Midseason NL Rookie of the Year

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The NL Rookie of the Year race has changed little since we checked in
one-third of the way through the season. Randy Wells and J.A. Happ were
neck-and-neck then, and I gave the nod to Wells, even though I expected
more from Happ the rest of the way.

At least a few hitters have started to play catchup now. As of June
5, the league had just three position players with a VORP of 5.0 or
better: Joe Thurston (7.3), Ryan Roberts (7.3) and Ryan Hanigan (5.1).
Now we have four over 10.0:

1. Casey McGehee – 16.3
2. Colby Rasmus – 14.0
3. Ryan Hanigan – 12.6
4. Andrew McCutchen – 10.3

Seth Smith is at 15.2, but he spent too much time on Colorado’s bench last year to qualify as a rookie.

Factoring in defense, Rasmus rates as the NL’s top rookie to date. He’s
hitting .278/.329/.478 in 270 at-bats and seemingly getting better
every week. McGehee has hit a surprising .329/.387/.541 in 146 at-bats.

The pitching crop remains much stronger, of course. Again going by VORP:

1. J.A. Happ – 25.8
2. Randy Wells – 23.5
3. Ramon Troncoso – 19.7
4. Ronald Belisario – 14.5
5. Mark DiFelice – 14.0
6. Tommy Hanson – 11.8
7. Alberto Arias – 10.6
8. Evan Meek – 10.3
9. Burke Badenhop – 10.1
10. Luke Gregerson – 9.5

Wells has a slight ERA advantage over Happ (2.72 to 2.90), but Happ
has pitched 11 more innings and faced the more difficult schedule. The
left-hander is the choice this time, and while both should see their
ERAs rise over the rest of the year, I expect Happ to retain more of
his value going forward.

Third place is between Troncoso and Rasmus. Troncoso not only has
the 1.75 ERA in 56 2/3 innings, but he’s been especially good in
high-leverage situations. He’s picked up five saves and eight holds,
yet he’s been charged with just one blown save to date. I’ll choose him
over Rasmus for now, though Rasmus will almost certainly rank ahead of
him by season’s end. My guess is that it will materialize into a
three-man race between Happ, Rasmus and Hanson.

Midseason NL ROY
1. Happ
2. Wells
3. Troncoso

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.