The Rookie of the Year award can be a harbinger of great things to come (Ryan Howard) or of stunning, dramatic collapse (Eric Hinske). It’s hard to imagine that this year’s candidates have anything other than great careers ahead of them. But then again, somebody probably said that about Jerome Walton, too.
Without further ado, the picks.
3. Dan Uggla (.281/.337/.474, 26 HR, 89 RBI)
2. Ryan Zimmerman (.289/.354/.475, 20 HR, 109 RBI)
1. Hanley Ramirez (.292/.353/.481, 17 HR, 51 SB)
Dan Uggla was an all-star this season and a legit slugger in the middle of the Marlins lineup. He was also solid defensively and, with the exception of Chase Utley, was probably the league’s best 2B. But he wasn’t this year’s best rookie.
It’s tempting to give the ROTY to Ryan Zimmerman in anticipation of the career he’s going to have, just as it’s tempting to give Derek Jeter the MVP award as a sort of career achievement award. Zimmerman’s got to be the surest thing among all of the talented rookies in the class of 2006. But he wasn’t this year’s best rookie, either.
Hanley Ramirez’s VORP (value over replacement player) this season was 50.7. The rookie with the next highest VORP was Uggla, at 38.6. In other words, it wasn’t even close. Ramirez hit for average, played above average defense and stole an obscene number of bases. He’s a game-changing player. And before all is said and done he’s going to be the biggest reason we’ll look back and say, “Man, the Red Sox got hosed in the Josh Beckett trade!” His biggest shortcoming is that he strikes out too much, 150 times this season, or around 25 percent of the time. But the long and short for Hanley is this: if he gets on base, he’s dangerous. And he gets on base a lot.
3. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA, 186 IP)
2. Jonathan Papelbon (35 SV, 0.92 ERA, 75K/68.1IP)
1. Francisco Liriano (12-3, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 121 IP)
How do you know there are a lot of great rookie pitchers in the American League? When the top three candidates for AL Rookie of the Year are all pitchers, that’s how. And Jered Weaver, if he had gotten a few more starts, could have easily made this list.
Justin Verlander was the Tigers’ ace this season, stepping up when others faltered and leading Detroit to its first playoff appearance since…ummm…I have no idea when. But it’s been a long time.
Jonathan Papelbon had an ERA of less than one. I mean, really, how do you have an ERA under one and not win a major award?
I’ll tell you how. You go head to head with Francisco Liriano, who, along with Johan Santana, strapped the Twins on his back and led them to the post season. Liriano got hurt late in the season, but when he was healthy, he was untouchable. And there is plenty of precedent for giving the ROTY to a rookie who doesn’t play a full season. Ryan Howard won last season, even though he only played in 88 games. Liriano was dominant as a reliever early in the season and he was dominant as a starter in the second half. And he’s your 2006 AL Rookie of the Year.