The AL Rookie of the Year race is slightly more straightforward, but the junior circuit has still produced several viable candidates for voters to decide from. The way I see it, the lack of strong position player candidates could open the door for a closer who’s been fantastic in 2010.
Among the strongest hitters, Danny Valencia of Minnesota hasn’t gotten much talk, but he may be the best of this year’s crop. Valencia’s put up 2.8 WAR in 76 games, aided by a UZR of 5.8. Valencia has manned the hot corner effectively and gotten himself on base relatively frequently, as his .370 OBP will attest.
Tampa catcher John Jaso has also been underhyped, but he’s done a fantastic job for Joe Maddon. Jaso has led off and walked a ton, putting up a .383 OBP, winning him many supporters among the saber-inclined. However, he really hasn’t done much else, only mustering a .378 SLG. Cleveland’s catcher, Carlos Santana, could have been a factor as well, but Santana was shut down with a leg injury on August 2nd.
Jaso’s teammate, Reid Brignac, was a fairly hyped prospect entering the year. A shortstop with a good dose of power and overall hitting ability, Brignac could end up as the most valuable hitter to come out of this class, but he’s gone through a slight adjustment period and likely will not factor heavily into ROY voting. He’s only managed a WAR of 1.3 and a wRC+ of 95 through 105 games in his rookie campaign. However, he has shown flashes of brilliance, including his 11th-inning bomb to walk off against the Yankees on September 12th and put the Rays into first place, a position that they’ve since been trading with the Bronx Bombers.
Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch, two Detroit outfielders, are the last truly viable candidates. Jackson’s ROY argument was based largely on his batting average that led the league for much of the season, but his ridiculous BABIP has regressed and Jackson’s fallen below .300. However, he’s still played decent defense in center and put up a reasonably strong 3.3 WAR in 143 games. Boesch has been strong in the counting stats, putting up 14 HRs and 66 ribeyes. However, 1.2 WAR in 126 games and a UZR of –13.5 in right is not going to cut it.
The best candidate may toe the rubber for the Rangers. Neftali Feliz’s 37 saves place him third in the AL, and he’s put up a 3.05 FIP with 67 K’s in 65 innings, so it’s been a strong campaign. It’s tough to win many awards as a reliever, but in this year’s relatively weak AL class, Feliz has a shot.
I’m going to say the deserving winner is Valencia, who’s been strong offensively and defensively and is a fixture for what could be the best team in the AL. Feliz is a close second for me, but I have trouble giving the award to a guy who pitches only 65 innings, even though those innings have been extremely strong. He simply hasn’t had enough impact to beat out Valencia.
However, I’m guessing Feliz takes home the trophy. Voters love their counting stats, and Feliz has piled up the saves. The strong strikeout totals help, as well. This will, however, be an interesting vote to watch.
Thanks for reading and Go Blue!