2012 midseason awards: NL Rookie of the Year

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If the NL is going to narrow the talent gap with the AL in the coming years, it doesn’t really show up here. Sure, there’s a likely superstar playing well in Bryce Harper, but the AL can seemingly cancel him out with Mike Trout, who is playing a whole lot better. Beyond Harper, it’s a weak class of rookies in the NL.

The candidates:

Zack Cozart (Cin): .250/.298/.403, 8 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB in 308 AB
Yonder Alonso (SD): .257/.338/.355, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB in 276 AB
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (NYM): .275/.335/.414, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 3 SB in 244 AB
Bryce Harper (Was): .276/.349/.478, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 8 SB in 228 AB
Norichika Aoki (Mil): .292/.355/.440, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 10 SB in 209 AB
Todd Frazier (Cin): .273/.342/.552, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB in 165 AB
Wilin Rosario (Col): .247/.280/.533, 14 HR, 36 RBI, 3 SB in 182 AB
Andrelton Simmons (Atl): .323/.364/.495, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB in 99 AB

Lucas Harrell (Hou): 7-6, 4.56 ERA, 65/35 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
Wade Miley (Ari): 9-4, 2.87 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 94 IP
Randall Delgado (Atl): 4-8, 4.52 ERA, 64/39 K/BB in 79 2/3 IP
Michael Fiers (Mil): 3-2, 2.29 ERA, 41/8 K/BB in 39 1/3 IP
Jared Hughes (Pit): 2-0, 1 Sv, 2.20 ERA, 21/14 K/BB in 41 IP

And here’s how Baseball-reference WAR ranks them:

2.2 – Miley
2.2 – Simmons
1.6 – Cozart
1.5 – Harper
1.4 – Fiers
1.2 – Aoki
1.2 – Frazier
0.8 – Nieuwenhuis
0.7 – Rosario
0.4 – Hughes
0.3 – Harrell
-0.2 – Delgado
-0.4 – Alonso

Yeah, WAR is that wild about Simmons’ defense. Most seem in agreement that he’s already one of the game’s best glovemen at short, and he’s been surprisingly productive offensively. Still, he’s played in all of 28 games this season, so I don’t think he belongs on the Rookie of the Year ballot just yet.

Like WAR, I think it comes down to Miley, Cozart and Harper. Frazier and Rosario are putting up great power numbers, but they’ve received only limited action and both could be called defensive liabilities. While Rosario has been above average at throwing out basestealers, he’s committed a major league-high eight errors behind the dish.

Miley gave up eight runs last time out, but he’s allowed one or no runs in eight of 13 starts. The Diamondbacks have scored a total of five runs in his four losses.

Cozart is miscast as a top-of-the-order hitter, but he’s been solid enough offensively and defensively. I don’t think he has much of a ceiling, but just being an average regular is good enough to get him a spot on the ballot right now.

And then there’s Harper. He’s not a superstar yet, but he’s been a whole lot better than I figured he’d be as a 19-year-old. He’ll probably show a bit more power in the second half, and he has to be regarded as the favorite to win the hardware in the end-of-season balloting. Right now, though, he’s the runner-up.

My ballot
1. Miley
2. Harper
3. Cozart

2012 midseason awards: AL Rookie of the Year

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.