Baseball, now more than ever, is a young man’s game. The average age of MLB players has more or less steadily dropped over the past decade, and it seems like players are making an impact at a younger age.
Some clubs have of late shown a willingness to promote aggressively, with special shouts to the Padres, and the game has benefitted from it. The most talented players should play.
There are still problems with team’s manipulating service time (Vlad Jr. had to spend a weirdly long amount of time in the minors working on his defense), but all in all, there’s more exciting young players in the game than seemingly ever.
That’s why the National League Rookie of the Year race is going to be awesome to watch. Sometimes the award race can be a letdown, either because someone runs away with it (Mike Trout almost pulled the MVP/ROY sweep in 2012) or an older veteran from a foreign league takes the crown with ease (Jose Abreu is a great player, but c’mon). Worst case scenario is a down year where we just get an underwhelming rookie win in less than stellar year (Bobby Crosby won a ROY with a .744 OPS in 2004).
That’s not what we have this year, as it’s shaping up to be an all-timer in the NL, with guys who would win the award in past years potentially not even finish in the top-three in voting. Here’s a breakdown of the contenders in the hottest ROY race in years.
All stats as of 7/18/19, via Baseball Reference.
Pete Alonso – NYM (.270/.365/.613 with 31 Home Runs)
Pete Alonso, maybe you’ve heard of him. He’s the guy who won the most exciting Home Run Derby in years, and he’s got a current slashline & resume that would win a ROY award in past years even if he skipped the final two months of the season.
Alonso is leading the pack in the ROY race, and if the Mets weren’t such a dumpster fire he might be in a bigger conversation for MVP. Pete is top-five in the NL in: Home Runs, Slugging, OPS, Total Bases, and WAR. For a guy who couldn’t even get a courtesy call-up last September, he’s lit the league on fire as a 24-year-old rookie.
Why He Might Not Win:
He’s leading NL First Basemen in errors, and he might not be as exciting as the guy below him on the list. Definitely the current leader in the clubhouse though.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – SD (.326/.391/.591 with 14 Home Runs & 14 Steals)
In just 60 games, Tatis has accounted for 3.2 WAR and is threatening to easily reach a 20/20 season, all as the youngest player in the National League. The only thing that’s slowed Tatis is some time on the Injured List, but that missed time aside he’s been even better than advertised since the Padres somewhat surprisingly decided to include him on their Opening Day Roster.
Why He Might Win:
He’d probably need Alonso to falter, but Tatis does have the potential to just out-do him and take the award. A 25/25 season isn’t out of the question, and contrary to Alonso, Tatis does play a premium defensive position (although he leads NL SS’s in errors) so voters could factor that in. For what it’s worth, Tatis is also a full four years younger than Alonso, for any voter who cares.
Mike Soroka – ATL (10-1, 2.24, 82/22 K/BB)
If you could guarantee that Soroka would make every scheduled start for the rest of the year, I’d give him a better shot at winning this game, as the 21-year-old All-Star has been excellent this year.
Soroka is currently 2nd the in NL in ERA (with a FIP of 2.96 to back it up as not a fluke) and carries a sub-1.1 WHIP. Just imagining a pitcher finishing second in the NL in ERA and not winning the ROY award is wild, but that just shows the kind of year that we’re seeing from rookies in the NL.
Why He Might Win:
Wins don’t matter nearly as much as they used to (for good reason) but if Soroka hypothetically gets to 20 (the number likely still carries allure with at least a portion of the voting base), and matches it with a top-five ERA, he could tilt the scales for voters who can’t decide between Alonso or Tatis Jr.
By Kyle Bandujo