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:
Jay Bruce: The Reds have a crowded outfield. But they also have an aging outfield. While Bruce has no timetable set for a call up, there is no doubt he will get it soon. The moment Ken Griffey Jr. goes down with another hamstring injury or the rumors of an Adam Dunn trade materialize, Bruce will jump from Triple A and up the depth chart over Norris Hopper and Ryan Freel. Both of those guys are not everyday players, they are great role players. Jay Bruce could in fact enjoy another season in Triple A if none of these players get injured or traded which is unlikely but possible. Jay Bruce can make an impact and has a great power potential. Ultimately his chances for Rookie of the year depend on when he gets his opportunity.
Cameron Maybin: He is the next Marlin to make a splash and get traded in his contract year. He will follow footsteps of Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and the basically entire World Series Roster. He will stay and be the star of the team once Dan Uggla and Hanley the Manly Ramirez are traded. The Marlins are a revolving door of talent. A fast food chain in a career game. Maybin has star potential and can hit with a little power and steal a lot of bases. He is in competition with Cody Ross in center field. Once he runs the course of being in the minors long enough to extend his contract and avoid arbitration, look for the Marlins to promote this kid. If the Marlins do well and so does Maybin look for votes to come his way. But the problem he has is playing for the lackluster fan base of the Florida Marlins. No one will recognize his contributions when he is not on T.V. and only 500 fans are cheering him on.
Johnny Cueto: This kid is for real. If you play fantasy baseball he is someone to jump on a bandwagon for. His first major league game puts in a 7 inning performance, with only one hit (a home run to other young talent Justin Upton) Here is the kicker and what gives him star power, 10 strikeouts in that short time. He has vaulted over Homer Bailey in the organization as future ace. Cueto will continue to impress and with his strike out rate he will garner attention and votes. He may struggle but of all the rookies this year, I believe he has the ability to make the most contribution to this team. The Reds really need pitching to take that division and with Harang and Arroyo patrolling the one and two spots, Cueto fills in nicely for a dominant three. Cueto puts this staff from average to division best. That is what a Rookie of the Year candidate does.
Jayson Nix: The next Pedroia possibly, Nix is an above average defensive player with an average bat. What he has above the rest of these guys is job security. Cueto could struggle and see time in Triple A and the others are already there. Jayson is there to stay and the Rockies seem committed to him. Many experts say 10 home runs and 15 steals. That is more production then Pedroia when he won. So the kid has a chance. But Pedroia won the award in a lackluster rookie class in the American League. Guys who are average players do not normally win this award. If the Rockies make the postseason again and Nix helps out then he could gain some votes but the Rockies would need a dominant year to help Nix out and in the pitching crazy NL West I do not see that happening. He goes up against some solid starters in the division which will hurt his average and production.
Colby Rasmus: Colby is a prototypical young outfielder. He has the hybrid power/speed combo and is being held back because his production in double and triple A make owners believe it is a fluke. He may be in the minors now, but with Skip Shumaker and Ryan Ludwick in center, Rasmus will get a golden opportunity soon. The Cardinals may wait but his time will come. He will get the shot because of the lack of production from Skip and Ryan, or if Pujols goes down and actually needs that surgery the Cardinals may call him up to provide a spark in the club and to the fans. Colby Rasmus has the potential to put up solid numbers and hit enough home runs and steal enough bases to persuade a few voters. But, I do not think he will put up enough of a case to win the prestigious award.
Dark Horse Candidates:
Jair Jurrjens: Looking to resurrect the pitching glory days of the Braves, they brought back Smoltz and Glavine. With Maddux not able to round out the three amigos, they need to fill his vacancy with someone young who can learn their trade. Jair Jurrjens is not your poster name like Maddux, Glavine, or Smoltz but he can pitch, and that's all that matters in Hotlanta. He was a key piece in the trade that saw Rentaria leave Atlanta. Jurrjens has a lot going for him. He is in a system with a lot of older players who could see time off. Mike Hampton is in the rotation which means he will see time each time Mike goes down, which will be often. He is a bit inconsistent so there will be stretches that he gets knocked around. But he can make a strong case for Rookie of the Year if the Braves make a playoff push with him in the rotation.
Joey Votto: The Reds have a lot of young talent in the system. However, their payroll has a lot of expensive veterans playing on the field. Scott Hattenburg is holding onto the first base job but with any slip look for Votto to jump in. He has a swift bat that could lead to a .300 average and 25 home runs. He can even move a bit and steal a few bases. Votto could leave strong impressions on the voters if he becomes the starter. What will hurt him is if he struggles at all the Reds may not give him many opportunities limiting his role.
J.R. Towles: He already has the starting role in Houston. In fact there was not even a chance for anyone else. J.R. will spin himself a fantasy tale and hit .250 with average home runs. The Astros are committed to him and because of this he may improve his chances or hinder them. If he hits solid and can contribute everyday like the Astros hope, then he can make a push for R.O.Y. However, look for growing pains and plenty of patience from the Astros. Towles will not put up a solid R.O.Y performance, but he can still surprise me and exceed average expectations.
Manny Parra: The Brewers young team gets stronger and stronger. Manny Parra is a potentially dominant pitcher. The Brew Crew has him limited to relief duties but look for him to gain a fifth starter role and slowly move up. He had a torn rotator cuff two years ago but after rehabbing it became better than before. If that shoulder stays healthy and he gets a solid shot at the back end of the rotation, Parra can turn some heads. He gets the ground ball outs and does not give up the long ball. He gets solid strike outs so what is not to like? I wonder the same thing. Parra will be a great asset when the Brewers make their playoff run which will help his voting cause.
Geovany Soto: That is correct there are two rookie catchers this year who could win. Many experts like this kid but they are clouded because they see him as a top 10 catcher in the big leagues. But the catcher position is a very week one right now. Anyone who plays fantasy sports can see that. Just because he becomes a top level talent in a position does not earn him the title of rookie of the year. I believe he has better abilities than Towles and has a better mentor behind him in Henry Blanco. Because of his fantasy abilities he may become a fan favorite towards year end. But look for yet another historic Cubs collapse to kill his shot at Rookie of the Year. Although he may not be to blame, my pick for R.O.Y. will be the one to finish off the Cubs. This ends Soto's chances and he loses a few votes.
Chin-Lung Hu: The Dodgers top prospect is a Troy Tulowitzki type player. He can instantly become one of the best defensive shortstops in the game and challenge TT for Gold Gloves for years to come. He added 15 pounds over the last season to add a bit of pop to his bat. He will hit above .300 and below average power. He will get the call to the show as either a utility player or because of injury. Hu has great range and is the defensive rookie of the year but that does not translate into the award.
AND THE WINNER IS: As I touched on in my previous article, I have Jair Jurrjens winning. Behind Jair in the voting is Cameron Maybin. Currently, experts have Soto, Cueto, or Bruce winning. I touched early on Soto making a solid run but a Cubs collapse kills his shot. Jurrjens catches fire late and the Braves win the division. He becomes a hot pick and wins by a slight margin. Maybin comes on strong and his production slips just a bit throughout the year. Maybin plays well all year but he puts up above average numbers. Jurrjens goes 4-0 in September with a small ERA and slips by Maybin. It will be a two way race with Soto and Maybin until the last month and Jurrjens slingshots into the lead for the win.
Thanks for reading, if you think I missed anyone here feel free to post it and I will tel you why they did not make the list. Here is my AL article.