The rookie class of 2013 was a tale of two halves, or at least clearly two leagues. In the National League, from the onset of the season, it was a phenomenal year for first year talent, with as deep of a crop of youngsters as the league has seen in many years. Conversely, in the American League the picture was slower to develop, as their rookies were inserted into the mix throughout the year as needed, yet still showed talents that could have made a much earlier impact if asked to.
The youth movement continued to get stronger in 2013, and set a tough act to follow for next summer’s sure to emerge prodigies. With that, here’s the best of the best for the first time down the road, and my ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Award:
The Numbers: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 172.2 IP, 187 K’s/58 BB’s/0.98 WHIP, .182 BAA
It was quite a year for young Jose Fernandez, who was just a year removed from breaking into professional baseball overall as the 14th pick in the 2011 Draft. However, he made the most of his one year in the minors, going 14-1 as a 19-year-old and quickly becoming one of the most coveted prospects in all of baseball. Following the Marlins roster dump last winter, he got a chance to get an extended look in Spring Training and before long, proved that anymore time in the minors would be leaving the meal in the oven too long; he was ready.
Taking to the mound as a 20-year-old for his Major League debut, he quickly made the MLBers look like the Class A competition he had dominated so easily a year ago. In 28 starts over the season, he went 12-6 for the lowly Marlins and became the youngest All-Star selection for the season (where he joined Bob Feller and Doc Gooden as the only sub-21 year old pitchers to strikeout two batters in an ASG appearance). However, he was just getting warmed up at the half-way point of the year, and truly showed his stuff in the second half. After the All-Star Break, he posted a microscopic 1.32 ERA, making him the stingiest pitcher in all of baseball. From August 2 until his final start on September 11th (a run of eight games), he lowered that number to 1.01, and rounded out his second half record to 7-1.
For the season, his 2.19 ERA was the second lowest in baseball and batters hit a paltry .182 against him for the season. His 9.75 strikeouts per nine innings was the best total in the NL and he allowed the least hits per game of any starter in baseball as well, at 5.7. And at only 21 now, he’ll be making even the Marlins look good for years to come every fifth day.
2. Yasiel Puig—Dodgers: .319, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 21 2B, 11 SB, 122 hits, .925 OPS, 5.0 WAR
The game’s most effective spark plug on the season, Puig pulled the Dodgers out of the cellar reaching the Majors in June, and continued to put his five-tool spectacular on display all the way to the NLCS.
3. Shelby Miller—Cardinals: 15-9, 3.06 ERA, 173.1 IP, 169 K’s/57 BB’s/1.21 WHIP, .234 BAA
Next to Clayton Kershaw, no pitcher got off to a better start than Miller did in 2013. Despite slowing some in the second half, his 15 wins led all rookies and in May, save for a leadoff single, he recorded 27 straight outs against the Colorado Rockies.
4. Hyun-jin Ryu—Dodgers: 14-8, 3.00 ERA, 192.0 IP, 154 K’s/49 BB’s/1.20 WHIP, .252 BAA
The Dodgers paid a large price to lure him to America, and the lefty returned on the investment often. He led all rookies in innings pitched, and finished tied for eighth in the NL in ERA.
5. Nolan Arenado—Rockies: .267, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 29 2B, 2 SB, 130 hits, .706 OPS, 3.9 WAR
He made impact a routine maneuver in his rookie year on the hot corner. His second career homer was a grand slam against reigning Cy Young winner David Price, and went on to become the first rookie winner of a Gold Glove at third base since 1957.
American League Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Award Winner—Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
The Numbers: .293 average, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 23 2B, 5 SB, 98 hits, .831 OPS, 2.0 WAR
Myers made a huge impact on the season months before he even saw his first pitch. He was the crown jewel of one of the biggest, and most surprising, trades of the winter, when he was part of the deal that landed James Shields in Kansas City and him in waiting has the power conduit for the future in Tampa.
He had to wait a while to get a chance to make that impact, but when he finally reached the Majors in June, he did not drag his feet about delivering on the promise that had kept him among the top prospects in baseball for the past three seasons. In just over half a season, he led all AL rookies in home runs, doubles and RBI, while reaching base at a .354 clip. The Tampa offense was struggling to find much run production outside of Evan Longoria, but when Myers emerged, the team found its missing piece and took off, all the way to the AL Division Series.
At just 22, he has already shown that the hype was legit, hitting his first career home run against CC Sabathia just five days after being called up, and then made his home field debut as the sandwich portion of back-to-back-to-back homers against the Blue Jays. His numbers are lower due to his arrival time in the MLB, but if they were stretched out across a full year, they would play as 24 homers, 98 RBI and 42 doubles; a spread that could prove to be just the tip of the ice berg of what he can do on average over time.
2.Chris Archer—Rays: 9-7, 3.22 ERA, 128.2 IP, 101 K’s/38 BB’s, 1.13 WHIP, .226 BAA
The hard-throwing lefty became one of the toughest matchups in the AL. In June, he embarked on a four-game personal winning streak, where he allowed one run over 31 innings.
3. Jose Iglesias—Tigers: .303, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 16 2B, 5 SB, 106 hits, .735 OPS, 0.4 WAR
A magician with the glove, the future Gold Glove winner boosted the lumbering Tigers defense after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Red Sox, and provided a surprisingly solid bat as well.
4. Dan Straily—A’s: 10-8, 3.96 ERA, 152 IPs, 124 K’s/57 BB’s, 1.24 WHIP, .233 BAA
The steady workhorse mixed in well in the A’s ensemble of young starting pitching once again in 2013. After showcasing his potential at the end of last year, he returned to led all AL rookies in wins and innings pitched.
5. Martin Perez—Rangers: 10-6, 3.62 ERA, 124.1 IP, 84 K’s/37 BB’s, 1.34 WHIP, .267 BAA
The Rangers finally got a return from their long-time top prospect arm, and he performed well enough to start the one-game playoff the club found itself matched in, opposite the Rays and David Price.
There are more to follow in the next few days, as well as what’s already been addressed here as well:
Yesterday: Goose Gossage AL/NL Relief Pitchers of the Year – Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel
Friday: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year
Saturday: AL/NL Connie Mack Managers of the Year
Monday: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year
Tuesday: AL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player
Wednesday: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player