You could say many things about the 2018 MLB season; but one thing many will agree on is that, right from the start of Spring Training, this season was set to feature a wealth of young talent.
Young players have taken center stage in baseball, driving their teams into contention territory, even establishing themselves as key contributors and compensating certain regression cases from more established stars. Of course, there is also the case of a player from the other side of the planet who wants to achieve something no other Major Leaguer has done in about a century.
American League All-Stars
When it comes to the American League, the two main ROY candidates play for the New York Yankees, a team that is currently struggling to keep their AL East pennant chances alive. And that should not be surprising at all, considering the Bronx Bombers have the second-best organization when it comes to prospect talent and depth, according to Baseball America magazine.
Following this past offseason's blockbuster trades, the most popular storylines from the Bronx were supposed to revolve around Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. However, two newbies have stolen the spotlight. 3B Miguel Andújar, 23, and 2B Gleyber Torres, 21, have been at the front of the AL Rookie of the Year conversation for the majority of the season.
Andújar has been tearing it up, no doubt about it. Before Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, the Dominican hit safely in 24-of-28 contests since the start of July; and led all rookies in batting average (.292), doubles (30), extra-base hits (184), total bases (184) and slugging (.497), while being second in hits (108) and runs (50) and third in RBIs (48), building a solid rookie resumé. On the other side of Yankee infield, Torres has raised some concerns in and out of the Yankees organization with his recent hitting slump. However, his solid performance in the first half of the season still has him sitting near the top of the list of ROY candidates.
The Venezuelan second baseman, who debuted on April 22, still leads all rookies in home runs (17) and RBIs (49) and has the distinction of being the first player in the long history of the Yankee organization (and eighth in MLB history) to hit at least 17 homers in his first 70 career games before turning 22 years old. Despite his recent struggles at the plate, Yankee manager Aaron Boone has expressed confidence in Torres, saying he doesn’t want Torres to change the way he approaches the game.
Hey, what about two-way Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani? Sure, he has dealt with an elbow injury that's kept him off the mound over the past two months, but he has not disappointed at the plate. Ohtani, 24, on a mission to become the 21st-century Babe Ruth, is the first player in Major League history to hit at least 10 homers and tally more than 50 pitching strikeouts in the same season. Trying to grasp the historic implications of the goals Ohtani has imposed on himself could be a lot for anyone. Just consider he is the second player since 1900 with more than 10 home runs and 4 wins as a pitcher in a season. (Yes, Babe Ruth is the other one.) To put it lightly, that makes Ohtani more than worthy of some Rookie of the Year votes.
National League Knock-Outs
As far as the National League is concerned, the award seems to already be engraved with the name of LF Juan Soto.
The Washington Nationals phenom, 19, made his MLB debut on May 20 – and since then, he's become a force to be reckoned with, leading all MLB rookies with a minimum of 270 plate appearances in batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.423), slugging percentage (.561) and OPS (.984). His offensive onslaught has been strong, compensating for his arguably short stint in the majors after a relatively late call-up in terms of ROY eligibility. As the season has progressed, Soto's upstart batting prowess has eased the minds of Nationals fans as they contemplate an inevitable future without Bryce Harper.
If we were to choose a rookie on the Senior Circuit that has an outside chance of stealing the NL ROY from Soto, that would be RF Brian Anderson of the Miami Marlins. His hit total, prior to the All-Star break, tied Rocco Baldelli for the second-most by a Major League rookie since 2003, behind only Hideki Matsui's 114 hits in 2003, leading all MLB rookies in categories such as at-bats hits, multi-hit games and average with runners in scoring position. Anderson could be the key piece to the future within a franchise where uncertainty has remained the only constant. However, all signs point to Soto earning the accolade.
No matter the result, the Rookie of the Year award might be one of the most intriguing races in baseball this year. Despite all the current debates regarding pace of play and other issues, baseball is safe when it comes to young talent. This generation is proving they are ready to shine, which makes this race a must-watch affair.
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