Bryce Harper was named the National League Rookie of the Year this evening by the BBWAA, beating out finalists Wade Miley and Todd Frazier. He received 16 first-place votes compared to 12 for Miley, three for Frazier and one for Wilin Rosario. It was a very close vote, as Harper and Miley were ultimately separated by just seven points. It would have been even closer if Miley wasn’t left off one ballot.
Mike Trout winning the American League Rookie of the Year has been a foregone conclusion for months now, but there was actually a bit of uncertainty in the National League coming into today, as there wasn’t really a bad choice among the field. However, voters ultimately went with Harper, who delivered a historic season relative to his age. In fact, only Dwight Gooden was younger — by one month — when he won the Rookie of the Year award in 1984.
While Harper didn’t make his major league debut until April 28 in Los Angeles, he ended up living up to the considerable hype by putting together one of the best seasons ever for a 19-year-old. The 2010 No. 1 overall pick batted .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, 59 RBI, 18 stolen bases and an .817 OPS for the National League East champion Nationals while playing excellent defense in the outfield and winning over fans and his peers with his all-out style of play. Oh, and he also had one of the more memorable quotes of the year. Harper hit a bit of a wall during the dog days of July and August, opening the door for the likes of Frazier and Miley to take home the ROY, but he finished strong by hitting .341 with 10 home runs and a 1.098 OPS over his final 34 games.
As noted by our own Aaron Gleeman last month, here’s where Harper ranks compared to the best age-19 seasons of all-time:
Total bases (254): 1st
Extra-base hits (57): 1st
Runs (98): 2nd
Homers (22): 2nd
Doubles (26): 2nd
Walks (56): 2nd
Steals (18): 2nd
Slugging percentage (.477): 3rd
OPS (.817): 3rd
Plate appearances (597): 4th
Hits (144): 4th
Triples (9): 4th
Games (139): 5th
RBIs (59): 5th
If Harper’s impressive rookie season was any indication, there’s every reason to believe that the best is yet to come.
Complete voting results for the National League Rookie of the Year award can be found at BBWAA.com.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.