Willie Mays Award Ballot: AL Rookie of the Year

15 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance began a couple of years ago. I was one of the first members to join, but now there are well over 200 blogs associated. Last year was the first year that the group did its own award voting. This year, Hall of Famer Goose Gossage gave his name to one of the awards, the Top Reliever. So, over the next few weeks, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance will be voting on the following awards.

From the press release:

The five awards are given to a player in each league: The Connie Mack Award, given to the top manager; the Willie Mays Award, for the top rookie; the Goose Gossage award, mentioned above; the Walter Johnson Award, which would be analogous to the BBWAA’s Cy Young Award; and the Stan Musial Award, awarded to the most valuable player in each league.

I was recently selected to be the President of the local chapter which currently contains four Twins bloggers. Between the four of us, we will receive two votes for each AL award. Here is when you can expect to see the awards named:

Connie Mack Award: October 14
Willie Mays Award: October 18
Goose Gossage Award: October 21
Walter Johnson Award: October 25
Stan Musial Award: October 28

With that reminder and background information, today I will be posting my ballot for the Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Award. Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target was the other Twins blogger to vote for this award.

As difficult as my vote for AL Manager of the Year was, it was equally easy for me to make my choice for the AL Rookie of the Year. Not that there weren’t a lot of very good candidates. There were. My preseason choice for the award was Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles, and he had a very solid rookie campaign. The Tigers Brennan Boesch had a remarkable first half, but during the second half, he really struggled. Wade Davis struggled in the first half, then went 7-1 with a 3.22 ERA in the second half. Or, consider the on-base skills of Davis’s Tampa teammate John Jaso from the catcher position. There are a lot of strong candidates. Maybe not as strong as the National League’s group that includes Buster Posey, Jaime Garcia, Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton, but solid none-the-less. Many players made their big league debuts or played as rookies in 2010, but below you will find my ballot, my top three American League Rookies:

#3 – Danny Valencia – Minnesota Twins

2010 was an interesting season for Valencia. He began the season at Rochester and got off to a really slow start. In fact, when promoted to the Twins, he was yet to hit a AAA homer. When called up by the Twins in early June, he hit for average, but no extra base power. But in July, something clicked. He hit .453/.508/.623 with six doubles and his first home run (a grand slam against Zach Greinke. He added another homer in August and then hit five in September. The only case against Valencia is that he played in 85 games and had just 322 plate appearances. However, a .311/.351/.448 line is impressive. As impressive was his 5.7 UZR and 10.2 UZR/150. The question mark for many with Valencia was his defense, and he played outstanding. Valencia played an important role in the Twins pennant run.

#2 – Austin Jackson – Detroit Tigers

Jackson came to the Tigers from the Yankees in that big three-team deal that brought Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Jackson made the team out of spring training and was impressive through the entire season. He got off to a great start, hitting .364/.422/.495 in April thanks to a .530 BABIP. Obviously that was not maintainable, but his overall line of .293/.345/.400 was solid. The speedster added 34 doubles, ten triples and four home runs. He strikes out a lot (170 times!), but he has so much upside. He stole 27 bases in 33 attempts as a rookie. His 5.4 UZR in centerfield was very solid. Again, his speed helped him overcome being very raw yet.

#1 – Neftali Feliz – Texas Rangers

Feliz pitched only 69.1 innings in 2010, but they were pretty important innings to the resurgent Texas Rangers. There was a lot of talk about Feliz and his triple-digit fastball being a starting pitcher, and that is something that could still happen. But Feliz became one of the league’s most shut-down closers throughout the 2010 season. Feliz recorded 40 saves in 43 opportunities. He struck out more than a batter an inning. He walked just 18 and gave up just five home runs on the season. His 0.88 WHIP meant that he did not even put himself into bad situations many times. Feliz was an All-Star, and at season’s end was still one of the best in the league at his position (not just among rookies). That’s why he is my choice for the Willie Mays Award for American League Rookie of the Year.  (Think the Braves wouldn’t love to still have Feliz and Elvis Andrus?)

There is my ballot. Would yours look different?  Leave your comments here.

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7 Responses to “Willie Mays Award Ballot: AL Rookie of the Year”

  1. Large Canine October 15, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    Seth,

    Valencia #1, Jackson #2 and Feliz #3. Feliz #3 because only 69 innings and closer is soooo overrated. Look what we did w/out Nathan this year. Jackson #2 because Valencia beat him by 18 points in BA, 6 in OB and 48 in OBS. Valenicia had twice the HR’s in half the AB’s. Danny was on pace to hit more doubles than Jackson. I’m sorry, but straight up going into 2011 I would rather have Danny V than Jackson.

  2. Large Canine October 15, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    DV had one less RBI than JAckson in less than half the AB’s.

  3. Seth October 15, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    That’s fair, but the closer role is a role in baseball… much like the DH is. I just feel you can’t ignore him for doing his role. I definitely agree that the closer’s role is overrated, but he was great at his role as a rookie. That’s not to take away from the others.

    I also think RBI are overrated. jackson was a leadoff hitter. he scored 103 runs.

    As everyone knows, I’m as big a Valencia fan as there is. Voting him third is not meant in any way as a slight. My main point is that I do think those plate appearances do matter… Waht were Brennan Boesch’s numbers through his first 300 plate appearances? Through 267 pre-All Star break at bats, Boesch was hitting .342/.397/.593 with 19 doubles, 12 homers. he then hit .163/.237/.222 with 7 doubles and 2 home runs afte the All-Star break. I’m not at all suggesting that Valencia would have tanked given a full-season of at bats the way Boesch did. I believe he wouldn’t have. But I do think it speaks to the value/difficulty of playing the full season.

  4. Mark October 15, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    I think that Valencia’s (and Denard Span for that matter) performance in his initial big league season point to one of the only problems with the Twins approach to developing players: with many players they move them too slowly.

    It is pretty clear to me that Valencia improved every week he was on the big league roster and this improvement dwarfed teh progess he made at the lower levels. Now, I will agree that not all prospects will see this type of improvement. Trevor Plouffe did not necessarily improve during his stint in the majors.

    But, the organization needs to do a better job of identifying players like Valencia and Spann and moving them up quicker.

  5. PinkiePinkerton October 15, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I still think you had it right from the beginning Seth.

    #1 – Brian Matusz. He pitched for the worst team in the best division in MLB, having to repeatedly face the three highest scoring lineups in the AL as well as Toronto at number six (so four of the six highest scoring lineups). Even so, he still managed to pitch 175 innings, posting a 4.30 ERA with 143 K and 63 BB. I am not going to include metrics here as awards should be based on actual production, not expected production. That said, his peripherals were right in line with the production.

    #2 Austin Jackson, for all the reasons you stated.

    #3 Neftali Feliz – He pitched great, but for less than 70 innings. In addition, he routinely faced three of the six lowest scoring lineups in the AL. All the reasons you stated for picking Jackson over Valencia are the same reasons I go with Matusz over Feliz. Those extra innings mean just as much as those extra plate appearances, even though the player with less playing time may have better rate stats.

  6. mike wants wins October 15, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    I agree with Pinkie’s rankings.

  7. Mike October 17, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Feliz by a mile, it isn’t even close. 71k/69IP, .88 WHIP, only 3 blown saves and one was after pitching 2 innings the previous night. These are elite stats for a first place team.

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