— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Monday, October 07, 2002
Baseball Primer’s 2002 Rookies of the Year
For the second straight year, Baseball Primer contributors cast their votes for Baseball Primer?s Rookie of the Year Award, but for the first time, we actually had a horserace on our hands.
Like the voting of the more prestigious Jackie Robinson Award, the first Baseball Primer election involved Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki demolishing the competition, leaving the only interesting question “Who won?t vote for Ichiro! because of his previous experience in Japan?”
Voting was done in 5-3-1 scoring format and tabulated by Eric Enders.
American League Voting
Eric Hinske ? 1st Place, 74 points
Before the season, four different 3rd basemen (Hinske, Hank Blalock, Sean Burroughs and Morgan Ensberg) were predicted to be the front-runners in the RoY race. Of the four, only Hinske survived the season with his reputation completely intact as the other three were all disappointments for varying reasons.
Hinske broke onto the scene very quickly, hitting 318/398/471 in April, and despite some early error problems, never had a slump that ever seriously threatened his playing time, let alone his job at 3rd base. When all was said and done, Hinske finished the season as one of the top offensive 3rd basemen in baseball and recovered from his defensive problems enough to be end the season roughly average defensively at the hot corner.
Hinske?s going to turn 26 during the 2003 season, so he probably doesn?t have a lot of room for growth. In this case, however, “what you see is what you get,” isn?t a bad thing at all.
Rodrigo Lopez ? 2nd place, 52 points
One of the very few bright spots for the Orioles this season, Lopez proved to be a pleasant surprise, going 15-9 with a 3.57 ERA in 196.2 innings. Cast as a long reliever after being signed by the Orioles to a minor league contract in the offseason, Lopez became the recipient of a rotation spot due to Josh Towers? struggle and proceeded to become Baltimore?s best starting pitcher the rest of the season. Lopez was rarely truly shelled, either, only having one start in which he allowed more than a run per inning.
Bobby Kielty ? 3rd place, 12 points
After the clear top 2 players, there?s a sizable gap to the 3rd place rookie, Bobby Kielty. If Kielty had a full season worth of at-bats, it might very well have been a 3-way dance if Kielty?s sterling .405 on-base percentage had remained intact. Neither Kielty or his partner in the outfield, Dustan Mohr, would have stood much of a chance to show what they could do if fate hadn?t intervened and injured Brian Buchanan early on. For the months of May, July and June, when the outcome of the AL Central wasn?t completely decided, Kielty put up an OBP well in excess of .450.
Josh Phelps ? 4th place, 4 points
One of my favorite slugging prospects, Josh Phelps elevated his game the last few years and when given the chance as the full-time DH once Raul Mondesi was finally shipped off, showed that he was the better hitter, not the eternally overrated former Rookie of the Year. Hitting 309/362/562, Phelps was a big part of the Jays? 2nd-half resurgence and only finished so low in the voting because, like Kielty, he wasn?t a full-time player for the entire season.
Casey Fossum and Jorge Julio ? 5th place, 1 point
Two relievers finish up the AL balloting, both only collecting a single 3rd place vote.
Fossum, the best lefty reliever for the Red Sox during the early going, quickly lost his role to Alan Embree and was eventually sent down to Pawtucket to get used to starting again. After being called up, Fossum made 12 starts down the stretch with a 3.65 ERA in 66.2 innings
Julio, a rare young Orioles player in that he?s actually young, pitched wonderfully all season, holding batters to a .213 average while collecting 25 saves in 31 opportunities. Unfortunately for Julio, the Orioles were so bad towards the end of the season that he didn?t get a single save opportunity after August 15th.
National League Voting
Jason Jennings ? 1st place, 45 points
In a close race, Jason Jennings takes home the prize despite only being named on 11 of the 16 ballots cast, thank to 8 1st place votes out of those 11.
Jennings first burst onto the Major League last season with 7 starts for the Rockies but didn?t pitch enough to lose his rookie eligibility. Very few pitchers start their career in a tougher situation than that of a pitcher in Planet Coors but Jennings responded wonderfully, putting up a 4.52 ERA overall with that number being only 3.35 at more sane elevations. Even a painful bruise caused by a line drive that hit his elbow did little to hurt Jennings? performance this season. Like the departed John Thomson, Jennings will probably always be underrated thanks to his home park.
Austin Kearns ? 2nd place, 36 points
Possibly overshadowed a bit by Adam Dunn and despite some ups and downs, Kearns overall had an excellent rookie season, hitting 315/407/500 until a hamstring pull prematurely ended his season. After a blazing hot start, Kearns was sent down after a long June slump, but was thankfully recalled a couple days later. Quickly recovering from the downturn in performance, Kearns put together a tremendous August in which he hit 374/448/604 despite the fact that the fortunes of the Reds had long since turned south. I wouldn?t worry about the poorish MLE for Kearns as he was injured most of the year.
Damian Moss ? 3rd place, 28 points
To the chagrin of many, including myself, the Braves always seem to pull something out of their hat to keep their dynasty alive. This year, it was the 25 year-old Aussie, who put a 3.42 ERA in 179.0 innings in his first full season in the majors. After completing his recovery from a blod clot, Moss fell into a rotation spot thanks to some injuries and along with Marquis, banished Albie Lopez to the bullpen for good. Moss still has some control and injury problems either of which could come back to haunt him down the road.
Brad Wilkerson ? 4th place, 19 points
After a very disappointing debut in 2001 which almost resulted in him losing his rookie eligibility not to mention his future jobs, Wilkerson beat out every veteran player the Expos signed in spring training to land a full-time job. The Expos frequently played him in center, but he?s a little stretched out there and long-term, is more likely to be in left thanks to a certain player the Expos have in rightfield. Since the Expos didn?t have a true leadoff hitter, Frank Robinson, in probably his most creative move this year, allowed Wilkinson to utilize his excellent OBP in the leadoff spot for much of the season. All told, Wilkerson ended the year at 266/370/469 and was one of the reasons for the Expos? large improvement.
Mark Prior? 5th place, 8 points
Given a whole season like Jason Jennings or Damian Moss above him, and Mark Prior may have come away as the winner. After advancing through the Cubs? system very quickly, Prior still managed to get in 19 starts with a 3.32 ERA in 116.2 innings before a sore hammy shut him down for the rest of the season. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, the hamstring injury and a leg injury resulting from a line drive kept the 21 year-old?s innings down (Prior turned 22 in September).
Josh Fogg? 6th place, 3 points
While Fogg doesn?t come close to winning the award after tailing off in the second half of the year, he does get an honorable mention for helping Kip Wells make Kenny Williams look stupid for trading Fogg, Wells and Sean Lowe to the Pirates for Todd Ritchie.
Denny Starkand Mike Crudale ? 7th place, 1 point
Denny Stark spent the season rightfully overshadowed by Jason Jennings, but still was a valuable pitcher for the Rockies, starting 20 games and relieving in 12 others to end up with a 4.00 ERA in 128.1 innings.
Mike Crudale earned his single vote by being a key member of the bullpen for the Cardinals, pitching in 49 games with a 1.88 ERA in 52.2 innings and allowing only 3 home runs.