My ballot: National League Rookie of the Year

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Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for NL Rookie of the Year, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
2. J.A. Happ, Philadelphia
3. Chris Coghlan, Florida
4. Tommy Hanson, Atlanta
5. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh
Honorable mention: Randy Wells, Casey McGehee, Kenshin Kawakami, Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, Clay Zavada’s mustache
Called up in early June, Andrew McCutchen started 108 of the final 109 games for the Pirates and batted .286/.365/.471 with 47 extra-base hits and 22 steals while playing solid defense in center field.
Chris Coghlan was slightly better than McCutchen at the plate, hitting .321/.390/.460 in 128 games, but did so while playing left field and playing it badly. McCutchen’s bat was actually 11 percent better than the average center fielder, whereas Coghlan’s bat was just 10 percent better than the average left fielder. Toss in McCutchen’s massive edge defensively plus his extra value on the bases and he clearly had more overall value.
Of course, on a per-plate appearance basis Garrett Jones was the best rookie hitter in the league, batting .293/.372/.567 with 21 homers and 21 doubles in 358 trips to the plate. Had he played enough to qualify for the NL leaderboards Jones would’ve ranked sixth in slugging percentage, eighth in at-bats per homer, and ninth in OPS. He was amazing, but playing just 82 of 162 games keeps him from ranking higher on my ballot.
J.A. Happ began this season in the Phillies’ bullpen, where he had a 2.49 ERA and .184 opponents’ batting average in 22 innings. He shifted to the rotation in mid-May and stayed there for the remainder of the year, going 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 144 innings spread over 23 starts. Happ excelled in multiple roles, led the league with two shutouts, led all rookies with 166 innings, and went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA.
Tommy Hanson is sort of the Jones of rookie pitchers, because he was fantastic while going 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA, but logged only 128 innings. In addition to Happ posting a nearly identical ERA in 30 percent more innings, Randy Wells of the Cubs had a 3.05 ERA in 165 innings. In terms of most impressive rookies Hanson has an argument for the top spot, but in terms of most valuable rookies it’s tough to make that case.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.