2015 MLB Award Picks: AL Rookie of the Year

There haven’t been too many seasons in baseball history as rich with rookie talent as 2015 was, and it isn’t just the top tier that shone bright this past summer. For every Carlos Correa or Kris Bryant, you’ll find a Matt Duffy or Odubel Herrera shocking you with his competence. For each of the major postseason awards (Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP), I’ll be submitting my own ballot for each league complete with an explanation of my thought process. That series of posts begins today with the junior circuit freshman o’ the year, so brace yourself!

  1. Carlos Correa/SS/HOU: .279/.345/.512, 22 HR, .365 wOBA, 133 wRC+, 3.3 WAR in 432 PA
  2. Francisco Lindor/SS/CLE: .313/.353/.482, 12 HR, .358 wOBA, 128 wRC+, 4.6 WAR in 438 PA
  3. Miguel Sano/DH/MIN: .269/.385/.530, 18 HR, .392 wOBA, 151 wRC+, 2.0 WAR in 335 PA

I’ve long been unsure when it comes to what criteria I should consider when making my completely weightless Rookie of the Year award picks each fall. With the Cy Young and MVP races, it’s much easier for me to know what I’m looking for–my goal is simply to pick the pitcher and overall player in each league who had the best season by the metrics I deem most important to total value for the season. Should I be doing the same thing with the RoY races, or is running the numbers a foolhardy gesture when projection is such a big part of what we need to do with players this young?

I read an article by Keith Law a few years back in which he mentioned taking his opinion of a player’s future into consideration when picking this award. I really liked this initiative, as why would anyone want to name a player the best rookie of any given year if he’s destined to be a fourth outfielder or something? The award should have historical value. I’m not saying an elite prospect who dumped a replacement level season on his team should be winning this award, but I am saying I like the concept of using future promise in this category as a legitimate factor.

All of what I just said is a big reason why I am going to take Houston shortstop Carlos Correa as my American League Rookie of the Year despite so many logical reasons existing to give the award to his position mate in Cleveland, Francisco Lindor. By season’s end, Lindor amassed 4.6 fWAR of value to Correa’s 3.3 fWAR, a pretty hefty gap considering that neither hit 440 PA in 2015. These were the two highest figures in the AL, and it wasn’t particularly close. Both players handled the bat extraordinarily well, especially considering that both of them were 21-year-olds at the conclusion of their debut campaigns.

Lindor’s big WAR advantage comes thanks to how nicely defensive metrics think of him, and while all scouting reports and eye tests confirm his glove as being top-notch, we already know this stuff can vary wildly in such a small sample size. Correa displayed more power and patience, a couple of skills that have proven over time to be more reliable indicators. His value was also less dependent on the crazy-eyed pull of batting average, and I don’t think Lindor is going to slug within 50 points of him ever again. All in all, I still value Correa’s season a bit more than Lindor’s, and I think Correa’s ceiling is that of a perennial MVP candidate. Lindor looks, to me, a lot more like a merely very good shortstop.

I have Minnesota Twins powerhouse Miguel Sano in third place thanks to the fact that he seems to revel in smashing baseballs into the ether. Sano has some improvements to make; there is no scenario in which he can strike out 35% of the time and hit .269 over a longer period of time. Still, he possesses a world of power, quickly flaunted his willingness to take a pitch, and has a bright future ahead of him. He may not have a true position just yet, but I’ll gladly toss his name on my ballot over AL rookies like Billy Burns and Eddie Rosario who boasted comparable WAR figures. Also, Billy Burns is like 30.

Just missing my ballot is Astros starter Lance McCullers, who struck out over a batter an inning and posted a 3.26 FIP over 125 2/3 IP in his rookie season. McCullers just turned 22, and he will give Houston a fantastic cheap option atop the rotation to go with guys like Correa and George Springer on the other side of the ball. There was a time when maybe I would’ve given Jon Singleton a mention in this Astro-centric paragraph, but that time sure isn’t now. The only promise Singleton has shown is one to consistently hit .170 no matter what the situation!

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