Breaking Down the National League Rookie of the Year Race
These are the slash lines of seven top candidates for the National League Rookie of the Year, and looking at the numbers, one thing is clear.
This race is going to be incredibly tight.
This season has been one of the best for rookies and young players in many years. So many of the game's elite stars are still babies in this game, and the race for Rookie of the Year in both leagues is really heating up.
In the National League, some of the names we all suspected would be in the hunt for this award are right there, but there have been some surprises as well.
So with the season now hitting the dog days of August and a little less than two months to go in the season, let's see who are the leaders of the pack in the race for NL Rookie of the Year.
Above are the 10 rookies with the highest fWARs in the National League. A few of them, Michael Taylor, Nick Ahmed and Addison Russell have decent fWARs thanks to their excellent defensive skills. Unfortunately, their bats disqualify them from consideration right now.
Interestingly, a look at the offensive numbers alone show it's a virtual dead heat between the other seven.
Kris Bryant has a rookie-leading fWAR of 3.4, which puts him near the top of any list like this. His .246/.354/.436 slash line is good, and his .354 on-base percentage is second-best among that group. His 14 homers are also second best, and he's also been dangerous on the bases, with 10 steals. And his nERD of 1.59, meaning a lineup full of Bryants would score 1.59 runs a game more than a league average player, is second-best among rookies.
Bryant came into the season as the pick by many to take home the hardware, and while he isn't running away with the honors, he is doing enough to lead the race right now. Meanwhile, Matthew Duffy's excellent season has come as a complete surprise, and he isn't slowing down. His .301 batting average is tops among the players listed above, with a .301/.340/.457 slash line and an fWAR of 3.1 that is second-best.
Joc Pederson was on track to run away with this award, but an ice-cold second half is really hurting his chances. He still has more homers than any other NL rookie, with 21. However, after a first half in which he was walking in 15.8% of his plate appearances and struck out 29.2% of the time, he has walked in just 1.7% of his plate appearances since the All Star Game and struck out 36.2% of the time. And his slash line since the break is an abysmal .182/.224/.273, with one home run in 58 plate appearances.
Jung Ho Kang has had an excellent season as a top-of-the-lineup option for the Pirates. He was a key international free agent signing in the off-season, with a 1.53 nERD that is second-best among NL rookies. He gets on base, has a little bit of pop, and his wOBA of .360 is also second-best among NL first-year players. He doesn't get talked about much, but he's certainly in the running.
Then there are the three newcomers to the race, Randal Grichuk, Jake Lamb and Maikel Franco. Grichuk is having an outstanding season for St. Louis, with 12 homers in just 73 games, good for a .381 wOBA and 1.77 nERD that is tops among the rookies listed above. Lamb probably doesn't have enough games under his belt to merit serious consideration, but his 1.9 fWAR in just 55 games is certainly eye-popping. And one of the few bright spots for the Phillies this season has been the play of Franco, who has filled up the stat sheet quite ably since he was called up.
But of course, there are rookies who pitch the baseball who merit consideration. In fact, Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard is having perhaps the best rookie season of any National League first year player, with a 6-5 record, 2.66 ERA, 2.77 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and an fWAR of 2.5. He is striking out 9.51 batters per nine innings and walking a scant 1.90 per nine in 15 starts. San Francisco's Chris Heston also deserves some consideration, having pitched a no-hitter with an fWAR of 2.3 and an ERA of 3.24.
As of right now, I'd give the slight edge to Bryant over Syndergaard, with Duffy, Kang and Pederson rounding out the top five.
But, there is still a lot of season left.