It was yet another year that rookies made an impact across Major League Baseball and three Rookie of the Year contenders in the National League (Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, and Vance Worley) were huge parts of playoff contenders (Atlanta and Philadelphia).
The American League had ROY contenders picked out in the preseason, but most had their ups-and-downs. Michael Pineda (Seattle Mariners) started out fast and made the All-Star team, but struggled during the summer months in a weak division. Zach Britton (Baltimore Orioles) became a bit of a bust and was sent to the minors to figure it out. Desmond Jennings (TB Rays) didn’t arrive in the big leagues until late in the season.
The one preseason pick that remains a post-season pick for AL ROY is the Rays right-handed starter, Jeremy Hellickson. With the trade of Matt Garza, Hellickson slid in perfectly to the Rays rotation. He led all rookies in innings pitched (189) and ERA (2.95) and was second in the AL in opponent batting average (.210). Hellickson made ten of his 29 starts against the AL East (which is considered the toughest division in baseball) and also started against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers during Interleague play. It also helps that he was a huge part of the Rays surprise run to the post-season.
Then there were the AL rookie surprises. First baseman Mark Trumbo of the LA Angels filled in perfectly for the still injured Kendry Morales. Early in the season, he always seemed to be hitting big homeruns for the Angels (he also hit some of the longest homeruns of the season). Trumbo cooled off as pitchers adjusted, but he still hit a respectable .254 in 149 games (539 at-bats). He added 29 homeruns and 87 RBIs, while scoring 65 runs. It doesn’t hurt Trumbo that the Angels were in playoff contention for most of the season. He was honored with the Players’ Choice Award for Top AL Rookie.
Ivan Nova was seen as just rotation insurance for the NY Yankees and was even sent to Triple-A in July (just because he still had options). When he returned, he seemed to have taken the demotion personally. He went 12-0 with a 3.25 ERA over his final 16 starts and slid into the Yankees rotation right behind ace CC Sabathia (though he was their best pitcher down the stretch and in the post-season). Nova led all rookies with 16 wins, though he received 6.7 runs of support from the Yankees potent offense. What helps is that he pitched in the AL East and reached the post-season. He was also strong down the stretch when some struggle.
The other surprise was the KC Royals Eric Hosmer. As spring training came to and end, all anybody talked about was when highly-touted prospect Mike Moustakas would debut. Hosmer was a bit under the radar when he went to Triple-A, but he hit over .400 and just 26 games into his first Triple-A experience, he was promoted to the big leagues.
Hosmer is no longer flying under the radar. He was hot when he first arrived, but when Hosmer struggled, so did the Royals, as they drifted further and further away from first place.
Hosmer adjusted and took off in the second half, helping the Royals climb out of the AL Central basement. Overall, he hit .293 with 19 homeruns and 78 RBIs. He also scored 66 runs and hit 27 doubles. He even had a .334 on-base percentage.
Among AL rookies with 100 games played, Hosmer was first in average, runs scored, and OBP. He was second in doubles, walks, at-bats, and RBIs. He was third in homeruns.
The postives for Hosmer are that he played every day (128 games) and he produced late in the year when many rookies struggle. Also, Baseball America named him to their All-Rookie Team at first base over Trumbo. Hosmer is up for a GIBBY for ROY across MLB. He was also awarded the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award, which goes to the Royals player who contributes above and beyond what is expected or deserves special recognition for an outstanding season.
The negatives are that he did not start the season in the big leagues (like Hellickson, Pineda, and Trumbo) and he played on a non-contender in a pitching weak division.
I honestly think Hellickson will win ROY (BA honored him as their top rookie). What he did this season against some of the best teams to help the Rays reach the post-season should be honored.
I wish the ROY award expanded to separate the pitcher from the position player (like the CY Young and MVP). It is hard to compare pitching and hitting stats. If they split the ROY, I definitely think Hosmer would win the AL Position Player ROY. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in the voting.
*I’m sure Braves fans are thinking the same thing, because how can you choose between Freeman and Kimbrel (though Kimbrel set the rookie saves marks)? And how could you go wrong with either pick?