Rookie of the Year Picks – AL
Well, a spirited debate has broken out over the plethora of NL candidates. The AL is less stocked, but the way I see it, there are three main candidates. Here they are, in the order I would pick:
1) Austin Jackson, CF, DET
2) Neftali Feliz, RP, TEX
3) Brian Matusz, SP, BAL
Let me make this clear, however: Neftali Feliz will be the winner.
And he certainly is a worthy candidate, especially given the precedent that relief pitchers have for winning the award. Three of the last ten AL Rookie of the Year Award winners (Kazuhiro Sasaki, Huston Street, and Andrew Bailey) were closers. Feliz was an instrumental member of the Rangers’ run in 2010, converting 40 of 43 save chances and leading the league in games finished. He was one of the top closers in the league.
My pick, Austin Jackson, had a very good rookie season as well. The centerpiece of the Granderson deal last off-season, met his reasonably high expectations. He played the full year and put up a slightly above league average 102 OPS+ while playing a valuable position. He topped 100 runs (thanks in large part to teammate and MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera), smacked 34 doubles, stole 27 bases, and finished 2nd in the league with 10 triples.
By my estimation, Jackson was about the 7th or 8th best centerfielder in the American League, which is still very good for a rookie. Feliz was better at his job than Jackson was at his. But Jackson’s job – full time CF – was more important. He played in 1256 innings. Feliz pitched 69. Jackson accumulated 675 plate appearances. Feliz faced 269 batters.
Longterm, who among the AL rookies is going to be best? I’m going to go with my 3rd place guy – Brian Matusz. The Baltimore southpaw went 10-12 with a 98 ERA+ in his first year, but, as a starter, his ceiling is higher than Feliz’s. As for Jackson? 170 strikeouts is fine if you’re Adam Dunn and you regularly crank 40 homeruns a year. Jackson is not a power hitter. He’s a 1-2 hitter who needs to make more contact in order to be effective long-term. Then again – he’s 23. He’s got time to work on that.
Honorable Mention: Brennan Boesch