If I told you at that start of the year that the Red Sox would have a Rookie of the Year candidate in their lineup, who would you have guessed? Jackie Bradley, right? Maybe Ryan Lavarnway if you were feeling particularly bold? Or Xander Bogaerts, if you were feeling incredibly optimistic?
Well, how does American League Rookie of the Year, Jose Iglesias sound to you?
As a matter of fact, it’s more possible than you might think. While Iglesias’s current stat line is completely unsustainable, he has a remarkably weak field of competition for the AL ROY this season; so weak, perhaps, that even considering regression, his stats might be good enough to bring home the hardware.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Jose’s competition for the (not-so) prestigious 2013 AL ROY award.
The Relative Unknowns:
Leonys Martin – 80 G, 5 HR, 36 R, 16 RBI, 18 SB, 6.1 BB%, 19.7 K%, .291/.340/.435, .351 BABIP, 1.5 WAR
Nick Franklin – 40 G, 6 HR, 16 R, 19 RBI, 5 SB, 7.5 BB%, 21.7 K%, .275/.329/.463, .324 BABIP, 0.9 WAR
Martin and Franklin appeared together in Baseball America’s 2012 prospect rankings at #79 and #77, respectively. Martin, an outfielder, has spent most of the season sharing time with fellow outfielder Craig Gentry, until an injury to Gentry in June handed him the full-time job in center. Franklin, a switch-hitting middle infielder, was called-up by the Mariners to replace the underwhelming Dustin Ackley in May.
Both players have posted solid stat lines this year, with Martin edging out Franklin in terms of speed but Franklin providing a bit more power. Either one would make for a respectable ROY pick, but perhaps not an altogether exciting one. The problem is this: it’s hard them finishing the season with better stats than they have right now, particularly in the case of Martin’s .351 BABIP.
Between the two of them, Nick Franklin seems the more likely ROY candidate because his power numbers will be noticeably superior, but either could easily be overtaken by one of our following candidates.
Dan Straily – 14 GS, 80 IP, 7.43 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9, 4.28 ERA, 3.68 FIP, .253 BABIP, 1.4 WAR
Nick Tepesch – 16 GS, 85.1 IP, 7.38 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 1.16 HR/9, 4.85 ERA, 4.12 FIP, .309 BABIP, 1.3 WAR
The more heralded of the duo, Baseball America rated Straily as the Athletics’ #6 prospect prior to this season, while they placed Tepesch as only #19 in the Rangers’ system. Straily would seem to have the better pedigree; he posted a K/9 of over 11 between AA and AAA in 2012 and has never posted below an 8.63 in that regard in any full professional season. Tepesch, on the other hand, has remained in roughly the 7 K/9 range during his career to this point, but was rated by Baseball America as having the best control in the Texas League in 2012.
Straily’s higher strikeout potential and more appealing numbers (lower ERA, 6-2 record) would make him a more attractive ROY candidate. That said, visibility plays a factor in any award race (which is why Yasiel Puig would probably beat Shelby Miller for the NL ROY if it was voted on today), and notable performances from these two during their team’s respective playoff races could bolster their candidacies.
The Top Prospects:
Jurickson Profar – 38 G, 3 HR, 12 R, 11 RBI, 8.1 BB%, 19.6 K%, .240/.317/.349, .286 BABIP, 0.0 WAR
Widely considered the top prospect in baseball, Profar has played a variety of roles for the Rangers this season, appearing at second, third, short, left field, and DH. Profar doesn’t lack for talent, and tore up the minor leagues before receiving a late call-up last season to come off the bench for the Rangers in the playoffs. Despite his minor league success, however, Profar is still only 20 years old, and has looked like he still needs time to figure out the game at the major league level.
His issue – consistent playing time; he’s blocked at his natural position (shortstop) by Elvis Andrus, at second by Ian Kinsler, and at third by Adrian Beltre, none of whom the Rangers could justify taking out of the lineup to accommodate his presently mediocre bat.
Profar’s ROY candidacy looks pretty bleak at the time being, as his best chance at winning the award depends primarily on a major injury to one of the Andrus-Kinsler-Beltre trio for him to get the playing time he would need. Increased playing time, more production from his bat, and his overall name recognition would rush him to the forefront of the conversation in a hurry.
Mike Zunino – 22 G, 1 HR, 6 R, 6 RBI, 3.5 BB%, 22.1 K%, .235/.279/.309, .295 BABIP, 0.1 WAR
After the 2012 season, Baseball America ranked Zunino as the #17 prospect in the country. A strong defensive catcher with pop in his bat, Zunino was the #3 pick in the 2012 draft for the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners may have been a little overeager to bring Zunino up, however, as he made his major league debut this season after logging 110 games total in the minor leagues.
Zunino doesn’t seem likely to become a major impact player this season, and may need more seasoning in the minors before he can be.
Wil Myers – 24 G, 3 HR, 13 R, 15 RBI, 5.8 BB%, 26.0 K%, .271/.308/.396, .338 BABIP, 0.3 WAR
I’ve been on the Myers bandwagon for some time. Formerly a Royals prospect, Myers was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a deal for pitcher James Shields after being blocked (for some unfathomable reason) by Jeff Francoeur, despite 24 homers and a .304/.378/.554 triple-slash in AAA. Myers finally got his major league chance this season, with a June call-up from the Rays.
Myers is off to a slow start through his first 24 games, but has looked to be acclimating to the majors. He has guaranteed playing time, a strong minor league background, and a weak group of competition; in theory, the award is his to lose.
And, of course, Jose:
Jose Iglesias – 50 G, 1 HR, 26 R, 16 RBI, 2 SB, 5.8 BB%, 12.6 K%, .384/.435/.483, .436 BABIP, 1.6 WAR
We know regression is going to hit Iglesias, because as nice as it might be, he’s not going to be a .435 OBP guy for his career. Well, probably.
That being said, the question is how hard regression ends up hitting him. If he finishes the year hitting in the mid- to low-.200s – the most likely result – the award probably goes to somebody else. If he stays above .300, though (arbitrary benchmarks!), and the rest of the field stays at where they are…
Well, Jose Iglesias might just BABIP his way into an award.