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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #22: Trevor Story and Gary Sanchez make big rookie splashes

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Neither Trevor Story nor Gary Sanchez won their league’s Rookie of the Year Award, but each of them probably got more ink than the respective winners, Corey Seager and Michael Fulmer, did. Dingers will do that.

Story, the Colorado Rockies’ shortstop, made his major league debut on April 4. He hit two homers that day. The next day he hit another. The day after that, another. The Rockies were off the next day, but in his fourth game he hit two more. He hit another in his sixth game to give him seven in the season’s first week. After that he slowed down, but finished April with 10 bombs and a slugging percentage of .696. The historical comparisons placed him in pretty lofty company, with his seven homers in his first six games putting him past Larry Walker, Mike Schmidt, and Willie Mays who had held the record with six each.

Story seemed to be on his way to the National League Rookie of the Year Award until a thumb injury ended his season in late July. When he went under the knife to fix it, he led the NL with 27 home runs, had posted 72 RBI and had a batting line of .272/.341/.567 in 415 plate appearances. The Rockies were at .500 at the time and were arguably in contention for a Wild Card birth. They’d finish the season by going 23-35 for a final record of 75-87.

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez saw action in two big league games in a 2015 cup-of-coffee, and a single game in early May of this year, but didn’t make it to the majors for good until the Yankees’ 107th game of the season on August 3. He didn’t hit as many homers as Story did in either his first six games or in his entire rookie season, but he hit a ton in a shorter time overall. Indeed, by the time he played his 45th career game he had hit 19 homers, which set a major league record for the fastest to that total in history. Before that Wally Berger held the record with 17 homers in 45 games.

Not all fast-starting sluggers went on to great careers — famous flashes in the pan Sam Horn had 14 in his first 45 games and fellow Yankee Kevin Mass had 15 — but Sanchez did not appear to merely be taking advantage of pitcher mistakes or guessing luckily. He finished the 2016 season with a line of .299/.376/.657 with 20 homers in all and 42 driven in. He walked a good deal as well, suggesting that he’s no fluke by any stretch of the imagination.

As year-end honors tend to favor players who played full seasons, it makes sense that Michael Fulmer of the Tigers beat out Sanchez for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And as Corey Seager had a better overall season, it was not surprising that he walked away with the NL Award, despite Story’s fast start. Heck, Seager had a good argument for the MVP Award, not just rookie honors.

But Sanchez and certainly got people talking. And that places them in our top-25 stories of 2016.

Umpire ejects Adrian Beltre for moving on-deck circle

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As far as ejections go, this is one of the stranger ones you’ll hear about. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was ejected in the bottom of the eighth inning of a game his team trailed at the time 18-6. Beltre was a few feet away from the circle towards home plate and was asked by Marlins pitcher Drew Steckenrider to get into the circle. So rather than step a few feet back to his right, Beltre picked up the circle and dragged it to where he was. And that got him ejected by second base umpire Gerry Davis. Manager Jeff Banister was also ejected after having a word with Davis.

Here’s a video from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Beltre, by the way, went 3-for-3 with a walk, a pair of doubles, and a solo home run. He’s now four hits away from 3,000 for his career.

Video: Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford hits an inside-the-park grand slam

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Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford’s stock has fallen sharply this season. He had an abysmal first three months, batting .203/.321/.276 in 291 plate appearances. Baseball America rated him the 12th overall prospect in baseball going into the season and rated him No. 92 in their midseason top 100. It was bad.

Since the calendar turned to July, however, Crawford has been more like his normal self. In 92 at-bats this month entering Wednesday night’s action, he was hitting .300/.391/.650 with six home runs, 13 RBI, 18 runs scored, and a terrific 15/12 K/BB ratio.

Crawford padded his stats more on Wednesday night as he circled the bases for an inside-the-park grand slam. Via the IronPigs Twitter:

Crawford was actually dead-to-rights at home, but he fooled the catcher with a great late slide.

Crawford finished 1-for-3 with a walk along with the slam on the night as the IronPigs beat the Gwinnett Braves 8-2.