The 2017 baseball season came to a close almost two weeks ago, which means that it’s only 92 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Before we get too carried away with next season, though, we must first wrap up the great season that was. 6 months of glorious baseball has just come and gone, and now we must recognize those who accomplished great things. So great, in fact, that it’s time to add their names to the anals…annals…anal teehee…ok it’s actually annals…of baseball history. To help us do that, we have the Baseball Writers Association of America putting their collective nerdy brains together and deciding on awards like the Cy Young, MVP and best moustache. Made that last part up, but you get the idea.
The drama! The intrigue! The snubs!!! I see you Charlie Blackmon. I know it hurts, buddy. You too, Arenado.
So that brings us to this week. From Monday to Thursday this week, we will have a special broadcast on the MLB Network at 6 pm ET announcing the 4 major awards for the 2017 MLB season. The schedule is as follows:
Monday 11/13: Rookie of the Year
Tuesday 11/14: Manager of the Year
Wednesday 11/15: Cy Young
Thursday 11/16: MVP
Friday 11/17: Best Moustache
Wait, what? How did that get there?! Enough with the moustaches already!
Back on track. So, why am I telling you this? Well, folks, the Three Up Three Down team is going to be covering the whole week giving you the takes, stats and analysis you need and crave. And what’s even better, your fantasy boy is here to break it down for you first! Wait…that sounded weird. Long story short, I’m up first, and I’ll tell you what you need to know about the Rookie of the Year.
No, silly, not Henry Rowengartner. He’s a fictional character. What I do want to talk about, though, is who’s up for the award, what you should know about them, and who deserves to win it. “Easy peezy,” as Bob from Stranger Things said.
Here goes nothing…
THE JACKIE ROBINSON ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
OF Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
84 R/20 HR/90 RBI/20 SB
Triple Slash: .271/.352/.424
Benny Baseball had himself a 20/20 season! I love that nickname by the way. Andrew Benintendi played his first full season in Fenway this past season planted right in front of the Green Monster on most nights. A daunting task indeed for the young man, but he handled it with flying colors. The former Arkansas Razorback “called the hogs” this season on his way to an impressive 2.6 WAR, 103 wRC+, and the coveted title of August Rookie of the Month. By the way, this is what “calling the Hogs” looks like on the Arkansas campus…
God bless the SEC. Anyways, Benintendi exceeded many an expectation (including mine) by swatting 20 homeruns this season, but I don’t think too many were taken by surprise in terms of the steal numbers. We knew he could move, but a 20/20 season made Benintendi a valuable asset to the AL East champion Red Sox in 2017. He did struggle at times playing balls off the Green Monster, but like…#GreenMonster. That’s the nature of the beast. He will learn, and he will be fine.
Whilst researching Benintendi’s 2017, I stumbled upon Baseball Reference’s Similar Scores tool, which was lovingly ripped off from a Bill James metric from the 1980s. For those like me who didn’t know what it was, it basically goes super in-depth statistically and finds comparable players to the one you’re looking at. Not only that, but it shows you players who compare to your guy at the same moments in their careers. For instance, who was putting up numbers like Benintendi at age 23? Well, Baseball Reference can tell you! Not pertinent to ROY, but man is it fun! So who is comparable to Benny Baseball in the MLB’s history? Hall of Famer Dave Winfield is the best match with other greats like Harold Baines, Ellis Burks, and Andre Dawson also in the mix. Not bad company. Yeah…I think this guy may work out in Beantown.
OF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
128 R/52 HR/114 RBI/9 SB
Triple Slash: .284/.422/.627
Aaron Judge had a WAR of 8.1. That was the second best WAR not just on his team. Not just among rookies. He had the 2nd best WAR in the entire American League. But like…that’s not all! Aaron Judge had one of the most monumentally impressive seasons of any rookie maybe ever. He was second in the AL in on-base percentage, 2nd in slugging percentage, 1st in runs scored, 1st in HRs, 1st in walks, and 1st in runs created. He also led the American League in at-bats per home run with a 10.4 mark, which is better than Mark McGwire’s career record of 10.6. Of course, Big Mac did that over a 16 year career, but you get what I’m saying here. That’s really impressive to say the least. He jacked all the dongs.
What else can be said about Judge? He dominated in every statistical offensive category and unexpectedly posted an unsustainable .284 average to go with the massive power he flashed. The Yankees knew he possessed this kind of elite power, but I don’t think anyone knew he was capable of a season like this. He was an All Star, a Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Month in 4 out of 6 months, and he set the Major League record for homeruns by a rookie. He flew past McGwire’s previous mark of 49 set in 1987 with seemingly relative ease. It’s safe to say that he was a big (6’9” in fact) reason the Yankees came within a game of the World Series.
And then we come to the strikeouts. Unfortunately for Judge, he also led the entire American League in strikeouts this season with a mind-boggling 208. That’s not good. In fact, that’s a huge concern moving forward in my opinion, but don’t let that diminish the outstanding year he had. By the way, here’s some impressive footage of the Judge flashing the leather…
OF/1B Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles
65 R/24 HR/78 RBI/1 SB
Triple Slash: .293/.338/.488
Trey Mancini is the Michelle Williams to Aaron Judge’s Beyoncé and Benintendi’s Kelly Rowland. He’s just happy to be here, folks. Mancini had a fine year, it’s true, but he picked a bad year to have his first full season in the big leagues. It’s a shame he was so overshadowed because he really did quietly get the job done in what was a pretty lackluster season for the Baltimore Orioles. In terms of his stats, he posted the best batting average of all the candidates, a decent 2.2 WAR, a solid 117 wRC+, and gave Orioles fans something to look forward to with the youngster.
Now, if you feel like Mancini kind of came out of nowhere, you aren’t alone. He was a pretty unheralded prospect who had an above average hit tool, good power, and a mediocre glove. However, as SB Nation blogger John Sickels pointed out back in April, that’s what the scouts said about Paul Goldschmidt too. Is Mancini the next Goldy? I would bet on that not being the case, but it looks like the Orioles have Chris Davis’ eventual successor. Just with less homeruns and a better batting average. For what it’s worth, his Similar Score comparison turned up Shin-Soo Choo pretty high on the list. He’ll never have the speed of in-his-prime Choo, but I’ll take those odds down the road.
OF/1B Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
75 R/26 HR/90 RBI/2 SB
Triple Slash: .255/.334/.466
Well they have to include somebody besides Cody Bellinger, know what I mean? Just joking. Bell really exceeded my expectations with a 26 HR/90 RBI season, but his .255 average left a lot to be desired. A big reason for that middling average was his ice cold start to the season in which he hit just .198 in the month of May before heating up in the summer. Have you ever been to Pittsburgh before the month of June? You can’t feel your fingers. I feel your pain, Josh.
Anyways, once he started heating up in June, there was no looking back. In July, he was able to post a .290 batting average which he followed up with a .323 August. Though the average fluctuated, his power was pretty consistent throughout the year on his way to 26 dongs. He impressed with his bat, sure, but with the glove, he commited the second most errors for a National League first baseman, which the Pirates obviously hope improves moving forward with their future piece. Also, this is an award for best all-around rookie and not just offense, so I have to knock him down a peg for that. Though this may not have been the most eye-popping of years, Bell clearly is loaded with potential especially in the power department. If the hit tool can catch up to the power and build off of this year, we’ve got a future stud.
1B/OF Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
87 R/39 HR/97 RBI/10 SB
Triple Slash: .267/.352/.581
Bellinger is unique in that he was the only one out of the six candidates that had never even sniffed the majors before this season. He debuted this year and literally gave the Dodgers no choice but to forget all about future Hall of Famer Adrian Gonzalez at first. Granted, Gonzalez was injured for a good portion of the year, but the fact remains that Bellinger’s rookie year was an emphatic statement. He was named to the All Star team this season, was twice named Rookie of the Month, and was a vital part of a powerful lineup that won the National League pennant.
As if that wasn’t a banner year in itself, Bellinger was 6th in the NL in slugging, 2nd in homeruns, 8th in extra base hits, and 2nd in homerun per at bat rate with 12.3. Though the power was something to behold, he too struck out at a pretty above average clip (26.6%), so he was truly the National League Aaron Judge. Just…with fewer homeruns. Unlike Josh Bell, Bellinger has a pretty slick glove as he racked up an impressive .994 fielding percentage splitting time between first and the outfield. He’s an all-around talent who showed it this season, and I can’t wait to see him provide an anchor in the middle of the Dodger lineup for years to come.
INF Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals
55 R/25 HR/65 RBI/1 SB
Triple Slash: .285/.325/.532
When I first heard about DeJong, I fully expected him to be 30 and for this to be yet another Cardinals quad-A guy who just happened to take the league by storm in his first full season. Paul DeJong is not 30. He’s 24, but this was his first full season in the big leagues. Hence, his nomination for Rookie of the Year. Anyways, let’s take a look at DeJong’s season. First things first, here was a Mancini-like non-heralded prospect who showed good power and hit for a great average. We kept waiting for the hammer to fall all season, but we ended up looking like dolts because it never fell. DeJong just refused to cool off, and those who jumped on the bandwagon in fantasy were rewarded handsomely.
Though DeJong didn’t play much in the first half (just 33 games), he was electric in the second with a .273 average, 16 HRs, 45 RBI, and 38 runs through 72 games. He was named NL Rookie of the Month in July at the start of that impressive second half as well. When you look at his stats on the whole, you may not be too impressed. But, when you consider that the Cardinals didn’t really commit to him until halfway through the season and he STILL posted similar numbers to guys like Trey Mancini, you can’t help but be impressed. He’s the little engine that could of the NL ROY conversation, and even though he had a horrendous 28% K rate, he rode the Cardinals’ Devil Magic to a underrated solid season.
Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge. By a lot. It’s not close, guys. This is about as chalky as it gets. You have two guys who put up MVP-worthy numbers while the rest of the field put up just very good seasons. Any other year, this is Benintendi’s award in a heartbeat. If we had gotten a full season out of Rhys Hoskins, I think he would have given Bellinger a true run for his money. But alas, here we are. We were gifted two of the finest rookie seasons in a very, very long time, and I wish there was more intrigue going into tomorrow night. However, let us use tomorrow to acknowledge just what incredible things were accomplished by the future superstars of this beautiful game. Congrats to all the candidates, and congrats to the eventual winners!
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my weekly College Football TV Guide article dropping this Thursday! As always, follow me on Twitter @jakebridges03 as well as the entire Three Up Three Down team!