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In Focus: NL Rookie of the Year Candidates

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In Focus: NL Rookie of the Year Candidates

Posted on 28 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Wade Miley

If you want a good idea of which NL Rookie has the highest Q Score, then you probably have not watched much baseball this season.  Media darling Bryce Harper has absolutely owned the spotlight for much of the year as the RoY front runner.  Has he lived up to the hype, or has another rookie given him a legitimate run for the award?

Bryce Harper (Nationals OF, age 19) – .248/.320/.412/.732, 18 doubles, 6 triples, 12 home runs, 37 rbi, 98 OPS+, 2.1 WAR in 104 games.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets OF, age 25) – .252/.315/.376/.691, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 7 home runs, 28 rbi, 91 OPS+, -0.1 WAR in 91 games.

Wilin Rosario (Rockies C, age 23) – .245/.292/.516/.809, 15 doubles, 20 home runs, 51 rbi, 100 OPS+, 1.1 WAR in 86 games.

Wade Miley (Diamondbacks P, age 25) – 14-8, 2.80 ERA, 151.0 IP, 154 ERA+, 1.106 WHIP, and 3.8 WAR in 25 appearances.

Zack Cozart (Reds SS, age 27) - .247/.290/.406/.696, 31 doubles, 3 triples, 14 home runs, 30 rbi, 82 OPS+, 2.1 WAR in 121 games.

Todd Frazier (Reds 3B/1B/OF, age 26) – .293/.354/.550/.904, 21 doubles, 5 triples, 18 home runs, 60 rbi, 134 OPS+, 2.0 WAR in 101 games.

With just a quick glance at the raw numbers, Nieuwenhuis and Rosario drop out immediately.  Nieuwenhuis simply lacks the overall production the rest of candidates have generated, and he hasn’t shown an impressive amount of power or defensive prowess.  He does not cover a spectacular amount of ground, and he does not possess a particularly strong throwing arm, either.  He may very well be a very solid corner outfielder who eventually grows into more of a power bat for the Mets, but right now he falls short of the other players on the list.

Granted, Rosario plays the toughest position on the field, and he does so pretty well.  If RoY voters take that into consideration, then maybe he makes the top 3.  He also needs to change the perception that every Rockies player benefits significantly from inflated numbers due to Coors Field.  In truth, Rosario splits .237/.289/.520/.809 at home and .256/.296/.512/.808 on the road.  Rosario’s defense could very well be undervalued by voters, but I’m sure his teammates in Colorado appreciate it.  That still will not be enough to make him a top 3 candidate, but he at least deserves to have his named mentioned on most short lists.

Frazier has the distinction of being a great rookie and not even being considered the best rookie on his own team.  That speaks volumes about the young talent on the Cincinnati roster.  He has all the makings of a legitimate major league hitter, although his defense could use some work.  The lack of great glove work may be explained by his ability to play multiple positions.  In fairness, he probably spends too much time getting work at multiple infield positions and in the outfield as opposed to concentrating on 1 spot.  The 2.5 oWAR indicates that his bat will earn him playing time, and his defensive flexibility does not hurt at all.  If he can improve his defense at a specific position, he has the makings of an All-Star.

At this very moment, Bryce Harper finishes in 3rd place, but that should not be considered a knock on Harper.  If you take age into consideration, he wins the award running away.  To be honest, I think voters will use age as a factor, and that will push him to the front by the end.  His numbers at age 19 put him in elite company in terms of what he can do with a bat.  He has tremendous raw skills that helped get him to the big leagues.  What he does to refine those skills should keep him there for a long time.  That still does not mean he’s the best “rookie” in the NL.

If the RoY award was limited to position players, Cozart would have probably have to consider making room for a new trophy on his shelf.  Defensively, he plays SS about as well as someone can play the position.  Among qualifying shortstops, he ranks 3rd with 7.4 UZR/150 (per Fangraphs).  Offensively, he has basically equaled Bryce Harper, but his slightly better defense at a more important defensive position gives Cozart a distinct advantage.

Unfortunately for Cozart and company, Wade Miley has been pitching like a machine out in the desert.  He stands 5th in the NL in ERA, 6th in wins, 6th in WHIP, 9th in SO/BB, and 2nd in ERA+.  Forget just the RoY, those rankings make him a top 5 Cy Young candidate as well.  Unless he falls apart down the stretch or voters hold his 40.0 IP in 2011 against him, Miley stands out just a bit above the rest at this point.

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DOs and DONTs: Cincinnati Reds

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DOs and DONTs: Cincinnati Reds

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder moving out of the NL and, more importantly, out of the NL Central, the Reds look to take advantage of a weakened division.  With the addition of Mat Latos, a healthy Scott Rolen and one of the top Rookie of the Year Candidates in Devin Mesoraco, the Reds have the look of a contender, not only for the division, but also for the World Series.

Here’s a look at the DO’s and DON’Ts as they pertain to the Reds roster this season.

DO take Joey Votto in the first round.  With a career slash line of .313/.405/.550, an average of 30 homeruns the last 3 seasons and triple digit RBI’s and Runs the last two years, he is the kind of player to build a fantasy team around.  His consistency will help you in head-to-head leagues and his sheer volume of stats will help you in rotisserie leagues.

DON’T expect much from Scott Rolen.  He’s going on 37 years old, has a history of shoulder issues and hit only .242/.282/.397 last year.  Sure, he could have one more good season left in him, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

DO take a chance on Zack Cozart.   He has some pop and some speed and probably won’t hurt your average.  He is in line to be the Reds starting shortstop this season and could surprise.

DON’T overdraft Devin Mesoraco.  Yes, he is one of the top prospects in the game, but Dusty Baker is a bit rookie adverse and may have Mesoraco split time with Ryan Hanigan or even start the year in the minors.  Mesoraco is still the Reds catcher of the future, the question is whether Baker considers that future to be now.

DO pay close attention to the left field spring battle between Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick.  Heisey hit 18 homeruns in just 279 at bats last year, but had an ugly 78/19 K/BB ratio.  Ludwick has struggled the last couple years, but that could partly be due to playing in the cavernous Petco Park.  Ludwick hit .281/.343/.484 in 281 at bats with the Cardinals in 2010 before being traded to the Padres and should benefit from the change in scenery.

DON’T expect a high batting average from Drew Stubbs.  He struck out 205 times in 604 at bats (33%) last year and has struck out 422 times in 1298 career at bats (32.5%).  He can provide you with 15-20 homeruns and 30-40 stolen bases, but his strikeout totals concern me.

DO draft Mat Latos in the early rounds.  Sure he is leaving the friendly confines of Petco Park, where he has posted a career 3.11 ERA, but his 3.57 ERA on the road in not bad and his peripheral stats are pretty similar.  Bottom line, he is not going to lose much from the move and with a better lineup behind him, he should win a lot more games.

DON’T forget about Johnny Cueto.  He has improved his ERA and whip each year, including a 2.31 ERA and 1.09 whip last year, before missing the end of the season with a lat injury.  He is expected to be fully healthy to start the season and, while he may not post an ERA under 3.00 again this year, he should still be one of the top 10 pitchers in the NL.

DO keep an eye on Aroldis Chapman.  He is being stretched out this year to compete for a rotation spot and will likely battle Mike Leake and Jeff Francis for the last spot in the rotation.  He still has an overpowering fastball that can reach triple digits, but I’m not sure how it will translate to a starting role.

DON’T sleep on Homer Bailey.  The Reds former top prospect struggled in his first two seasons in the majors, but has shown some improvement the last few years.  His walk rate in particular has dropped from 4.1 in 2009, to 3.3 in 2010 to 2.3 in 2011 and he could be ready for a breakout.

DO draft Ryan Madson as your primary closer.  After years of serving as Brad Lidge‘s caddy, Madson finally got the chance to serve as the Phillies closer for the majority of 2011 and posted 32 saves while only allowing 2 blown saves.  He is a pretty safe bet to save 35-40 games in 2012.

Finally, DON’T forget about Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips.  Neither of them are stars, but both can provide you with good production.  Phillips’ stolen base numbers have declined each of the last 3 years, but he can still hit around 20 homers with 10-15 stolen bases.  Not bad for a second baseman.  Bruce hit 32 homers and drove in 97 last year.  He won’t hit for a high average, but its hard to find many guys with his power in the post-PED era.

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