Bryce as Rookie of the Year

The end of the year is coming, and Bryce Harper is making a run for Rookie of the Year. It’s amazing because back on August 26 when he was at his OPS low hitting only .248/.319/.410, he was only in the discussion because of his name. But since then, he’s been on fire, hitting an astounding .342/.406/.700, although that’s only a few weeks of play. How does he stack up against the competition? It’s never easy to judge an award where pitchers and hitters can just as easily win, but let’s start with the hurlers.

Pitching Candidates

One of the frontrunners, perhaps the biggest frontrunner right now, is Wade Miley (3.2 WAR). And Miley’s had a great season – 3.32 ERA (126 ERA+), 134 K, 37 BB in  187 IP. His biggest asset, other than that ERA, is his Ws, which sit at 16. I’m not saying that is makes him the best candidate, I’m saying it helps him out in the voting quite a bit.

The problem is, if you take away the number of Ws, Mike Fiers (1.7 WAR) is having a somewhat similar season. Fiers, a rookie on Milwaukee, is sitting at a 3.74 ERA (111 ERA+), 135 K, 36 BB in 127 2/3 IP. As good of a season as Miley? No, no it isn’t. But it’s not very far off.

There is one more pitcher worth discussing, and that’s Lance Lynn (2.0 WAR). He may steal some votes with his 18 Ws, and his 180 K, 64 BB in 176 IP. But while his ERA of 3.78 doesn’t look too bad, when you adjust for park factors and such, his ERA+ of 102 is clearly inferior. He’ll get votes, but he doesn’t deserve the title. With Lynn being a notch below, and Miley/Fiers being similar enough to make me question voting for a pitcher at all, lets look at the hitters.

Hitting Candidates

Norichika Aoki (3.1) on Milwakee, a 30 year old transfer student from Japan, is hitting .288/.355/.437 with an OPS+ of 110. He’s established himself as a strong leadoff man in a team that was a playoff contender until the final weekend of the season. Aoki also has 28 SBs adding to his value.

Yonder Alonso (1.3 WAR) is probably the big prize to come to the Padres in the Mat Latos trade, a power hitting first baseman. Only he hasn’t shown any power, and that’s not just because he’s playing in San Diego. Hitting .275/.350/.393 shows he can and will hit, but until that power comes, he’s not much of a bat at the corner.

26 year old Cincannti corner man Todd Frazier (1.9 WAR) has had a very good season, and his .274/.333/.500 proves it. That slugging is a little more impressive than it should be due to his home ballpark, and that’s reflected in his 116 OPS+, which isn’t spectacular. He’s got 19 HRs, but he’s experiencing a September slump, and his playing time has been limited as well.

Zack Cozart (2.6 WAR) is another Reds player, and he’s been strong in his own right. But it’s mostly been with the glove. He’s hitting only .249/.291/.405, and while that home ballpark does inflate slugging some, he is showing legitimate power potential. But those numbers don’t win it this year.

Wilin Rosario (1.9 WAR) is a 23 year old catcher for the Rockies, and he is showing some true star potential. Hitting .274/.316/.535, he isn’t particularly selective but he’s certainly got pop. He also has 27 HRs, downright impressive for a rookie. But the low OBP and the famously HR friendly home park drags down his WAR and his OPS+, only a 109.

And finally, Bryce Harper (4.2 WAR) and his .269/.339/.476 with 17 SBs. He’s got 22 HRs, which isn’t quite as many as Rosario, but he doesn’t play in Colorado. Harper has spent most of his time recently in CF, which adds defensive value, and his arm is not to be trifled with. He is certainly the most well-rounded of the players on this list, and his OPS+ of 118 is the best among the group.

Verdict

Aoki’s OBP is so high, and Rosario’s is so low, that it seems to be a 4 horse race to me – Harper, Miley, Aoki and Frazier. I’m not comfortable with Miley, although his value is higher than Fiers, I don’t think I’d take him over any of the hitters. There is certainly a case to be made, but I’d rank him behind the other guys.

I’d personally rank Aoki over Frazier, mostly on the strength of his defense and his high SB #. Frazier has more power, but Aoki has delivered more value this season,  although it is rather close.

But I believe Harper will, in the end, get the nod. His overall numbers are superior, and his ability to play an effective CF to boot certainly helps. But as I mentioned above, he is more well rounded and that’s what should get him votes. He only sits behind Alonso (who won’t win) and Aoki in terms of OBP, but he also is only behind Frazier in SLG. On top of that, he’s #2 in SBs.

The mammoth shots and the hype won’t hurt his abilities to get votes, but it really is the numbers that make Bryce Harper the best candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.

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