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2016 MLB National League Rookie of the Year Candidates
Players dream of becoming All Stars, of being the best at their position. Of being chosen to be Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers and maybe even Platinum Players. For each of these honors a player usually gets multiple opportunities if they remain in the league more than just one year. And there are nine positions on a team so nine players (more if we are talking All Star) who can be honored each year. But to be Rookie Of The Year, you only get one chance. One player in each league will be chosen as the best young player out of all who make their debut each season. To be chosen, you must shine brighter than all others. As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Each year, someone shines brightly enough to be recognized as the best new player in the league. Sometimes that player goes on to dazzle for years to come; other times the winner is a comet across the night sky, blazing brightly before disappearing forever.
Thus far this year there have been several players striving for attention, new players who have set foot on the greatest stage in the sport and not been dazzled by the bright lights or big cities. They have played extremely well and made the teams who chose them proud.
Three who have shone the brightest all play the same position, making the rest of the year an exciting time to see which will rise to the top, which will get national recognition as an All Star in a couple of weeks, and which will continue to shine for the duration and receive the once in a lifetime award of Rookie Of The Year. I would like to take a look at them now and welcome your thoughts on each, or if you think I might have missed another worthy candidate.
First, I would like to bring to your attention one who should not receive ROY notice but then again, who might. To me, ROY is someone new to the big leagues, someone who has recently been drafted or signed and worked their way up through the minor leagues, paid their dues so to speak. I do not believe someone who has played professional baseball for years in another country should qualify as a rookie but that is only my opinion: not MLB's rules.
Seung Hwan Oh is a reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals, my team of choice. Technically he is a rookie although he has multiple years playing professional baseball in Korea and Japan. In these countries, he became known as "The Stone Buddha", and my favorite "The Final Boss" for his ability to get the final outs in a game. He seems unflappable and nearly unhittable. So far he has pitched in 37 games and struck out 51 batters with an ERA of 1.66 and a WHIP of 0.79. With the Cards' All Star and record setting closer Trevor Rosenthal faltering at present and being removed as the team's closer recently, it appears as Oh, The Final Boss will be getting a chance to close out games for the Cards. No pressure. So I suppose what I am saying is that even thought he is on my team, is taking over as the closer of that team, and is technically a rookie I still would not count him as a ROY candidate because he is not new to professional baseball, just American baseball. I like him as a player and love seeing him come on to pitch but to me he is not truly a rookie.
And now, the three players I brought for you to see. They all are young, all just hit the big leagues in the last few months, all can field and all can hit. Each has made a home at their positions on the field and look to be there for years to come. And they all play the same position, shortstop. I give you Corey Seager of the L.A. Dodgers, Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies and Aledmys Diaz of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Corey Seager was a first round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2012. He made his Major League debut last September (2015) and has basically started every game since. In 2015 he batted .337 with 4 home runs in 98 at bats. This year he is batting .307 with 16 home runs in 299 at bats. And at age 22 seems poised to be the Dodger shortstop for years to come. If family history is any precursor then just looking at his older brother Kyle who plays for the Mariners wil lead you to believe his best years are still in front of him.
Trevor Story is another first round draft pick, chosen by the Colorado Rockies in 2011. His debut came April 4 of this year and boy did he make an immediate impact. Two home runs in his first game; one in each of the next two games; and two more in his fourth ever big league game. So in his first four games he had six home runs in nineteen at bats. No one can keep that kind of a streak going but still, he has 19 HR's with a .271 avg. The Rockies had traded perennial All Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto and with Story's emergence as their shortstop of the future haven't missed him at all. To date, he is slashing .267/.334/.551 with an .886 OPS.
Which would you pick as a Rookie Of The Year?
Diaz, now 25, is someone who shouldn't even be here. Cuban born, Diaz defected in 2012 while playing for the Cuban National Team in a tournament in the Netherlands. Due to a question about his age he was unable to sign with any Major League team until February of 2014. After having played virtually no baseball for almost two years there was rust on him. Injuries mounted and his playing suffered. Finally, in July of 2015 he was designated for assignment: no one took a gamble on him. No one in the MLB wanted him. Then, something happened. Whether it was being told he was not wanted or his health improved or some combination, he started hitting. In AAA Memphis he hit .333. In the Arizona Fall League he hit like crazy. Then this spring he kept hitting. Still, he was sent down to Memphis to start the year.
Then, Cardinal shortstop Jhonny Peralta got injured. Rather than bring Diaz up, the Cards elected to sign another shortstop in free agency, Rueben Tejada. But just days later, he was injured. So, the call went out. Diaz, pack your bags, you're coming to the Big Show.
Since then, all he has done is hit. In his first 19 games he had 13 extra base hits. It took 41 games for his OPS to drop under 1.000. To date, he has a .316/.374/.523 split with an .898 OPS.
He did have some nerves on the field, as he committed 5 errors in his first 13 games, but he has settled in nicely and now has only had 2 errors the entire month of June.
So as you can see, the future is bright for these three shortstops. Story has made Colorado forget about Tulowitzki. When Peralta came back to the Cardinals it wasn't to his old position of shortstop, it was to third base, which meant that Matt Carpenter had to be moved back to second base and Kolten Wong had to learn a new position in order to remain in St Louis. And Seager in La La Land has a future so bright he's gotta wear shades. All three are grounded, solid individuals who are just having a blast playing the game. They might be the new Mike Trout, even though they are all about the same age.
Maybe this new crop of players ain't so bad after all.