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NL Rookie of the Year

He stole third!

The Cy Young Award race is a tight one, but I don't think it holds a candle to the ROY contest.  As with the CYA voting yesterday, Battlekow and I only agreed on one of the top-three contenders:

Jeff's ballot

  1. Hanley Ramirez
  2. Anibal Sanchez
  3. Prince Fielder
Battlekow's ballot
  1. Josh Johnson
  2. Ryan Zimmerman
  3. Hanley Ramirez
There are plenty of other options as well: Clay Hensley, Matt Cain, Scott Olson, Andre Ethier, Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham, Josh Barfield, Russell Martin, and Chris Duncan.  That's not even counting a few relievers--Cla Meredith, Takashi Saito, and Jonathan Broxton--who had excellent season for first-year pitchers.  It's just a shame that Corey Hart didn't get a shot to make this race more competitive.

To me, Hanley was a no-brainer at #1.  First off, he led all MLB rookies in VORP by almost 15--that's a win and a half better than the competition.  He hit for average, he hit for power, and for crying out loud, he was third in the league in stolen bases.  Put that together with solid defense at the most important position on the diamond, and you have yourself a Rookie of the Year.  On my ballot, he even cracked the top 10 for NL MVP.

#2 was a much harder decision.  By VORP, the next rung of NL Rookies is almost all pitchers--Hensley, Johnson, Sanchez, and Uggla--but those guys achieved their 4-win totals by very different means.  Hensley and Johnson were part of their big-league teams for most of the season, while Sanchez had a stellar second half.  Anibal was aided by a .243 BABIP, indicating that he probably won't maintain his 2.83 ERA next year, but his performance--especially his RA, which takes into account unearned runs as well as earned ones, was so far above the competition that this spot had to belong to him.

If I weren't a Brewers fan, I probably wouldn't have considered Prince for the #3 spot, but as is, there was no way I could leave him off.  Uggla, Zimmerman, and Willingham all out-produced him, as did several rookie pitchers.  But if you question my objectivity, I have one question to ask you.  Are any of those other guys 260 lb. tanks who stole third base?  It's arbitrary and competely irrelevant, I know, but when he led a double steal in this game, that sealed the deal for me.  Amazingly, it was one of seven bases he stole on the year against only two times caught stealing.  He may not have been the third best rookie in the NL this year, but he deserved at least one vote, and I had to give it to him.

Update [2006-10-5 14:38:36 by battlekow]: I find it hard to get excited about the ROY award. I can get into the spirit of "Who's the best, most exciting young player?" but technicalities often ruin it. Anyway:

  • I think Hanley Ramirez had a fantastic year, certainly better than anyone other than Mrs. Ramirez would have predicted; I also think Jeff is overrating him a tad. Defense is frequently overlooked when deciding postseason awards, and Hanley's defense was...not good. According to both Chris Dial and Chone Smith (before you say it: I know those are 2007 projections, not 2006 ratings), Ramirez is one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball, and probably the worst going forward unless Felipe Lopez has established a new, awful level of performance. He may be a win and a half better than any other rookie with the bat, but he cost the Marlins that same win and a half with his glove, which is why he's not first on my ballot.
  • Prince Fielder was also brutal with the glove, though not as bad as Ramirez. He probably cost the Brewers about a win with his glove (he's not listed in that second link, but you can read his projection here, in comment #4) and really wasn't all that dazzling with the bat. This should not be taken as pessimism on my part, because Fielder is quite young and will in all likelihood have some monster seasons with the bat that will justify playing his -10 run glove; 2006 just wasn't one of those seasons.
  • Too late, I'm noticing that Zimmerman's elite defensive rep isn't really represented by the numbers. I could be persuaded to switch him and Ramirez. Also, taking into account RFK's reputation as a pitcher's park, Zimmerman's splits are pretty weird: .327/.384/.516 at home but only .245/.318/.424 on the road.