AL Rookie of the Year
In the final installment of our awards, we have the American League Rookie of the Year to hand out. Many believe, and rightfully so, that Evan Longoria and Alexi Ramirez are the only two real candidates. Kansas City’s Mike Aviles had a surprisingly nice rookie campaign and there are a few others that warrant some attention. Though, at the end of the day, the Longoria-Ramirez match-up should determine our winner. Let’s do that first and then discuss some other guys who get a shout out.
Ramirez has Longoria in batting average by 18 points (.290 to .272). He had a few more at-bats and 13 steals to Longoria’s seven. He tied an AL Rookie record with four, yes, four grand slams this season. That is about all he has on the Rays’ phenom third baseman.
Longoria finished with 27 homers (21 for Ramirez), 85 RBI (77 for Ramirez), a .343 on-base (.317), a .531 slugging percentage (.475), a .874 OPS (.792) and 60 extra-base hits (45). Even the stolen bases are a little misleading because Ramirez was caught nine times in 22 chances. Longoria was a perfect seven-for-seven. If you want to go to fielding, Ramirez made 11 errors and Longoria 12. Then again, Ramirez had more opportunities at a less difficult position. I throw the fielding out the door.
That said, both players led their teams to a playoff appearance, but Longoria was one of the main reasons the Rays were the surprise team of the year with 97 wins. Ramirez was a key component of the White Sox appearance as well, however, Longoria also has the advantage of being the favorite to win this award coming into the season.
Other players who deserve some credit for a nice season include:
Aviles, who came out of nowhere to not only win the starting shortstop job for the Royals, but play effectively for most of the season. His .325 batting average led all AL rookies. He also showed nice pop with 15 homers and 51 RBI on the hapless Royals.
Jacoby Ellsbury stole 50 bags and hit a solid .280 at the top of the potent Boston lineup. Another favorite coming into the season, Ellsbury didn’t disappoint and quickly disposed of Coco Crisp as a threat to his playing time.
If not for injury, Texas’ outfielder David Murphy might have been a lock for this award. He was crushing the ball and still put up good numbers for a full season: .275-15-74 and more extra-base hits than anybody not named Longoria.
Cleveland’s Ben Francisco finished with a .266-15-54 line.
Many thought the best rookie on Oakland this year would be Daric Barton and while he was given an opportunity to do something special, his .226 batting average killed that quickly. Ryan Sweeney is the better rookie there. He had just five homers, but drove in 45 and hit .286 in 384 at-bats.
What about Minnesota’s Denard Span? He hit an impressive .294 after winning the lead-off spot for the Twins (a partial playoff team), drove in 47 runs and swiped 18 bags. Solid numbers in just 347 at-bats.
I won’t make the same mistake I did in the National League, leaving off Jair Jurrjens. Armando Gallaraga had a Jurrjens-like season with a 13-7 record, 126 strikeouts and a low 3.73 ERA. He could be considered for the top spot with those numbers.
Nick Blackburn is another starting pitcher with solid numbers (4.05 ERA, 11 wins, 96 K’s).
1. Evan Longoria
2. Alexi Ramirez
3. Armando Gallaraga
4. Mike Aviles
5. Jacoby Ellsbury
6. David Murphy
7. Denard Span
8. Ben Francisco
9. Ryan Sweeney
10. Nick Blackburn
2008 MLB Awards – Final
NL MVP – Albert Pujols, 1B, STL
AL MVP – Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS
NL Cy Young – Tim Lincecum, SP, SF
AL Cy Young – Roy Halladay, SP, TOR
NL Rookie – Geovany Soto, C, CHC
AL Rookie – Evan Longoria, 3B, TB
I hope you all enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed bringing them to you. We will be sure to recap when the actual awards come out in November to see if the “experts” agree.