The Rookie of the Year award is one of the most interesting awards to discuss at the end of the season most years because it can mean so many different things. It could be the most valuable rookie, the rookie who played the best during his time in the show, or a rookie who had a good season and looks to have a brighter future.
Predicting who is going to win at the outset of the season is quite difficult most seasons because it is so hard to determine playing time. Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals outfielder, is likely the best player in the NL with rookie status this season, but his path to playing time is blocked. If Carlos Beltran breaks his ankle tomorrow, things change quite a bit.
So when choosing a preseason Rookie of the Year, one must look for talent and one must look for consistent at bats or innings. We at SABR Toothed Tigers considered a number of candidates for this award including Taveras, but ultimately settled on who we consider to be the talented rookie with the clearest path to a full season of playing time.
And the award will go to…
Adam Eaton (CF – Diamondbacks)
With Justin Upton and Chris Young out of the picture, Cody Ross will slide to right field this season for the Dbacks, giving Eaton a chance to take the everyday job in center. The newly 24 year old Eaton looks to solidify the leadoff spot this season and brings above average regular potential to the table.
Most scouts don’t consider him to have superstar potential, but he could be a very solid major leaguer for years to come. Eaton is very good on defense with excellent speed and a great arm that will play at any of the three outfield spots.
He’s stolen 40 or more bases in each of the last two seasons across multiple levels and has consistently put up a better than .300 average and .400 on base in the minor leagues. His 5’8” frame isn’t built for power, but if you’re looking for a speedy leadoff hitter who plays great defense, Eaton is your guy.
He’s a very good player with little left to prove in the minor leagues and should have an everyday spot on a decent to good big league team. It’s hard to find a lot of other NL players who fit that bill. The Mets and Cardinals have pitchers who could contribute in a big way, but there is more uncertainty there in my opinion. The Padres Jed Gyrko is another candidate, but he’s playing on a lesser club in a tougher park, all while likely playing a new position. He gave Eaton a run for his money in our voting, but came up short.
Adam Eaton has hit at every level and looks poised for a strong rookie campaign in a field of players with difficult paths to full seasons of playing time. He’s not an MVP type player like Mike Trout was last year, but when 2013 is over, he’ll get his hands on some hardware of his own.