Breaking down Rookie of the Year candidates
An early look at six players from each league who could vie for ROY honors
Some Rookie of the Year predictions are obvious. Everyone saw Mike Trout and Bryce Harper coming. But sometimes players break through to claim the award ahead of other more ballyhooed prospects. Case in point: 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.
Obviously, trying to handicap such a race now is a bit premature, but there's no harm in looking at potential candidates for the honor. Any such conversation should probably start with any big international imports coming to Major League Baseball. Especially recently, that's meant Cuba. Jose Abreu won AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2014; both Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig finished second in their respective rookie seasons.
There are two players who need to be at the top of this discussion, one for each league. Rusney Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox last August. He got his feet wet with Boston in September, then played a bit in both the Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rico Winter League. That was just an appetizer, as the 27-year-old is expected to be the Red Sox center fielder on Opening Day. If he produces as expected, he has to be considered a front-runner.
An Opening Day big league job isn't quite as much of a lock for Yasmany Tomas, who signed with the D-backs in November, agreeing to a six-year, $68.5 million deal, but the 24-year-old has a ton of power and will be given a chance to win the third-base job in Spring Training. Many see him as a better fit in a corner-outfield spot. If he does win a job, his power potential makes him a serious ROY candidate as well.
This is not to imply that the Cubans have cornered the market on the award. Far from it. Here's a quick look at five other potential candidates in each league.
Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs: Maybe he's more of a long shot after dealing with some adversity in 2014. Even if he starts the year in Triple-A, he could impact the big league rotation for long enough to be a legit candidate.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs: All he did was lead the Minors in home runs while reaching Triple-A in his first full season. The door at third for his 40-homer potential should be wide open.
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers: Pederson is the only professional player who had a 30-30 season in 2014. That power-speed combo might have a chance to be in the Dodgers outfield now that Matt Kemp is a Padre.
Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs: He made a splash during his big league debut last year. If he does that over 162 games, watch out.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets: Last year, deGrom. This year, Syndergaard? There might not be an obvious spot in the rotation right now, but he has the frontline starter stuff that could force the Mets' hand.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Angels: Matt Shoemaker was a surprise ROY contender (finishing second) last year. Heaney, acquired via trade for Howie Kendrick, wouldn't sneak up on people in the same way, but he should be in the rotation from Day 1 of the season.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins: The big right-hander deserves a shot after a full season in Triple-A in 2014. He has the stuff to more than compete at the big league level. The key, once given an opportunity, will be his command and control.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays: It could be a very interesting competition among young arms at Spring Training for the Jays. Norris has tremendous stuff from the left side he's just learning to harness. If he wins a rotation spot, he needs to be taken seriously.
Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays: There's some good stuff brewing in Toronto, eh? Pompey went from the Class A Advanced Florida State League to the big leagues a year ago. Now he has the chance to be at the highest level all season as a dynamic leadoff type.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Blue Jays: The other young arm potentially competing with Norris, Sanchez did have some success coming out of the 'pen in the big leagues last year. That could create an interesting scenario: Even if Sanchez doesn't win a rotation spot, he could eventually be Toronto's closer.