The CHEAP SEATS 2012 MLB Rookies of the Year

Posted: October 10, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There was a youth movement unlike any other this year across baseball. This has been seen before, but this year was something bigger; it was the year of the phenom. There was no such thing as an average rookie this year, because this class showed up with tower sized hype…and most of them outgrew it in a matter of weeks.

That’s why it’s ironic that this year’s Willie Mays Award, the nod given to the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Rookie of the Year honor, is named as it is. For decades there’s been the rush to compare every multi-skilled youngster that blows up on the scene in hurry to Mays. It’s the loftiest, and most unrealistic, comparison there is. I’m not one to rush to crown any king, especially ones that can barely legally drink, or can’t even. Or especially guys that haven’t been the country long enough to know where all the states are yet, been burned that way many a time.

But this year, something different happened, a group showed up amazed so often, it seemed trivial to look at them as rookies. It was just a minor formality at best. The top six rookies in each league became the best pitcher on a two-time League Champ immediately, made the loss of a former MVP seem inconsequential in Cincinnati, hit Roy Hobbs like homers in Oakland and featured an All-Star that was the only pitcher with a winning record on a division champ from a year ago.

And then there were two that not only shattered the expectations, but became record-setting, age re-defining All-Stars at ages where they should be filling out FAFSA forms, not being penciled into MLB Awards ballots.

 

National League—Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Harper’s ascent as uber-prospect has been well documented. He’s made it his life’s work of spitting in the face of expectations and arrival dates. He’s been the youngest at so many things it’s going to take a precocious middle schooler with amazing bat speed to break some of his “first to do it” marks. However, the MLB was supposed to be different, but yet again Harper didn’t mind to stop and pay attention to that rule either.

It was seen as too soon when he came up to give the Nats a boost in the lineup when Ryan Zimmerman hit the DL. But he turned what was seen as being a matinee into a full summer show, winning the NL Rookie of the Month his first full 30 days in the league. His feats continued on throughout the summer, becoming the youngest All-Star ever and totaling a .270 batting average, with 22 home runs, 59 RBI and thieving 18 bases as well, finishing the top five in six different categories for rookies.

There’s been much bigger numbers put up by a rookie (as we’ll soon see), but to get the impact of Harper’s debut is deeper than that. He was the most dependable everyday performer on the best team in the National League, at 19. He hit all over the Nationals lineup, carrying them wherever an injury took out the incumbent, a frequent occurrence this summer. He played intensely hard every day, with an unrelenting style both at the plate, in the field and on the bases. Put that over presence in the context of the rise to power of the Nationals and there was no more valuable player in DC this year, rookie be damned.

#2) Todd Frazier, Reds

#3) Wade Miley, D’Backs

 

American League—Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

While Harper was the most valuable rookie in the NL this year, the man that opened the year as his contemporary atop Top 100 Prospects lists is arguably the most valuable player in all of baseball this year. At the very least, he’s the greatest rookie to ever play the game. At the age of 20 for most of the season, he became the first player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases and score 125 runs. Trout became the most popular, and best, player on a team featuring the most prolific player of the last decade in Albert Pujols. This is Trout’s time, and there’s really nothing that can be done about it.

In 139 games, starting on April 28th, he built up 182 hits, 30 home runs, 83 RBI, 49 steals in 54 attempts, eight triples, and a .326 batting average. His steals and runs scored totals were the best in either league, and he did this all after missing the first 30 games of the year in the minors. For context, he hit .372 and .394 in his first two full months as an Angel, and only had less than 30 hits in one month. With his 30 home run, he became the youngest member of the 30-30 club in history. He was one steal short of becoming the third player ever to hit 30 homers and steal 50 bases in one year. In the field, he robbed at least three home runs from well over the fence in centerfield, and should become the first rookie to win a Gold Glove in over 10 years.

But the biggest impact a player can make is in the wins column. At the end of April, the Angels were 8-15, 9 games out of first place already. Trout’s phenomenal season netted him a 10.7 Wins Above Replacement, the best in baseball by 2 games over the second biggest difference maker in all of baseball. So take Trout, put in the Opening Day lineup, and you put the Angels in October.

That’s why Rookie of the Year means little in the context of assessing Trout, and it’s why even the a Triple Crown Winner’s validity has the best in the world is questioned next to a guy that redefined what Most Valuable anything looks like.

#2) Yu Darvish, Rangers

#3) Yoenis Cespedes, A’s

 

MLB Awards Season in the CHEAP SEATS Recap & Preview

October 8: Connie Mack/Manager of the Year Award

October 9: Willie Mays/Rookie of the Year Award

October 10: Goose Gossage/Reliever of the Year Award

For more on this ballot, and everything else that kicks up baseball dust, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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Comments
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