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.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.