In what wasn’t a big surprise, the AL Rookie of the Year was announced yesterday and the winner was 21-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa who took Houston by storm this season, just a few years after being the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Yes, Twitter was all abuzz with people trying to rally votes to Toronto’s rookie closer, Roberto Osuna, but, as good as he was, Osuna was never going to win the Rookie of the Year.
Osuna was way better than could have been expected for the youngest player in major league baseball in the 2015 season. Osuna surprisingly made the major league club to pitch in the bullpen, along with his roommate and fellow youngster Miguel Castro. Unlike Castro, however, Osuna took to the big time without breaking a sweat and provided the Blue Jays with 1.3 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Fangraphs), adding a 2.58 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 3.45 xFIP and 0.92 WHIP. Osuna threw an average fastball of 95.5 mph and struck out an outstanding 27.7% of batters while maintaining control, walking just 5.9%. Osuna’s rookie campaign, over 69 2/3 innings, was genuinely outstanding and far more than anyone expected from him so soon.
But Rookie of the Year isn’t about a player exceeding expectations. It’s about what a first-year player did on the field. In the American League, this came down to a two-horse race (if you’re comfortable using the metaphor of horses to describe baseball players). Infielders Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor were neck and neck with Correa garnering 124 points in the voting (with 17 first-place votes) and Cleveland’s Lindor just behind him with 109 (with 13 first-place votes). As a point of comparison, the National League was unanimous in voting for Kris Bryant who got all 30 first-place votes for a maximum 150 points. Osuna was fourth in the American League, getting just two second place votes and two third place votes for eight points total.Minnesota’s Miguel Sano was third with 20 points (all 20 of his votes were for third place).
Why did these three players exceed Osuna by so much in the voting? Looking at the winner, Correa hit .279/.345/.512 with 22 home runs in just 99 games with the Astros. He provided offense at a level that was 33% higher than the average major leaguer (not just rookies), posting a 133 wRC+. While his defense didn’t contribute a lot to his value, his bat did and he ended up with 3.3 fWAR.
Lindor, who just turned 22, didn’t hit for as much power, hitting .313/.353/.482 with a dozen home runs, also in 99 games for the Cleveland Indians. Lindor was able to contribute very positively with his defense, giving him 4.6 fWAR. Incidentally, Lindor posted a 4.6 rWAR as calculated by Baseball Reference while they calculated Correa’s rWAR at 4.1.
Minnesota’s Sano, who missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery struck out a ton (35.5%) but still managed to hit .269/.385/.530 with 18 home runs in 80 games, accumulating 2.0 fWAR and 2.1 rWAR.
As mentioned above, if we look strictly at WAR, Osuna only had 1.3 fWAR and 1.7 rWAR, putting him solidly in fourth place of those players. As a reliever, even a high-leverage one, there was no way that Osuna would be able to have his impact felt enough to overcome the buzz that those other players were getting by playing every day.
Toronto loves Roberto Osuna (and I would love to see him as a starter in 2016) but the hopes to see him win the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Award were not founded in reality to begin with.
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