numberFire MLB Rookie of the Year Race: Week 1
As a society, we have been stupid spoiled recently. Within the last four years, Mike Trout, Jose Fernandez, Bryce Harper and Buster Posey have all been named Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues. If those four players were the core of your team, you'd be sitting pretty right now.
And there's a new crop of little chillens just waiting to break out, captivate our attention, and give us stats nerds something to drool on our mothers' keyboards about. While it's too early to tab any of these pups as the next infallible deity, it's never too early to look at the 2014 Rookie of the Year race. We'll re-visit this race every two weeks here at numberFire, so strap in, kiddos, and make sure to check back for our rankings.
Most of these rankings will be based on each player's nERD rating. In case you don't know what nERD is, you can click here. Essentially, it's a general measure of a player's worth in runs scored (for a batter) or runs prevented (for a pitcher).
1. Yangervis Solarte, IF, New York Yankees
nERD: 5.82 | wOBA: .513 | WAR: 0.5
Yes, this means the list is based on what the players have done this season and not based on preseason expectations. Do I think this will last the whole season? Uh, no. I'm just writing down what the numbers tell me, and they tell me Solarte's transition to the big leagues has been dope.
In his first 20 at-bats, Solarte has nine hits; four of those have been doubles, leading him to a slash of .450/.522/.650. If you project those four doubles in 20 at-bats over 500 at-bats, that puts Solarte on pace for 100 doubles this year. Early season rate stats are so freaking fun.
But there's a reason Solarte's appearance on this list is a surprise. In two seasons at AAA with the Rangers, the 26-year-old had wOBA's of .332 and .324 respectively. Not exactly a barn-burning commodity. But his silly-good start to the season is enough to top this list for now.
2. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners
nERD: 11.48 | FIP: 1.47 | WAR: 0.3
Nine strikeouts. Seven innings. Two hits. Two walks. One filthy Canadian.
It doesn't matter that Paxton was facing the Angels. The man dealt in his first start of the season last Tuesday. Using a fastball that averaged 94.8 mph, Paxton baffled hitters on the way to a 72.3 contact percentage (percentage of swings in which the opponent made contact).
Paxton did show flashes of this last year in his four Major League starts. In 24 innings, Paxton had a 1.50 ERA, 7.88 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9. Paxton's K/9 was around 10.0 in each of his first two years in the minors, so this dude is legit and a guy you should keep an eye on going forward.
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
nERD: 3.39 | wOBA: .402 | WAR: 0.3
Words cannot quantify how sad it makes me to put Bogaerts on this list. It has nothing to do with the team he plays for, his style of play or anything logical. Rather, I am 451 days older than him. While he is out posting up stupid numbers, I am posting about stupid numbers. This also makes me 30 days older than Trout, so my worthless-o-meter is hovering about as high as his WAR right now.
Even if it does hurt to admit it, Bogaerts is living up to the expectations so far in the young season. He has already surpassed his WAR from last year in half of the plate appearances. Over those 79 career plate appearances, Bogaerts has a bonkers 28.8 line-drive percentage. I get that all of this is based on a small sample size, but these numbers are exceptional.
Like Paxton, Bogaerts exhibited numbers like this before reaching the majors, too. His wOBA was always in the high-.300s or low-.400s in the minors, including a .374 mark in 256 plate appearances at AAA last year. If he can keep his walk numbers up, Bogaerts should find himself at the top of this list soon.
4. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees
nERD: 6.37 | FIP: 2.75 | WAR: 0.2
Once again, not a shocker here. Tanaka's first start went swimmingly, even when you take the disgustingly high bar people have set for this guy in his transition from Japan to the MLB.
The raw numbers from Tanaka's debut against Toronto (seven innings, two earned runs on six hits) aren't going to blow anybody away. But the advanced numbers are enough to make my spreadsheets blush, and they aren't shy little buggers.
In those seven innings, Tanaka didn't walk anybody while striking out eight. He did this while relying heavily on his slider and split-finger, using his fastball only 41.2 percent of the time. This also helped him post a 12:7 groundball-to-flyball ratio. All in all, a jolly good start to his reign of poodle-weilding awesomeness.
5. Abraham Almonte, OF, Seattle Mariners
nERD: 2.31 | wOBA: .384 | WAR: 0.2
Which do you think the Mariners are more stoked about: starting the year 4-2 or having two guys on this list? I'm leaning list, but that's just me.
Through his first 29 plate appearances, Almonte has three extra-base hits to just one for Owings. The big difference between Almonte and Abreu was position. Because he plays the outfield, Almonte's nERD sits at 2.31. With Abreu playing first base, a position overflowing with offensive lusciousness, his numbers look less impressive, earning him a 0.10 nERD rating. That doesn't mean I think Abreu and Owings don't have the ability to climb this list eventually. The numbers just say that Almonte has earned the spot so far.
Who would you put on this list instead of my picks? Tell us! I asked the question in numberFire's question section, so just click there and provide your input. Bonus points for anyone that sips on the Josmil Pinto Kool-Aid.