Sorry for the delay this month on the Rookie Report. We’re attempting to move to Springfield and it’s a little difficult to find time to do the research and catch up on games while I’m busy packing, interviewing (I got the job!!), and still going to work at my current job. But anyway, enough about me, let’s take a look at the league’s best rookies:
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
What, you expected somebody else? Trout, barring injury of course, has already run away with the AL Rookie of the Year award and is setting his sights on something bigger: AL MVP. And he stands a very good chance to win the award too, mostly because of his all-around impact on the game. Trout, excels on defense, at the plate, and at 20 years young, he’s already the best base runner in Major League Baseball. He leads everyone in stolen bases despite playing missing the first month of the season toiling away at Triple-A. The biggest reason for his success on the base paths is his ability to read a pitcher’s first movement, which gives Trout an extra split-second or two to reach 2nd or 3rd base. And with his speed, which is top notch, opposing catchers stand absolutely no chance of gunning him down, even when he attempts to take 3rd base (5 steals in 6 attempts this season). All these steals have allowed Trout to take the MLB lead in runs scored (66) as well, because he is able to move into scoring position when powerful bats like Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo are at the dish. Trout scores an absurd 44% of the time that he gets on base, which is on par or better than some of the greatest run scorers in the wild card era, guys like Rickey Henderson and Derek Jeter.
2. Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Miley has been the top NL Rookie thus far, posting excellent numbers (10-5, 3.13 ERA, 135 ERA+, 3.62 K/BB, 106.1 innings), while ranking as the best starter in Arizona. Miley’s biggest strength as a starter is his ability to avoid giving out free passes. He walks just 4.9% of all total batters he faces, which is well under the Major League average of 8.1%. Miley primarily sticks to his fastball, which sits between 90-93 mph, and he’s able to locate it with pinpoint control. Once he gets batters down in the count, Miley turns to his slider, which has been fantastic, and according to Fangraphs rates well above the league average. As long as Miley continues to limit his walks by pounding the strike zone, he should continue to find success.
3. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
It’s an absolute shame that Cespedes has missed 30 games due to various injuries this season, because when he has played, the Cuban sensation has been electric to watch. He’s hitting .293/.352/.523 (137 OPS+) with 12 homers and 44 RBI in just 60 games while displaying solid speed on the base paths, swiping 6 bags in 8 attempts. His power has been off the charts thus far, as Cespedes has posted an isolated power number of .230, which ranks well above the league average of .150. (Isolated power measures a players ability to hit for extra bases). And if you take a look at where he’s been hitting his homers, none of them have been cheap. Cespedes has gone deep in some of the biggest parks in baseball including 6 at the O.Co Colliseum, 2 at Target Field, and 2 in Safeco. Very, very impressive stuff from the 26-year-old.
4. Scott Diamond, Minnesota Twins
Diamond has been the lone bright spot in the otherwise dark world known as the Minnesota Twins pitching staff, which ranks last in the American League in runs allowed. He has a 2.96 ERA (138 ERA+) with a 3.69 K/BB ratio and a 1.212 WHIP in 86 innings pitched. Much like Wade Miley above, Diamond excels at limiting base runners by keeping the ball over the plate, walking only 3.7% of opposing batters, despite the fact that he only tops out in the low 90’s with his fastball. Diamond typically relies on his fastball and slider, while mixing in the occasional change-up. He’s also a master at keeping the ball down, which helps to induce ground outs and double play balls. He’s generated 12 double plays in 61 opportunities, or about 20% of the time, which is well above the league average of 11%. This is a good skill to have going forward, especially if the Twins could improve their middle infield defense.
5. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Frazier has provided a huge boost to the middling Cincinnati attack, hitting .278/.345/.551 (OPS+ of 137) with 10 homers and 31 RBI. He’s going to be receiving even more playing time with Joey Votto gone for the next 3 to 4 weeks. Frazier has been doing just about everything well at the plate, walking at an above average rate, posting an excellent iso (.273), while exhibiting a very small platoon split. If he can keep his production up for the next couple of weeks, Cincinnati stands a very good chance of retaining their small lead in the NL Central.
6. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Harper is having a very excellent rookie season, one of the best of all-time if you look at just 19-year-olds, but he’s starting to run into the rookie wall as of late. Over the last month (22 games), he’s only hitting .260/.304/.365 with just 1 homer and 20 strikeouts. Pitchers seem to be picking up on his free swinging tendencies. Harper swings at 43% of all 1st pitches, an astronomically high percentage compared to the league average of just 26%. He also has a bad tendency to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, swinging at 35.4% of all pitches thrown off the plate. As the competition heats up through the last couple months of the season, it will be interesting to see if Harper can improve on his pitch selection, or if pitchers will continue to make him chase. The 19-year-old’s season line is still a robust .273/.343/.450 (OPS+ of 115) with 8 homers, 26 RBI, and 11 steals, and the spark he provided to the Nationals’ lineup earlier this season should not be forgotten.
7. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Darvish has struggled a bit over his last 3 starts, getting lit up for 14 earned runs in just 20.1 innings. Those outings have bumped his era up a little bit leading to a stat line that looks like this: 10-6 record with a 3.96 ERA (113 ERA+), while striking out 10 batters and walking 4.7 per 9 innings. As we’ve talked about most of this season, Darvish’s biggest issue has been his control. In just 5 of his 17 outings he’s walked 3 or more batters, and he’s given up at least 5 free passes on 3 separate occasions. Until his control improves, expect his ERA to hover around 4.00. But as long as he plays in front of the #1 offense in baseball, Yu will continue to pile up wins, although his shot at the Rookie of the Year award has long since set sail.
8. Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee Brewers
Ron Roenicke’s favorite weapon has steadily improved his play as the season has progressed, and has been very solid in the Milwaukee outfield. Aoki is hitting .288/.363/.428 with 5 homers and 20 RBI while swiping 11 bags and playing above average defense. Aoki is a classic Japanese slash hitter who sacrifices some of his power in order to put the ball in play more often. He’s been retired by the K on just 10.5% of his plate appearances, well below the very-high league average of 19.6% this season, but he’s only posted an isolated power of .140. As long he keeps getting on base while playing a nice well rounded game, Milwaukee will get excellent value out of a player they paid just $2.5 million for over 2 seasons.
9. Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics
Parker has been a perfect fit for the spacious Oakland Colliseum, posting a 6-4 record with a 3.16 ERA, 7 Ks/9 and 4.3 BB/9. He just edges out teammate Tommy Milone for this last spot, and the pair, along with Yoenis Cespedes give the Oakland A’s a bright future. Parker mixes a fastball, slider, and change-up effectively and at only 23, he should grow into a top of the rotation pitcher.
10. Best of the Rest
Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox. Tommy Milone, Oakland A’s. Zach Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies. Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves. Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore Orioles. Quinton Berry, Detroit Tigers