MLB Rookie of the Year 2012: Breaking Down Top Contenders in Each League

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 15:  Center fielder Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reacts during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Royals defeated the Angels 3-2.  (Photo by Tim Umphrey/Getty Images)
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

The Major League Baseball postseason awards extravaganza begins in earnest in less than one week, as the winners of the American and National League Rookie of the Years are announced. 

As much drama as there appears to be in the National League, there is virtually none in the American League. Everyone knows how that vote will go down, even if it somehow isn't unanimous because a beat writer in Oakland or Texas decides to give a first-place vote to Yoenis Cespedes or Yu Darvish. 

In anticipation of the big announcements, here is our look at the way we think the votes will shake out among the top contenders for the awards. 


American League

As mentioned before, this award has been locked up for months. I could sit here and present cases for Darvish and Cespedes, but they would pale in comparison to the season put forth by Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. 

In 139 games, Trout hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs, 49 stolen bases and played spectacular defense in left and center. He should be the AL MVP, but the narrative of Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown will likely push him down to No. 2 on many of those ballots. 

Trout can take some solace in being the Rookie of the Year in the American League. This vote should be a landslide. 

Winner: Mike Trout


National League

Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: .270/.340/.477, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 18 SB, 4.9 WAR (per Fangraphs)

Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds: .273/.331/.498, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 2.8 WAR (per Fangraphs)

Wade Miley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: 16-11, 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 144 K, 37 BB, 194.2 IP, 4.8 WAR (per Fangraphs)

For a few months, Frazier looked like the favorite for this award. He hit .306 and .330 in July and August with 11 home runs, pushing his season total to 18. 

He faded down the stretch, as rookies tend to do because the league catches up to them and/or fatigue from playing more games starts to set in. He bottomed out in September with a .176 average and one home run in 74 at-bats. 

Harper and Miley are the two who will end up battling for first-place votes, with the former holding a slight edge, at least to me, based on his level of production and superior competition faced. 

Miley had a terrific debut season. He exceeded all expectations placed upon him, but looking at things objectively, he did it in a division that features two teams who ranked in the bottom six of the NL in runs scored (San Diego and Los Angeles), and the Rockies, who can score runs but were one of the worst teams in all of baseball.

Miley made nine starts against those three teams, and nine more starts against Houston, Chicago (NL), New York (NL), Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami. Those six teams all ranked in the bottom eight of baseball in runs scored. 

Harper was a surprise call-up in late April when the Nationals were starving for offense. He hit well right out of the gate with 13 extra-base hits and 13 walks in 121 plate appearances in May. He followed that up by hitting .274 in June with 10 extra-base hits in 116 plate appearances. 

There were some bumps along the way, as Harper dropped down to .222 and .243 in July and August, but he never got overwhelmed found his power stroke in August when he belted six home runs. 

In the final month of the season, with the Nationals in a pennant race (not that that should change voting patterns but we all know it does), Harper hit .330 with seven home runs and five stolen bases. 

And lest you thought we forgot, Harper was a terrific defender playing a majority of his games in center field. He logged 715.2 innings at an up-the-middle position, saving 13 runs and posting a UZR of 9.7 (per Fangraphs). 

Harper did that in a division that featured four different starting rotations that finished in the top 10 in NL ERA. 

Plus, age should count for something. Harper played this season at 19 years old. Miley was 25 and Frazier was 26. Harper was playing at an incredibly high level at an age when most players are in their second year in college or not yet playing in full-season ball. 

Winner: Bryce Harper