MLB Rookie of the Year Award 2012 Predictions: Who WILL Win and Who SHOULD Win?

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterNovember 8, 2012

MLB Rookie of the Year Award 2012 Predictions: Who WILL Win and Who SHOULD Win?

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    Of all the MLB awards handed out for the 2012 season, the ones with the least suspense in their voting will likely be Rookie of the Year honors in the American and National Leagues.

    Perhaps there was some doubt with the NL race late in the summer as Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper struggled through July and August. But even if his performance didn't warrant the award, the cynics would say that the hype surrounding Harper got him the most votes.

    In the AL, the award was decided the moment the Los Angeles Angels called Mike Trout up from Triple-A Salt Lake. Trout was far more than a standout rookie—he quickly developed into a superstar talent. 

    Though there may be little question as to who wins the Rookie of the Year award in each league, there are others who warrant some consideration. So who will win and who should win? Here's one opinion on the matter.

Will Win NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    The hype was tremendous. 

    Bryce Harper's reputation preceded him into the major leagues. It was a disappointment when the Washington Nationals decided to break spring training without their phenom, sending him to Triple-A Syracuse where he would work on playing center field. 

    But apparently, he could only be denied for so long. At the end of April, with the Nats in desperate need of any offense whatsoever, Harper was called up to The Show. And from the beginning, the 19-year-old looked like he belonged, never appearing overwhelmed by the surroundings or the competition.

    Cole Hamels hit Harper with a pitch as a form of big league initiation. A Toronto radio reporter goofily tried to bait the kid into saying he'd take advantage of Canada's legal drinking age. That led to one of the most memorable quotes of the season: "That's a clown question, bro."

    Nats manager Davey Johnson eventually moved Harper to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, creating a top-of-the-lineup spark for a team that took half the season to find its offensive identity.

    His aggressiveness on the basepaths occasionally caused problems, as the rookie would get thrown out trying to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Johnson had to balance encouraging that impulsiveness with tutoring Harper to play smarter.

    Harper seemed to hit the rookie wall in July and August, as he especially struggled against left-handed pitchers with good off-speed stuff. Other candidates looked more worthy of NL Rookie of the Year honors and fans complained that Harper was a product of hype over performance.

    But a September surge—during which he hit .330 with a 1.043 OPS, eight doubles, seven homers and 14 RBI—reminded us why Harper received so much hype in the first place. 

    Harper may not have been the transformative force that fellow rookie Mike Trout was for the Los Angeles Angels, but he did make a major contribution to a team that finished with the best record in the National League.

Should Win NL Rookie of the Year: Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    While Bryce Harper got most of the attention from the national media for his rookie exploits, another first-year player quietly had an excellent season that warrants NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks finished in the top 10 among the league's starting pitchers with a 3.33 ERA. His 16 victories tied for sixth in the NL, and FanGraphs rated him as the NL's fourth-best starter in wins above replacement with a 4.8 WAR.

    As you might expect considering his league ranking, the 25-year-old left-hander led the D-Backs in wins and ERA while finishing third in strikeouts. 

    Strikeouts aren't really Miley's game anyway, though he did notch a career-high 10 Ks in his final start of the season. But with 144 strikeouts in 194.2 innings—averaging out to 6.7 per nine innings—he's not a flamethrower. 

    No, Miley pounds the strike zone and doesn't beat himself with walks, unnecessarily putting runners on base. He only walked 37 batters this season, a rate of 1.71 per game. That tied for the sixth-best ratio in MLB, ranking him among control freaks like Cliff Lee and Kyle Lohse.

    Miley may not have helped his team on an everyday basis as Harper did for the Nationals, but the D-Backs were contenders in the NL West and wild-card races until the last month of the season. Miley's breakout success played a large role in that, as No. 1 starter Ian Kennedy regressed after his 20-win season in 2011. 

Will Win AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    If there's one lock for the 2012 MLB awards, it's Mike Trout. 

    The Los Angeles Angels outfielder has been a fierce topic of conversation for weeks—months even—as fans, reporters and analysts have argued his merits for the American League Most Valuable Player award versus the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera.

    The debate has drawn lines between those who favor advanced metrics for measuring a player's value and a more traditional view that favors the numbers most of us grew up using to judge accomplishments on the baseball field.

    Unfortunately, as discussions of belief systems often do, the argument became nasty. The sabermetricians were labeled nerds while the traditionalists were called luddites. 

    The important thing to consider here, however, is that people were willing to go to the mat in arguing for Trout.

    Of course, the "new-age" fans may really have been arguing for newer statistics and a different, more in-depth way of watching the game. But that view was embodied by Trout, whose performance on both sides of the ball had more of an overall impact on a game.

    No other rookie—AL or NL—was that much of a force for his team this season. The Rookie of the Year award is absolutely warranted, but it's also a consolation prize for the MVP honors (and Gold Glove in center field) that Trout deserved for his 2012 performance. 

Should Win AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    If Mike Trout is a candidate for AL MVP, then it stands to reason he's a cinch to win the league's Rookie of the Year honors. 

    Wins above replacement (WAR) has undergone heavy scrutiny in the debate over who should win the AL MVP award between Trout and Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera. But whether a contingent of fans and analysts choose to truly accept it or not, it's still an excellent measure of a player's overall value.

    Trout finished the season with a 10.0 WAR. Even if you don't know everything that WAR entails (here's an explanation, by the way), consider that the Angels rookie center fielder is the first to finish with a figure that high since Barry Bonds in 2004.

    As HardballTalk's Aaron Gleeman, only five other players in the 21 years Trout has been on this earth have accumulated a WAR of 10.0 or above.

    The next closest AL rookie to Trout in WAR was the Oakland Athletics' Yoenis Cespedes at 3.1. Likely NL MVP Buster Posey finished with an 8.0 WAR. Cabrera ended the season at 7.1. 

    While Cabrera may have won the traditional Triple Crown of leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI, Trout finished among the AL's top three with a .326 average, .399 on-base percentage, .564 slugging and .963 OPS. He also led MLB with 49 stolen bases.

    In addition, Trout contributed excellent defense in center field. FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating ranks him as the best at his position, saving nearly 11 runs more than the average center fielder. He was also credited with 23 defensive runs saved. Only Seattle Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan and Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon had more

    Finally, there's this: Without Trout, the Angels went 6-14. After he was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake, the team's record was 83-59.

    Rookies aren't supposed to do all this. Yet, here Trout did it.

     

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