The transition to the majors can be a daunting task that ruins the careers of professional baseball players before they even get started. In 2015, however, the league saw several young rookie stars overcome that barrier without much trouble. Whether it was the brilliance of Carlos Correra, Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, or another excellent first-year pro, the young talent took baseball by storm last season.
That level of play raised the expectations for rookies this season, and a select few are up to the challenge. In both the National and American League, rookies at the plate and on the mound have contributed to successful first-quarters of the season. Some of these rookies are key offensive threats while others serve in more complimentary roles, but regardless, the 2016 class shows that the future of baseball is in good hands.
With a quarter of the campaign behind us, let’s take a look at the early-season contenders for Rookie of the Year in both the American League and the National League. Along with the contenders, we have our winners of first-quarter ROY in both leagues, which serves as our predictions for the end-of-year winners as well.
Contenders: Trevor Story, Aledmys Diaz, Corey Seager, Steven Matz
One of the top storylines of the first month or so of the MLB season was the play of Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story, who broke numerous early-season home run records and seemed to be unstoppable through his first few handfuls of games as a pro. While Story’s numbers still stack up with the top rookies in the NL (most notably, his 11 home runs leads all rookies in the league), he has fallen off in recent weeks, opening the door for other great, young players in the league to take charge in the NL ROY race.
On the mound, Steven Matz is in his first full season for the New York Mets (he did pitch in the postseason last year, however). Matz has been excellent for the World Series contender, owning the most wins on the team with five to go along with a 2.86 ERA. With how good the Mets’ staff is, it’s easy to overlook Matz. Still, he is a key to their success and deserves plenty of consideration among the game’s top rookies.
Joining Story among the top NL rookies at the plate is Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals. Diaz has a terrific batting average — second among all NL hitters — to go along with six home runs and 20 RBI for a team always in contention in St. Louis. However, we are giving the first-quarter ROY award in the NL to Seager because of how much he means to the success of the Dodgers’ offense right now.
Seager leads LA in hits, average, RBI, and offensive WAR. He is also second on the team in home runs, keeping a struggling offense afloat as the Dodgers try to return the postseason once again this season. His numbers aren’t as good as those of Diaz, but Seager’s play as a rookie is huge for his team.
First-quarter ROY: Corey Seager
Contenders: Nomar Mazara, Byung Ho Park
The race for Rookie of the Year in the American League is much thinner than that in the NL. While the class is thin, the contestants are still worthy of consideration. Among those players is Minnesota’s Byung Ho Park, who has provided somewhat of a bright spot for a struggling Twins team.
Park’s batting average isn’t terrific at .241, but his home run total of nine is second among all rookies (regardless of league) and he also has a solid 15 RBI. His WAR mark is also among the best for a rookie this season.
While Park has a case as AL ROY, the winner through the first-quarter of the season is the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara. While his home run and RBI total is less than that of Park, Mazara has hit for an excellent .307 average for Texas — a team in a much better situation than Minnesota. Mazara also has the edge in on-base percentage, giving him the slightest of edge above his rookie counterpart for the Twins.
First-quarter ROY: Nomar Mazara