Since we’re almost a fourth of the way through the season, it’s time to start looking at some of the impact rookies in 2012. While some big names like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have gained national attention, there are many lesser-known names putting up solid numbers.
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Yu Darvish – Texas Rangers: I’m not a big fan of players coming over from another country, who are older and more experienced, having a shot at winning the Rookie of the Year (ROY) award. But Darvish technically qualifies, and therefore, he is in the discussion.
The 25-year-old Japanese rookie has been impressive in his seven starts this year, posting a 2.84 ERA in 44.1 innings pitched. He’s walked 24 and struck out 51, while posting a 5-1 record for a talented Rangers offense. As with most pitchers from Japan, it’s only a matter of time before hitters figure him out. After a great April, his ERA in May is 4.67 in two starts against the Indians and Angels.
Wei-Yin Chen – Baltimore Orioles: He’s in the same category as Darvish but is actually a year older. A bit under the radar before his outstanding performance against the New York Yankees on May 15, Chen has allowed 12 earned runs in 44 innings for a 2.45 ERA in seven starts. He’s not the strikeout pitcher that Darvish is, recording only 32, but he’s effective in the strike zone, forcing hitters to make poor contact and inducing ground balls and pop outs.
He’s the ace of this staff right now, and as long as the Orioles perform at a top level, Chen will have a chance to be considered a ROY candidate with Darvish. I believe Chen has the tools to sustain longevity in the league and will be a solid two or three starter.
Wade Miley – Arizona Diamondbacks: Miley pitched 40.1 innings in the majors last season and was rather effective, except for two starts. After beginning the 2012 season as a reliever for the Diamondbacks, he has moved into the rotation and has rightly earned a spot. He’s made five starts and completed six innings in all of them but one, when he only managed to work five and two-thirds innings.
His ERA as a starter this year is 2.35 in 30.2 innings pitched. He’s struck out 25 and walked only eight in those starts and is 3-1. He’s only topped 100 pitches once, which was in his latest outing, so it looks as if the Diamondbacks coaching staff is beginning to become a little more comfortable with him as a starter. He has little competition among pitchers in the National League, so if he can keep this up he’ll have a legitimate shot.
Randall Delgado – Atlanta Braves: After a shaky start to the season, the highly touted prospect has settled into a bit of a groove allowing only three earned runs in his last 20.1 innings. His recent success has given him a respectable ERA of 3.79 on the season, and he’s struck out 35 and walked 18.
He definitely has the potential to be the best rookie pitcher in either league and with the way he’s pitching lately it seems he’s finally figured out how to retire big league hitters and stay in games longer.
Drew Smyly – Detroit Tigers: Smyly has been incredible in his seven starts for the Tigers even though his 1-0 record doesn’t reflect his performance correctly. He’s struck out 38 batters in 39 innings, while allowing 32 hits and 10 earned runs. In May (three starts) he’s struck out 16 in 17 innings and only walked three.
In April he posted a 1.23 ERA, and while he hasn’t been as effected since, he’s managed to keep his team in every game, as they’re 4-3 on days he starts. The Tigers offense has been a bit of a disappointment this season, but if they can start giving Smyly some run support and get him some wins, he’ll be right up there with Darvish and others.
Will Middlebrooks – Boston Red Sox: The 23-year-old third baseman was getting rave reviews in triple-A before his promotion to the big league. At Pawtucket, he was hitting .333 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 93 at-bats. He hasn’t cooled off much moving up a league as he’s hit .300 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in only 50 at-bats with the big club.
This kid is clearly prepared for the big leagues and his recent production has led to many trade rumors involving the highly respected Red Sox Kevin Youkilis. I believe a rookie should spend the majority of the year in the majors before winning an ROY because some players just get hot at a certain time, so if Middlebrooks can stay in the lineup and keep up this type of production, he’s the clear favorite to win the award; especially if helps turn this ball club around.
Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels: Probably the most hyped rookie coming into the this year outside of Harper, Trout has been on fire as of late, giving the Angels offense a much needed spark. After a slow start, Trout has recorded six multi-hit games in May to raise his average to .316 (he’s hitting .370 in May). He’s hit three home runs, scored 11 times and stolen three bases.
There is no doubt Trout is the most talented of all the rookies, and like Middlebrooks, if he can help his team get back on the right track, that will only help his candidacy. He’s an exciting player and one the voters will certainly be keeping an eye on.
Yonder Alonso — San Diego Padres: The list of offensive rookies in the National League aren’t quite as impressive, but a couple of guys are putting together solid campaigns early on. The big piece in the Mat Latos deal in the offseason, Alonso has performed well for a slug-less offense in San Diego. He’s fourth amongst all rookies in average at .296 and first in doubles with 12. He’s only managed one home run, and has still yet to hit one in spacious PETCO Park, but he has a nice OBP of .364.
He’s not going to get a lot of national exposure on such a bad team, but the kid can hit, and with the lack of competition in this league and the opportunity to get every day at bats, he’ll be there in the end.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis — New York Mets: One of the better rookie surprises of the year, and a big reason the Mets are off to such a good start, Nieuwenhuis has hit .294, while playing in 35 of the Mets 36 games, thus far. He’s scored 19 times and has an OBP of .370. He’s added two home runs and 12 RBIs to his resume.
The Mets outfielder has moved up to second in the batting order, and if he continues to get on base in front of David Wright, he could continue to score runs and stay in contention for the NL ROY.
Jesus Montero — Seattle Mariners: Another player involved in a big offseason trade, Montero has been a nice acquisition for the Mariners. Splitting time between catcher and the designated hitter position, the 22-year-old has hit five home runs (first on the team) and driven in 17 runs (second on the team).
He’s striking out entirely too much and not walking enough, which is what you can expect from a power-hitting catcher. His average has stayed around .250 and .270 most of the season and I believe that’s what we can expect from Montero all year. Unless he puts up monster power numbers, I don’t know if he can compete with the others on this list.