As the 2008 MLB season begins we all wonder who will be the next Ryan Braun to come up and make a splash. Who will be the next Tim Salmon and be a big time player for one MLB franchise? Who will be the next Ben Grieve who makes a splash one year and now he is the answer to a trivia question? Who will be a Rookie of the Year and future Hall of Fame Player? I will leave Hiroki Kuroda, Kosuke Fukodome, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and other Japanese players off this list because I feel they should not be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award but that is for a different argument and article. And now for the list of candidates:
Evan Longoria: The man who will supposedly save the Rays and propel them into contention for the future. Coupled along with him and David Price the Rays will be looking good in 2 years. But that is the Rays, this is about Evan Longoria. He does not have the power Braun has but what he lacks in power he makes up for more than enough in defensive abilities. Longoria is projected to be a gold glover and will make some top ten plays and web gems. This will boost his popularity as well. The only thing that can hurt his chances for Rookie of the Year will be the fact that he plays for the Rays.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Looking to make repeat Rookie of the Year awards for the Red Sox, Ellsbury comes in with high expectations. A speedster and defensive stud, he can make a run at the R.O.Y. He plays for Boston and a playoff team always improves ones chances of winning awards. However, this year is full of candidates and he may lose some votes due to lack of power. After all according to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, "Chicks Dig the Long Ball"
Joba Chamberlain: Joba the Hut was untouchable against the hitter he faced. The Indians needed a swarm of of gnats or whatever it was to throw him off finally. If God needs to send a plague of locust to stop a player then the player must be doing something correct. What will hurt Joba will be the Joba Rules. Yankees have him starting in the bullpen being set-up man to Rivera. He will eventually be settled into the roation but is lack of solid role could prove devastating to his campaign.
Clay Buchholz: Clay is working in a deep rotation that helps cover up any mistakes he makes. The line-up behind him will give him solid run support, but with or without it this kid can pitch. He would be on this list if he was on the Orioles, O.K. maybe not the Orioles. The kid can pitch but I just do not believe he has the star power to push the vote for R.O.Y. But you never know, he does play for Boston and might run on Pedroia's power and fight with teammate Ellsbury for the award.
Ian Kennedy- So the Red Sox and Yankees are fighting Evan Longoria for the favorites in the rookie award. Ian Kennedy will start in the rotation unlike his counterpart, Joba. This puts a leg up since he will put up more innings and quality starts then Joba. Ian does not have the dominance that Joba has. Last year he put up solid numbers in three starts. The reason he will not win is because he, like Clay Buchholz, just is not making a splash. He will be consistent but not over powering to win the award.
Dark Horse Candidates:
Nick Adenhart: As Angels fan, I absolutely love this kid. An overpowering fastball and high strike out rate usually means succes, unless you are John Rocker. He will be an anchor in the rotation soon, but it is unclear if he will make it to the show this year. If Mosely or Santana does not perform he can get the call. If another pitcher goes down he will get the call. But it is unlikely these two things will happen. Lackey will soon be back solidifying the rotation. And I do not see the Angels giving up on Mosely or Santana in the first month. Adenhart could be a late call up and will more than likely be on the playoff roster. He can be a powerful candidate next year if he does not reach the pitching limit in his late season call up. Ultimately his chances this year will depend on when he gets his call up.
Daric Barton: He hits the ball well, and hard. He gets on base. He does all of the un-sexy things you ask for in a player. He scores enough runs and takes the walks. He is going to hit a few home runs but he is not a power hitter. This will hurt his chances along with his average glove and average team. He is your typical everyday player for an average team. Nothing sexy hear but what he can do is fit into the Athletics game plan and become a dynamite kid in the line up. Do not be surprised to see him rip out 80 RBI's and score 80 runs. This may be enough to sway a few votes his way.
Jeff Clement: He cannot throw out a runner even on a bad jump. But he can hit 30+ home runs. This reason alone we can see Clement get the call up around the All Star break. He is this year's candidate to be the Ryan Braun. He is a liability in the field and a power hitter at the plate. The Mariners will probably call him up because Sexon, and basically the entire Mariners line up is shady and can not be depended on to get enough runs to win. Clement could provide a spark and send the Mariners over the Angels which is what a Rookie of the Year should do.
Brandon Wood: Another Angel who may get the call up, this guy can hit. Another Braun like guy, Wood could play third base or shortstop. The Angels are hesitant to send him up until he is comfortable at shortstop. Izturis and Aybar also have the shortstop duties dual time already and there is little room for a third. Two is company but three is a crowd. If Figgins goes down for a long period of time or even Aybar or Izturis, Wood can become a back up. But it is loaded in the Angels organization take a look at the depth chart. Until someone moves Wood and his power, coupled with strike outs that make Ryan Howard (199 strike outs in 529 AB's) look like David Eckstein (22 strike outs in 434 AB's) Wood's hole in the bat will keep him from the Show as well.
Gio Gonzalez: Gio could be finding a rotation spot with a trade happy GM who has 2 pitchers he is shopping around. Gio was sent to the Athletics in the Swisher trade. Gio struck out 185 batters in only 150 innings last year in double A ball. He make the leap to Triple A and the Athletics will watch him intently to see how he does there. He can challenge the K Kings in a year or 2 and if his strike out rate continues in the big leagues then he could be seeing plenty of votes for R.O.Y. However, if the Athletics do not compete he may not get the call so he can refine is control. Look for Gio to move into the rotation because of trade or the Athletics make a push for a play off spot.
AND THE WINNER IS: As I touched on in my previous article, I have Evan winning, like many other people have predicted. Gio will finish behind Evan in the voting. Evan will get his shot in early May and will destroy the ball. He will lead the Rays into a play off race with the Sox and Yanks but he will go cold in the last month. This will hurt his voting but with a strong first half he will edge out Gio's dominating second half. Evan and Gio's team will not make the playoffs but their performances alone will push their respective teams into the play off picture.