During the final week of the season, the Standing Room Only guys are giving their predictions for this year’s award winners. Yesterday, Scott told us who he thinks deserves Manager of the Year. Today, let’s look at the tough race for Rookie of the Year.
And the Award for Rookie of the Year in the American League goes to…
Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Ohtani was the big export out of Japan last off-season. The whole baseball world was raving about the 23 year-old. “He is the Japanese Babe Ruth!” “But how will he adjust to Major League pitchers?” “Can his body last a full season of hitting and pitching?” While Shohei Ohtani’s first season wasn’t fully up to his standards, he still had a Rookie of the Year-type season. He is the only player in MLB history to hit 20 home runs and strike out 50 batters. While he couldn’t stay healthy on the mound, his bat stayed hot all season. The loss of Albert Pujols for the rest of the season opened up regular at-bats for Ohtani to show his stuff.
As of September 25th, Ohtani has a .280 batting average with 21 home runs and 56 RBIs with just over 300 at-bats under his belt after missing time with a torn ligament in his right elbow. On the mound, he finished with a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 10 starts. While that’s a small sample size, he routinely showed a blistering fastball in the upper 90s with a devastating slider. With the news that he is opting for Tommy John Surgery, it will be at least until 2020 when we see him on the mound again.
While his numbers are good, it is not the overall dominating numbers that make him a stand alone Rookie of the Year candidate. What puts him over the top for me is the fact that he was doing something we have not seen in this generation at a high level. The sky is the limit for this guy when he is healthy and he is this year’s Rookie of the Year.
Commiserations to Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres.
And the Award for Rookie of the Year in the National League is…
Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
Acuna is a part of the youth movement in Atlanta that unexpectedly captured the NL East crown. He has been on a roll since being moved to the leadoff spot, which has put him over the top for my NL Rookie of the Year vote. Overall, as of September 25th, Acuna is batting .289 with 26 home runs, 58 RBIs, and a Wins Above Replacement rating (from Baseball-Reference) of 4.1. When you combine that with his speed (he has 15 stolen bases on the year) and solid defense in the big outfield of Suntrust Park, Acuna is the real deal.
When you compare him to other rookies, Ronald Acuna Jr. is only the 10th rookie in history to have at least 25 home runs and 15 home runs in his first season. He has been able to make the adjustments. Ever since he has moved to the leadoff spot, he has a 1.053 OPS, with 14 doubles and 19 homers while helping the Braves get on a roll and take over the NL East.
When it is all said and done, the NL Rookie of the Year Race is a lot closer than in the AL with Juan Soto breathing down Acuna’s neck. I fully believe, however, that the strong finish to the season Acuna has had, the fact that the Braves punched their ticket to the postseason with Acuna’s help, and the energy he brings to the game will be more than enough to get him over the hump.
Commiserations to Juan Soto and Walker Buehler.