As I previously noted, the American League rookie class is razor thing. And the eventual winner – Tampa Bay outfielder Wil Myers – has yet to accumulate 60 big league games. The NL, on the other hand, is far deeper and heavy on the pitching side.
So, here’s a look at the top 10 rookies from the National League. And, remember, this isn’t about the best long term potential; it’s about the top performing player this season.
1. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins, RHP
Not only has Fernandez been the top rookie in all of baseball this season, he’s likely to be in the conversation for NL Cy Young award too. Despite never pitching above high Class A before making his MLB debut, the Cuban-born right-hander has averaged 9.73 K/9 and 3.01 BB/9 to go with a sparkling 2.30 ERA. He’s been as unhittable as any pitcher since June 1: 100.1 IP, 113 K, 30 BB, and a 1.52 ERA.
2. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers, RF
He’s making more news recently for disciplinary issues rather than his play on the field but it’s hard to argue with the production, though he won’t be able to maintain this type of level given his .420 BABIP. Overall, he’s hitting .346/.406/.557 with 18 doubles, a pair of triples, 13 homeruns, and eight stolen bases. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, has been 69% better than the league average, the fourth highest mark among hitters with 300 or more plate appearances.
3. Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals, RHP
Behind Adam Wainwright, Miller’s been the Cardinals’ second best starting pitcher this season. He’s missed a lot of bats – 9.73 K/9 – and issued very few free passes – 2.64 BB/9 – to go along with a 126 ERA+. The right-hander also owns a nice 3.25 SIERA.
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, LHP
Ryu falls into that “is he/isn’t he a rookie” talk involving players signed from the Asian professional leagues, but he’s been pretty much as advertised: 3.69 Skill Independent ERA, average K-rate with solid control.
5. Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, RHP
The homerun issues that started popping up during his first go round in 2011 have continued – he’s averaged 1.10 HR per nine innings this season. But his control has been nearly impeccable (2.26 BB/9) and he’s given the Braves s steady presence in the middle of the rotation.
6. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies, 3B
Prior to the year I wrote: “Arenado is a bit over-hyped as a prospect – at least at this point in his career. His patience at the plate is average at best; his power is solid-average; he shows little foot speed, and defensively he remains a touch raw.” So far, he’s hitting .268/.304/.413 with 13 dingers.
7. Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres, 2B
Essentially a league average bat this season because his pop — .185 ISO – has outweighed some poor on-base skills. Gyorko’s hitting .247/.293/.432 with 21 doubles and 16 homeruns. He’s also played passable defense at the keystone.
8. Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds, LHP
I was a huge fan of Cingrani’s prior to the season, ranking him as the 19th overall prospect heading into the season. The Reds recently place him on the DL due to a lower back issue, but up to that point he tossed 97.1 innings of 2.76 ERA-ball.
9. Alex Wood, Atlanta Braves, LHP
Recently pushed into a rotation spot given the injuries to the Braves’ staff, Wood has allowed just six earned runs over 37 innings over his first big league starts. Combined with his work in the bullpen, the 2012 second round pick has thrown 63.1 innings while striking out 66 and walking 20.
10. Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves, C/OF
El Oso Blanco hit .281/.333/.619 from Opening Day till the end of May. Since June 1, however, he’s managed to bat just .188/.250/.291. He does have 15 bombs, though.
Photo of Jose Fernandez Courtesy of Juan Salas/Icon SMI via SportsIllustrated.com