In an intense final week of the season, one of the great battles left is over the Rookie of the Year awards.
Both the American and National Leagues feature a wide-ranging set of candidates who can make a strong claim to have the honor bestowed upon them, though the quality of performance is much higher in the senior circuit.
The AL crop has been weak all season, with only one true superstar talent, Wil Myers, emerging from the field. But even his candidacy is limited because the Rays waited so long to bring him up that his actual time spent on the field won't be as great as the other top candidates.
Over in the NL, there is a great battle at the top between the two Cuban superstars. Both have a real claim to the title, and I still maintain that we should just give out two NL Rookie of the Year awards and just skip the AL, but sadly that won't happen.
So in the interest of fairness, here is how we view the top rookie performers' stock in both leagues heading into the final weekend of the year.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
2013 Stats: 83 G, .292/.352/.476, 93 H, 20 2B, 13 HR, 51 RBI, 5 SB, 31 BB, 86 K
I continue to argue that even in a stronger AL rookie field, Wil Myers would be the man to beat for the award after just a half-season because his offensive performance is about as good as you could expect from a first-year player.
Myers actually has a higher weighted on-base average (.355 to .352) and weighted runs created-plus (.130 to .121) than Bryce Harper did last season for Washington. I know Myers is three years older than Harper was during his rookie season, but it shows how good he has been in 2013.
On top of the overall performance, Myers is putting together a fantastic finish with a .308/.357/.549 line in September. Whether it is right or not, awards are often won in the final month of the year.
No AL rookie can touch what Myers has done this season. There are going to be some who don't vote for him on the basis of not playing in more than 90 games, which is their right and under a lot of circumstances I would agree. But not this year.
2013 Stats: 22 GS (2 CG), 9-7, 3.21 ERA, 126.1 IP, 102 H, 48 R (45 ER), 15 HR, 37 BB, 97 K
It speaks volumes about how weak the AL rookie field is after Myers that Chris Archer, my No. 2 candidate, is someone I am very lukewarm about. His upside and future are tremendous, but the performance this season hasn't been consistent enough to warrant a lot of votes.
The overall numbers are fantastic for a first-year pitcher in the American League East, but Archer has had seven starts that went four innings or fewer, including three this month. You can't give a lot of first-place votes to a pitcher who has had nearly one-third of his starts not even go into the fifth inning.
Eventually there will come a time when we look back on Archer's inconsistencies this season and laugh at doubting him. It just isn't all in place to see it clearly right now.
2013 Stats: 19 GS (1 CG), 10-5, 3.55 ERA, 119.0 IP, 125 H, 52 R (47 ER), 14 HR, 35 BB, 79 K
I have gone back and forth between Archer and Martin Perez as the top rookie pitchers in the AL. I still give Archer a slight edge because the division he plays in is better, and his best starts are more impressive than Perez's best starts.
That said, the argument for Perez is consistency. He has had some starts where a lot of runs have scored, but at least he's been able to pitch around the mistakes enough to constantly give the Rangers five or six innings at a time. Only once has he failed to make it past five innings, on July 26 against Cleveland when he went three innings.
Perez is still learning to command his fastball, which is why the strikeout rate isn't as impressive as you would like from a lefty who throws 93. But the stuff is there for him to become a monster in the future.
2013 Stats: 106 G, .310/.357/.395, 106 H, 16 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 5 SB, 15 BB, 59 K
A hand injury has limited Jose Iglesias for the last week, not that his Rookie of the Year prospects were on the rise before he got hurt. Since being traded from Boston at the deadline, the 23-year-old shortstop has put up an uninspired .276/.324/.370 line.
Of course, if you follow the prospect scene, you know that Iglesias' limited offensive output is nothing new. He's a tremendous defensive shortstop, lauded for his glove, range and arm strength. But there are severe limitations to what he can do with the bat.
If you are an elite defender at shortstop, you can get away without much offensively because the value of the glove at that spot is higher than anywhere else with the possible exception of catcher.
That said, even the defensive metrics aren't in love with Iglesias this year. He is credited with saving one run on defense and boasting a solid-but-not spectacular 3.2 UZR as a shortstop. One-year defensive numbers can be faulty, so take that with a grain of salt. But it is all we have to go by right now.
2013 Stats: 28 GS, 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 172.2 IP, 111 H, 47 R (42 ER), 10 HR, 58 BB, 187 K
The only real knock against Jose Fernandez's rookie season is it ended so early, after a victory on September 11, that voters might start to forget him by the end of the year, and it pushes him down to No. 2 on the ballot.
That would be a shame, not because there aren't other strong candidates in the NL, but due to the fact that Fernandez was so great for a Miami franchise that had no business being as interesting as it was on days he pitched.
Pitching this season at his age-20 season, Fernandez will finish second in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings (9.75), fourth in fielding independent ERA (2.73) and sixth in expected fielding independent ERA (3.08).
Fernandez also ranks second behind Clayton Kershaw in ERA+ (177). This is a truly special talent that has earned the right to win the Rookie of the Year award, but is also part of an incredibly strong crop of players around him with their own claim to the honor.
2013 Stats: 100 G, .325/.395/.546, 121 H, 21 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 11 SB, 34 BB, 92 K
I am not someone who lets one game or moment influence the way that I would hypothetically vote for a baseball award. The season is way too long to pinpoint one moment where you can say that a player separated himself from the pack.
Having said that, watching Yasiel Puig hit that home run off Matt Cain embedded above did give me great pause because of how ridiculous it was. He took a good slider on the outside part of the plate, crushed it to center field in one of the biggest parks in baseball and hit it 15-20 rows into the seats.
That alone isn't enough to put Puig over Fernandez, but it does make you want to give him a trophy just for being that amazing.
Overall, given some of the mistakes that we have seen Puig make on the field that hurt the Dodgers, like trying to make spectacular throws by missing the cutoff man or attempting to steal a base with pure speed instead of timing the pitcher, I would still put him No. 2 on the NL ballot.
But this has been one of the most amazing debut seasons that no one really expected. We knew Puig had the potential to be good. I just don't think anyone, not even the Dodgers, would have told you he would be this good this fast.
2013 Stats: 29 GS, 13-8, 3.09 ERA, 180.2 IP, 167 H, 65 (62 ER), 21 HR, 45 BB, 167
After a dominant spring, some of the hype surrounding Julio Teheran that had faded after a disastrous 2012 returned. He was just 22 years old this season, so some of those bad feelings from last year should have been put in perspective, not that criticism wasn't warranted.
Now, Teheran's ascent into Atlanta's rotation looks foolish because he's been tremendous all year for this team. The one concern is his tendency to get fly-ball prone and give up homers, but he's kept that in relative check this year.
What's been most impressive about Teheran's rookie season, when put alongside fellow first-year players like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Shelby Miller, is the way he's gotten stronger as the year has gone on. His ERA is a bit bloated at 3.72 this month, but his month-to-month ERA hasn't been over 3.00 since April.
Even more impressive is the way Teheran's strikeout rate has continued to go up, with 42 in 35.1 innings during August and 19 in 19.1 innings so far in September. He's got a very strong case to be the No. 3 rookie in a strong class.
2013 Stats: 29 GS (2 CG), 14-7, 188.0 IP, 174 H, 65 R (62 ER), 15 HR, 48 BB, 150 K
Hyun-Jin Ryu has been better than expected, at least to me. I saw him in spring training and walked away unimpressed, but it goes to show why you don't judge a book by the artificial spring cover.
The Dodgers have been able to hide him behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, which will take a lot of pressure off him in the postseason. I am not entirely sold that his stats are as good as he has pitched because his best starts since the middle of August have come against New York, San Diego and San Francisco.
There is some deception to his delivery and good changeup, which will allow him to succeed with an average fastball. I wouldn't put him in the same category with Teheran or Fernandez because he's already 26, but that doesn't mean he won't warrant some Rookie of the Year votes.
2013 Stats: 31 GS (1 CG), 173.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 152 H, 65 R (59 ER), 20 HR, 57 BB, 169 K
Were it not for a mediocre June when he posted a 4.31 ERA and August that saw him put up a 4.56 ERA, Shelby Miller would be on par with Jose Fernandez in a lot of categories.
Unfortunately we do have to look at the season as a whole, which knocks Miller down a bit. He has rebounded nicely with a strong July and solid ERA in September, though he does appear to be wearing down with 15 strikeouts and 13 walks this month.
What concerns me even more is that his best starts in the final month have come against Milwaukee and Washington, two of the worst offensive teams in the National League. He's going to be consistently great very soon but isn't there quite yet.
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