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.
If we knew nothing else than who won the World Series every year, the National League West would look as if it was doing pretty well for itself as it is home to two of the last three world champions. Both of those teams are the San Francisco Giants, however, so it’s probably better for everyone if we had a little more information.
The division features those defending champion Giants and baseball’s newest quarter billion dollar payroll, the Dodgers. Both clubs have their sights set on a playoff run and they will have company.
The Diamondbacks made a lot of roster juggling, win now type deals this year and the Padres had a good run to end 2012. Only the Rockies can be said to have no realistic playoff hopes for 2013.
The division features big ballparks and could be a growing challenge to baseball’s previously elite divisions in the years to come. For now, it remains a bit off the pace in my book. Here’s how SABR Toothed Tigers sizes up the NL West for 2013.
[Division Rank. Team (Predicted 2013 Record, Preseason Power Ranking)]
5. Colorado Rockies (63-99, 28)
The Rockies had a bad season in 2012 and didn’t do a whole lot to make their team better for 2013. The offense, with a healthy Tulowitzki, is formidable enough to contend, but they cannot do it alone. The starting rotation and bullpen, even with generous adjustments for the tough home ballpark, are abysmal. The Rockies have a number of guys I would feel comfortable placing at the back end of my rotation, but none who belong at the front. If the Rockies won more than 75 games in 2013, I would be absolutely shocked. As you can see by my preseason ranking, I think the Rockies will be among the worst five teams in baseball this year.
4. San Diego Padres (78-84, 22)
The Padres played much better in the second of half of 2012 and actually looked like a team that could contend in 2013 with a few upgrades. Unfortunately, they didn’t make any big upgrades. They took some chances on previously injured starters who could certainly provide good value, but no one who will be a bona fide difference maker. With some good fortune, the Padres should spend a few months kicking dirt around the second wild card, but the talent just isn’t there without a couple more acquisitions.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80, 15)
The Diamondbacks have a talented roster, but also made some strange moves this offseason. They traded Chris Young, Justin Upton, and Trevor Bauer for a return of Martin Prado, Didi Gregorius, Heath Bell, and Randall Delgado. There are a few more pieces as well, but these are the ones who look to make an impact this year. They signed Cody Ross and Eric Chavez and have good pitching depth coming from the system to go along with centerfielder in waiting Adam Eaton. On the whole, this is a talented club, but they seemed to get the worse end of every move they made. That doesn’t mean they’ll have a bad season, but it does make you wonder how well the team is run. I wouldn’t be surprised by a playoff push from the Dbacks, but it will require another big year from Aaron Hill and Paul Golschmidt in addition to solid seasons from a lot of lesser pieces. The key will be how well a deep but inexperienced pitching staff can navigate through a full season. This is a good team, but not a great team and their record will reflect that.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74, 11)
I’ve written on several occasions that I don’t think the Dodgers have successfully spent their way into a playoff berth, but rather have merely allowed themselves to get into the discussion. Their top two starters, Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, are phenomenal, but the rotation is uncertain after that despite a number of options. Carl Crawford claims he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but I’m doubtful we’ll ever see him regain his Tampa Bay form. Matt Kemp is coming off an injury plagued season and Andre Either’s and Adrian Gonzalez’s best days are behind them as far as I’m concerned. This isn’t a bad team, but this is not the best team $250 million can buy. The Dodgers should be in the playoff chase right down to the wire, but they’re not going to make into October.
1. San Francisco Giants (91-71, 7)
The Giants have earned this spot in part due to history and in part due to reason. As far as history is concerned, they’ve won two World Series in three years and are due some deference for that. Rationally though, they won the division last year and return the same team minus a half season of Melky Cabrera and plus full ones from Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. The Dodgers may be better than last year, but they also had an unusually lucky first two months last year, so that might balance out. It’s also hard to imagine Tim Lincecum doing any worse than he did in 2012 and could reasonably do much, much better. The Giants aren’t the most talented team in baseball for 2013, but they have shown the ability to exceed our expectations of them. This is a team that plays good defense and pitches well, but they are also a better offensive club than they were in 2010 when they played “torture baseball.” Buster Posey will lead the way, but he won’t be on his own. The Giants aren’t my pick for the World Series, but they are my pick to represent the NL West in the postseason.
Awards and Miscellaneous Predictions:
NL West Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
NL West MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
Most Potentially Pivotal Player: Hanley Ramirez
Division Storyline That Will Surprise Us: The Dodgers will be desperate for pitching by June.
Boldest of the Bold: Carl Crawford will be a platoon player by August.
Yesterday I gave you the bottom third of my 2013 Preseason Rankings and today I present you with the middle third. Remember, this is how I view the quality of each team for 2013 and not how many wins I believe each team will accumulated. For example, I have the #21 Pirates winning more games than the team ahead of them because I expect them to have an easier time in their own division and think they’ll benefit from more good fortune as well.
20. Boston Red Sox
It’s been a rough 18 months for the Red Sox, but they enter 2013 without the weight of big contracts or expectations. They shed payroll thanks to the big spending Dodgers and made smaller commitments to free agents this offseason like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, David Ross, Johnny Gomes, and Ryan Dempster. The Sox have a pitching staff that should bounce back to some degree in 2013 and adding Joel Hanrahan should thicken up the back end of the pen. I think the Sox will be respectable this season, but I couldn’t make a case for them in the top half of the teams in the league and felt more comfortable calling them the 20th best team for 2013.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are a pretty good offensive team led by Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, but their pitching is somewhat suspect. Without any serious moves to improve their rotation or bullpen, I couldn’t do much to move them up this list. Expect the Crew to hit well, but I can’t see them preventing enough runs to make a postseason run.
18. New York Mets
I think the Mets are one elite outfielder and one pretty good outfielder away from being a legitimate playoff contender. They have a franchise player in David Wright and some nice supporting pieces on offense, but that usually won’t be enough to knock on the door of 90 wins. I’m a huge fan of the Mets rotation, even without Dickey in 2013 and think the bullpen should be better than it was a season ago. I don’t think this is the year for the Mets, but I also think they are a lot better than people think.
17. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles had a great 2012 season, but that greatness came on the backs of a lot of good fortune. I find it hard to believe they’ll be as lucky in extra inning and one run games again in 2013 and they also didn’t make any upgrades to the roster. A full season of Manny Machado will help and Dylan Bundy may get a chance to make an impact, but I’m expecting a low to mid 80s win total rather than a mid 90s one.
16. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are just a really average team. They have some frontline arms, but not much depth in the rotation or the pen for my taste. A lot of their bats have breakout potential, but they’re also very inconsistent. We saw last season, with much of the same roster, that a team like this can have a few good months, but they almost never hold up over a full season. This is an 80-85 win team in its purest form.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Dbacks made a lot of moves this offseason. They dealt Justin Upton, Chris Young, and Trevor Bauer, but got back Martin Prado, and many prospects and depth pieces. I think their pitching depth is phenomenal, but I think their top tier is lacking. On offense they have a lot of players I really like, but also have holes and question marks. This is a pretty good team and their ranking is more a function of how I feel about other teams than how I feel about them. While I told you I couldn’t put the Red Sox higher than 15th, I should probably say I can’t imagine putting the Dbacks any lower than this.
14. Oakland Athletics
Oakland is going to need some good luck to get back to 94 wins this season, but Billy Beane and they A’s had a nice offseason. They added some low cost high upside pieces that I think will pay off, but if last year’s formula is going to work, a lot of players are going to have to repeat career best type performances. I’m not sure they can do that, but I’d look for them to remain relevant into September.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have an incredible top three in their rotation and one of baseball’s best relievers anchoring their pen. They also have a great middle infield and an up and coming centerfielder. I worry deeply about everything else. They are a mess in the corners and their catcher is out for the first twenty five games of the season. This team has the ability to be very good, but I think their floor is also pretty low as well. I like them enough to put them in the top 13, but they could easily fall back if some of their gambles start to turn sour quickly.
12. New York Yankees
The Yankees are aging, but they’re still a talented team even if they aren’t the best team in the league anymore. The top of the rotation is good, but it lacks depth and offensive side is deep even if their star power is waning. A playoff berth wouldn’t surprise me for the Yanks, but I think they’ll be just on the outside this year.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers
They spent a ton of money via free agency and trades, but I’m still not sold on the Dodgers as a great team. They’re weak at 3B, 2B and potentially in the corner outfield spots depending on health. They have an excellent top two in the rotation, but I don’t love it south of there. The Dodgers are a good team, but paying Crawford and Gonzalez $40 million a season doesn’t scream playoff berth. You know how I know that? The Red Sox have already tried it twice.
Check back tomorrow for spots 10-1.