First-quarter awards: AL Rookie of the Year

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austin jackson catch.jpgThe NL rookie class is leaps and bounds better than the AL group so far, with the Senior Circuit boasting the game’s top three first-year players. The American League class is largely pitching dominated. Only two AL rookies have served as regulars throughout the entire first quarter of the season and one of those, Lou Marson, has just one RBI to show for it.
Here are the candidates:
Austin Jackson: .329/.383/.447, 1 HR, 10 RBI in 161 AB
Brennan Boesch: .387/.397/.680, 3 HR, 19 RBI in 75 AB
John Jaso: .302/.424/.415, 1 HR, 12 RBI in 53 AB
Mitch Talbot: 5-2, 3.23 ERA, 19/21 K/BB in 47 1/3 IP
Wade Davis: 3-3, 3.38 ERA, 27/21 K/BB in 40 IP
Brian Matusz: 2-3, 4.18 ERA, 39/18 K/BB in 47 1/3 IP
Neftali Feliz: 1-1, 11 Sv, 3.43 ERA, 23/4 K/BB in 21 IP
Sergio Santos: 0-0, 0 Sv, 0.63 ERA, 18/7 K/BB in 14 1/3 IP
Jackson is on pace to strike out 180 times, but he’s hitting .329 anyway. He’s also on pace to score 100 runs, and he’s playing some very good defense in center field.
His teammate Boesch has been one of baseball’s best hitters since debuting April 23, the day after Carlos Guillen got hurt. He has as many extra-base hits (14) as Jackson in fewer than half as many at-bats. He also leads AL rookies in RBI.
The starting pitchers are an interesting group. When it comes to OPS against, the three are remarkably similar: Davis is at 707, Talbot at 719 and Matusz at 726. Still, the records are quite different. Talbot has the ugly K/BB ratio, yet he does the lesser things so well. Not only is he a very good fielder, but basestealers are 1-for-6 against him this year. And one could argue that Matusz has been incredibly unlucky to give up 53 hits this year when he’s allowed just two homers and struck out 39. However, he was also very “unlucky” in that area in his eight major league starts last year.
Of course, Matusz has had the most difficult schedule in the group, having had to face the Rays and Yankees twice apiece and make a start at Fenway Park. Davis faced the Yankees and Red Sox in his first two starts of the season, but he’s gotten the White Sox, A’s (twice), Royals and Mariners since. Just one of Talbot’s seven starts have come against one of the AL’s top five offenses to date, though he’s also mostly stayed away from the true cupcakes.
At this very second, I’d probably give Talbot the edge in the group. However, Davis faces the Yankees tonight and another strong outing would put him on top.
Then there are the relievers. Feliz may well outdistance all of the starters if he remains in the closer’s role all season long. However, he simply wasn’t very good in April. He’s been much better this month, with just one run allowed and a 10/1 K/BB ratio in 9 1/3 innings.
Santos has been lights out, but only as a mop-up man to date. He’ll earn more responsibility soon if this keeps up, but through 15 appearances, he’s yet to factor in a decision and he has just one hold.
At this point, I think Jackson is the choice. I still don’t see him hitting well over .300 for the full season, but his strikeout rate has come down as the year has progressed. Plus, he has contributed a whole lot with the glove.
After Jackson, it’s Boesch versus the three starters and Feliz for two ballot spots. Boesch’s exceptional .447 average with runners on, even in such limited action, has to get him a spot. He’s had two at-bats with the bases loaded and delivered a homer and a double. Of the pitchers, Feliz has the best chance of winning the hardware at season’s end, but I think the starters have been more valuable to date.
First quarter NL ROY
1. Jackson
2. Boesch
3. Talbot

Corey Dickerson has lost 25 pounds

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Corey Dickerson #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during the Rays' photo day on February 25, 2016 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Corey Dickerson of the Tampa Bay Rays wasn’t a super huge guy or anything, but he’s going to be smaller this year: he told reporters today that he’s lost 25 pounds. He attributes it to a new diet and a workout regimen and says it’ll help him with his running, swing and throwing.

Dickerson had a down year in 2016, so if losing 25 pounds is something he thinks will work for him he’s got nothing to lose. Of course the best way for him to improve his numbers is to convince the Rays to trade him back to Colorado, but that’s not likely.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!