The Rookie of the Year race may be over in the American League, but things are getting interesting heading down the stretch in the National League as Todd Frazier has been the hottest hitter in baseball over the last three weeks.
This look at the Rookie of the Year Award concludes Awards Watch's sixth spin through the three major player awards. Next week, and for the remainder of the regular season, we move into the "lightning round," in which I list the top three candidates for all three awards in both leagues every week.
Unless Todd Frazier stays red hot and plays every day in September, Wade Miley is going to win this award. He has posted a 2.26 ERA over his last eight starts and five of his last six have been quality. He's still not walking anyone or giving up many home runs, and he's not getting having excessive luck on balls in play. The 25-year-old lefty has been the best rookie pitcher in either league this season and has held the top spot on this list all six times I have assembled it. It's his award to lose at this point.
As I wrote above, Frazier has been the hottest hitter in baseball since I last checked in on this race. Just look at his Last Three Weeks line above. In his 20 starts over those three weeks, Frazier has gone hitless just thrice, has 10 multi-hit games, including three three-hit games and has delivered an extra-base hit in 10 different games. Fifteen of those starts came at first base, while five others came at third base and on the season he also has five starts in leftfield.
That ability to slot in at the corners where and when needed adds to the 26-year-old's value, but his lack of a regular position could also be his downfall in this race. With first baseman Joey Votto working his way back from knee surgery and third baseman Scott Rolen and leftfielder Ryan Ludwick both hot in August (.339/.435/.525 and .326/.390/.600, respectively), Frazier could, amazingly enough, find himself back in a part-time role upon Votto's return, which could come as soon as Saturday. Frazier, who has 343 at-bats on the season, still doesn't qualify for the batting title and needs to play every day in September to have any hope of catching Miley, who does qualify for the ERA title.
Fiers is a 27-year-old righty whose fastball doesn't reach 90 miles per hour, but he has an excellent curve and cutter, both of which have proven to be legitimate weapons against major league hitters. Fiers' streak of nine straight quality starts, during which he posted a 1.03 ERA and added a perfect inning of relief, came to a violent end when he coughed up eight runs in just two innings in Colorado on August 13, but he has been better each time out since then. On Aug. 24, he struck out 10 Pirates, his fourth start with nine or more Ks since June 30, and on Wednesday he held the Cubs to one run over 7 1/3 innings, a start that pushed him over 100 innings on the season.
Rosario has come to the plate just 310 times this season, has a sub-.300 on-base percentage and gets a power boost from his home ballpark. At the same time, he is second among major league rookies in home runs, third in slugging percentage (minimum 200 at-bats) and is hitting .256/.296/.512 on the road, not far off his overall rates, while the average NL catcher is hitting .251/.323/.402. Defensively, he has thrown out 39 percent of attempting basestealers against a league average of 27 percent. Also worth noting, Rosario is just 23 and has never played a game at Triple-A.
It's too little, too late for this race, but after slumping for two months, Harper has finally started to show signs of life at the plate, hitting .300/.310/.700 with four home runs in his last 10 starts including his first multi-homer game in the major leagues on Wednesday night against the Marlins and fellow former top-10 draft pick Jacob Turner. Harper took Turner deep in consecutive innings on Wednesday night, then ended his night by being ejected after throwing his helmet, which was the sort of thing we expected the 19-year-old to do all the time when he was first called up (both the home runs and the ejection).
Harper has proven to be both a more well-rounded and controlled player than his reputation indicated, and the fact that he seems to be pulling out of that slump that saw him hit .204/.273/.290 from June 13 to August 15 is an excellent indicator that he could have a big sophomore season. He won't, however, win the Rookie of the Year award.
Never mind rookies, Trout leads all of the American League in batting average and slugging percentage and the majors in stolen bases, runs, OPS+ and just about every wins above replacement statistic you can find. He has this award wrapped up and
Cespedes has hit .342/.398/.553 with seven home runs and six stolen bases in 42 games since the All-Star break. That's not quite a 30/30 pace, but clearly that potential is there. Having had this season to adjust to life and pitching in the major leagues in his first year since coming over from Cuba, he could have a monster age-27 season next year provided he can stay healthy, something he had difficulty with in the first half of the season.
A 26-year-old contact-pitching groundballer who throws in the upper 80s, Diamond seemed unlikely to sustain the sub-3.00 ERA that he boasted after his first 19 starts this season, but the manner in which things have begun to unravel was very much unexpected. Two starts ago, Diamond was ejected with one out in the third inning after throwing up and in to Josh Hamilton an inning after Rangers starter Roy Oswalt hit Diamond's catcher, Joe Mauer, in the back. That broke a string of five straight quality starts by the rookie. In his next start, he gave up five runs to the lowly Mariners, giving him seven runs allowed in 9 1/3 innings over his last two starts, after which he dropped his appeal of his six-game suspension, which went into effect on Wednesday and will thus give him two extra days of rest.
Milone gave up 17 runs in 19 innings in his three starts from July 26 to August 5, prompting the A's to skip his start the next time through the rotation with the intention of giving him a breather. The effect wasn't immediate -- he gave up four runs in five innings in his first start after being skipped -- but that may have been due to rust given that he has allowed just one run in 14 innings since. Milone leads major league rookies in innings pitched and makes this list over teammate Jarrod Parker and the White Sox's Jose Quintana thanks to a combination of those extra innings and his superior peripherals.
Chen's case is very similar to Milone's, but he hasn't pitched as deep into games and has a far inferior strikeout-to-walk ratio, which gives Milone the edge despite Chen having to pitch in a tougher home ballpark. Chen hit a bit of a rough patch in mid-August and he too was skipped in the rotation. He only had seven days off compared to Milone's 11, but the results were more immediate as he held the AL Central-leading White Sox to two runs (one unearned) over six innings while striking out eight in his return on Monday. Those eight strikeouts were his third-best single-game total this season.