MLB Rookie of the Year Race Update: Week 18

A pair of rookies have helped the Rays catapult back into the race, and they both rank within our top five.

Hello. It's day 19 without Masahiro Tanaka in our lives. How are you holding up, friend?

The following are symptoms of Masahirosion of the Heart (MOTH) due to Tanaka withdrawal: swelling of the eyelids from persistent dampness, tightening of the lips in an attempt not to spew obscenities, and decreased text drive from not messaging your bros/broettes about his dopetastic splitter. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not take your condition lightly; you need help.

Thankfully, there is a cure for MOTH. All you need to do is check out some of the dudes below. The 2014 rookie class is stocked full of goodies, and you can't really go wrong with anybody in the top five of the race.

In order to rank this league of extraordinary gentlebabies, we'll be using numberFire's nERD statistic. For hitters, nERD is the number of runs that batter would score relative to an average hitter if they were to record 27 plate appearances in a game. For a pitcher, it's the same, except the number of runs allowed based on 27 plate appearances. In each instance, a positive number is good. For a further explanation, you can click here. I'll also cite each player's previous ranking. That comes from our Rookie of the Year Race update from the beginning of July.

As a warning, the side effects of these substitutes for Tanaka are also very serious. If you experience overwhelming joy, hot flashes, or a desire to strap on the cleats and humiliate the neighbor kid at t-ball, please stop reading. That's weird, homie, and I have never ever done anything like that. Promise. Now, before I implicate myself in the emotional trauma of little Billy, let's roll with these rankings.

1. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox

nERD: 3.11 | wOBA: .406 | WAR: 3.4 | Previous Ranking: 1

If it weren't for the mystical creature known as Mike Trout and the White Sox's general inability to score more runs than their opponents, Abreu would be one of the top contenders for the MVP award. That makes him a no-brainer at the top here.

This is the scary thing about Abreu: he might be getting better. Wut. Now, Abreu's home run total is down this month (only five home runs in July compared to ten in June), but that doesn't mean he's getting less contact on the ball. This month, Abreu has a 30.3 line-drive percentage. Last month, that number was only 20.3 percent, which is around the league average. This has helped Abreu hit .341/.392/.602 in July. He has a chance, as numberFire's John Stolnis wrote on July 6th, to be the greatest rookie slugger ever. The drool is just fissuring from my mouth right now. And Abreu isn't going to stop anytime soon.

2. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees

nERD: 1.97 | ERA: 2.51 | WAR: 3.1 | Previous Ranking: 2

If you're trying to get over his loss, this might just make you sad. Please carry on, valiant comrade.

While we await the prodigaled son's heroic return to action, Bleacher Report has a page that just refreshes with updates on how Tanaka's program is coming along. Here was the most recent update:

So, yeah. Return to wallowing in your sadness. Eventually, Tanaka will slop from the number two spot in these rankings because there are a ton of other baller candidates, but the man still put in work while he was healthy this year.

3. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

nERD: 1.80 | ERA: 3.80 | WAR: 1.9 | Previous Ranking: 4

When Odorizzi first occurred on this list on June 18th, he had a 4.73 ERA. He has lowered that by over a run in just less than a month. If you needed a posterboy of why nERD is a better predictor of future success than ERA, Jake Odorizzi is your new home boy.

As I was writing this column, Grantland's Jonah Keri popped into my Twitter timeline, which is always a blessing. He had this to say of Odorizzi:

Dat strikeout-per-nine-innings, doe. On the season, Odorizzi's strikeouts-per-nine is at 10.21, the second highest of the qualified rookie starters behind Collin McHugh. And he has helped the Rays, beyond all odds, crawl their way back into the playoff hunt. Thankfully, he's had some help in doing so from No. 5 on our list (the suspense!).

4. Dellin Betances, RP, New York Yankees

nERD: 1.57 | ERA: 1.43 | WAR: 2.2 | Previous Ranking: 3

I think part of the reason that I love Betances so much is that Joe Girardi actually uses him correctly. Basically, Girardi has Betances, his best reliever, go out there to bail the Yankees out of jams, no matter what inning. More managers need to do this.

This year, Betances has made five appearances in the fifth inning, 15 in the sixth, 22 in the seventh, 26 in the eighth, and nine in the ninth. That's distribution, homie. And when opponents are hitting .129 off of you, I don't think a lot of inherited runners are going to trot home.

Now, Betances has begun to slip a bit, but that's to be expected when you start off as well as he did. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings has fallen each month, from 15.53 in April to 10.20 in July. His FIP has also "inflated" to 2.74 this month after a 1.00 mark in May, but a 2.74 FIP is still pretty freaking awesome. Betances deserves a lot of dap for what he has done this year because not a lot of relievers could hang in the top five with this sick rookie class.

5. Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

nERD: 1.30 | wOBA: 0.391 | WAR: 3.1 | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

Kiermaier became an every-day player on May 31st for the Rays. At the time, the Rays were ten games below .500 with a run-differential of negative 34. Now, the team is only two games below .500 and has a minus-three run-differential. And, voila, the Rays are suddenly contending again.

Earlier this month, numberFire's Ben Bruno wrote about why you should start start paying attention to Kiermaier. Y'all best listen to Ben because this Kiermaier kid is legit.

Last year, Kiermaier's teammate Wil Myers won the A.L. Rookie of the Year award. Kiermaier dwarfs Myers's numbers from last year, and he's still only fifth on this list:

PlayernERDwOBASlugging PercentageWAR
Wil Myers0.960.3570.4782.5
Kevin Kiermaier1.300.3910.5443.1

Advantage: Kiermaier. Heck, even Brock Holt, who is basically a superhero, is putting up better numbers than the defending Rookie of the Year, and Holt didn't make this list. That just shows you how freaking stacked this year's rookie class is, and Kiermaier is making it even more-so.