans across the country might argue with anyone that Bryce Harper had the most valuable rookie performance in 2012.  While his stat line is solid, Harper created a buzz and generated enthusiasm on the field that was matched only by his teammate, Stephen Strasburg, a year ago.

    The Nationals had been waiting on the arrival of their young superstar, and he made it worth their wait in 2012 as a key cog in a lineup that finished with the best record in baseball.

    Harper was an All-Star in 2012, but his 13-home run, 30-RBI performance in August and September helped the Nationals withstand a furious rally by Atlanta and hold on to the division lead.

    You can expect for his .270 average and his 18 stolen bases to improve in the next couple of seasons as well.

3. Wade Miley

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    Wade Miley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    16-11, 3.33 ERA, 144:37 (K:BB), 194.2 IP in 29 Starts

     

    While Bryce Harper may in fact win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, there will be some discussion as to whether or not the award should go to Wade Miley.  Miley, who was also an All-Star in 2012, won 16 games on an Arizona team that finished with a .500 record.

    The 3.33 ERA Miley posted was well below the league average, and he only gave up 37 walks on the year compared to 144 strikeouts.

    Miley was hot to start the year, finishing April with a 3-0 record and an ERA of 1.29.

     


2. Yu Darvish

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    Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers

    16-9, 3.90 ERA, 221:89 (K:BB), 191.1 IP in 29 Starts

     

    The Texas Rangers could not have asked for more than they got from Yu Darvish in 2012. Darvish, who was the team's biggest acquisition after its second World Series loss in 2011, was phenomenal.  Darvish struck out 221 hitters on the year and won 16 games.  Darvish was elected to the All-Star team in 2012 as the Final Vote winner in the American League.

    Run support down the stretch cost Darvish perhaps more wins and a chance to win the Cy Young Award.  He was 3-0 in September, with a dominant 2.21 ERA and had an eight-inning, one-run performance during the month where he received a no decision against the Rays. Darvish had an even better April, going 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts.

1. Mike Trout

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    Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

    .326, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, 129 R, 8 3B in 139 Games

     

    Was there any ever doubt in your mind that Trout would top this list? If it were not for the Triple Crown season of Miguel Cabrera, Trout may very well have won the AL MVP award. When you sit and look at the numbers Trout was able to put up as a 20-year-old rookie, you may have to even consider it as the best rookie season of all-time.

    Trout was named to the All-Star team by Texas manager Ron Washington and hit .381 with 13 home runs and 39 RBI in June and July, with 10 of those home runs coming in July alone. Trout stole an amazing 14 bases in June and was only caught stealing five times on the entire year.