In a recent Sporting News poll, writers came up with a list of the top candidates for National League Rookie of the year. Wade Miley, the pitcher from the Arizona Diamondbacks, topped the list with 54 votes. He was followed by the Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier with 35 votes, and the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper came in third with 20 votes.
This is by no means an easy call. This is not the American League, where Mike Trout will win Rookie of the Year, and the only surprise will be if it's not unanimous. In the National League, the field is a lot more competitive.
That being said, I don't think there's any question who should be the N.L. Rookie of the Year. It should be Bryce Harper.
First of all, let me say this: we should never compare batters and pitchers when awards season comes along. There's a reason why the Cy Young operates as a separate award from everything else—simply put, pitchers and hitters are too different from each other. In addition, pitchers only play every five days. How is it that a rookie who plays a fifth of the games as another rookie can be considered better overall? The league needs to separate the Rookie of the Year award into two separate categories for best pitcher and best position player.
That being said, I still think Harper had a better overall year than Miley. It's not a homer pick either: Miley was superb, I'll admit to that, but Harper was just as good and had a larger overall impact.
Guys like Miley and Frazier were great, there's no denying it. Miley was a nice surprise, albeit on a disappointing Diamondbacks team. Frazier was incredible on defense and solid on offense, playing his best ball when franchise cornerstone Joey Votto was hurt and the Reds needed guys to step up. Both players were tremendous and very deserving.
Yes, Harper had a prolonged slump over the summer, but there were certain points of the season during which teams simply didn't give him anything to hit for fear that he would belt one into the second deck. His defense was spotty in the beginning of the year, but it became impeccable as the season wore on. His outfield arm is second to none and his instincts are getting better and better.
Remember, Harper was a teenager for his entire rookie season. The fact that he was a call-up before the halfway mark is amazing in and of itself, and the fact that he performed as well as he did is simply remarkable. His impact on a first-place team was undeniable, and without him I have no doubt that the Nationals would have won less than 98 games.
Harper has only one real weakness: hitting off-speed pitching. The best thing? With time and practice, that is very correctable. In fact, the only reason he struggled to hit off-speed pitching is because all teams would do was throw soft away. This was a 19-year-old who for most of the year saw more off-speed pitching than fastball pitching, simply because he had already seared his reputation as a great hitter into the minds of pitchers and managers across the league.
Wade Miley didn't strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Todd Frazier didn't require an increased amount of scheming.
Bryce Harper, though, required game planning and strategy. For a 19-year-old (now 20) to command that type of respect is incredible. Harper's stats were excellent, and his style of play infectious. He started the majority of the season on the best team in the league, and he thrived.
What else do you need to know?