5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the Year

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

Jacob deGrom Jacob deGrom appears to be the leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.
Credit: Getty Images

 

Mets fans have long since given up on making the playoffs, but they do have at least one reason to keep watching games.

 

Jacob deGrom showed that reason to tune in Monday when he tied the major league record with eight consecutive strikeouts to start the game. That the Mets would eventually lose the game was just fitting for the team on the whole.

 

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

 

1. Jacob deGrom

Team: New York Mets
Age: 26
Stats: 8-6, 2.68 ERA, 134 1/3 IP, 113 hits, 134-40 K-BB, 3.0 WAR

The Mets expected a young starter to rise to the top of the rotation in 2014, but it wasn’t Jacob deGrom.

Instead of Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero or even Noah Syndergaard, it’s been deGrom and his magnificent locks which have quietly emerged on the New York scene as one of the best young pitchers not just in the city but all of baseball.

He has the highest wins above replacement (WAR) among NL rookie pitchers, though he is well behind Yankees rookie signing Masahiro Tanaka overall (3.7).

The bottomline is he’s clearly the best rookie pitcher in the National League and if you’re going to argue for another contender, you have to look at hitters.

2. Ender Inciarte

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Age: 23
Stats: .261 AVG, .308 OBP, 49 runs, 15 doubles, 16 steals, 3.3 WAR

The man who launched a thousand “Ender’s Game” puns could be deGrom’s biggest competition for the top honor among NL rookies — if voters look at advanced stats.

Inciarte, a native of Venezuela, was called up to Arizona after the first month of the season and has settled into the starting spot mostly in center field, but also in left and right.

It’s his defensive versatility and excellence at each outfield position which earns him the best WAR among NL rookies. But defensive metrics are unlikely to have the same impact on voters as offensive statistics.

And since those offensive numbers don’t pop out at the average voter (just four home runs, for instance), it’s unlikely Inciarte, playing on a team 26 games under .500, will win the Rookie of the Year.

3. Billy Hamilton

Team: Cincinnati Reds
Age: 24
Stats: .258 AVG, .298 OBP, 72 runs, eight triples, six home runs, 56 steals, 2.4 WAR

We know who the fastest rookie in the National League is. Then again Billy Hamilton is probably the fastest player in all of MLB.

June’s NL Rookie of the Month is second in the majors in steals, though he also ranks first in caught stealing (22). It also helps that he uses that speed to be one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.

He ranks as MLB’s third-best outfielder — not just among rookies — behind only the Mets’ Juan Lagares and Braves’ Jason Heyward, according to Fangraphs’ defensive metrics. But realistically, he doesn’t hit enough to win rookie honors.

4. Kyle Hendricks

Team: Chicago Cubs
Age: 24
Stats: 6-2, 2.38 ERA, 68 IP, 60 hits, 39-14 K-BB, 2.4 WAR

If the season started in July, Hendricks might win Rookie of the Year. But the 24-year-old, who won NL Rookie of the Month in August, has only made 11 starts. Of those, only two weren’t quality starts. There just was not enough time.

5. Chris Owings

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Age: 23
Stats: .268 AVG, .302 OBP, 31 runs, 15 doubles, six home runs, 1.8 WAR

The second Diamondbacks player on the list of Rookie of the Year contenders is their starting shortstop, Chris Owings.

And Owings has remarkably similar statistics to the man who plays behind him in the outfield, Inciarte.

Owings came out firing with a .313 batting average and .367 on-base percentage in March and April as he took April Rookie of the Year honors. But it’s been a slow decline to normalcy since then for the former first-round pick. He’s batting just .249 since May and is unlikely to contend for the season-long rookie crown.

Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.

 
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