At a time when members of baseball’s next generation of stars seem to be arriving every day or two, there’s some clarity in what could eventually be tight Rookie of the Year Award races in both leagues: Padres right-hander Chris Paddack and Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe are clear frontrunners in the National League and American League, respectively.
In MLB.com's first Rookie of the Year poll, Lowe was a runaway winner with 26 of 36 first-place votes. Meanwhile, Paddack received 24 of 36 first-place votes.
Only six NL rookies received votes, and while Paddack got 24 first-place votes, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (six), Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo (three) and Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (three) all got first-place mentions. Soroka's case appears to be gaining steam after starting the year in the Minors. He carried a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Giants on Monday night, en route to eight innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts and no walks for his fifth win.
Here’s a breakdown of the top three finishers in each league, with their awards “share” listed in parentheses. A share is their vote points divided by the highest possible number of points, which in this case is 180 (36 total votes, with 5 points for each first-place vote, 3 for second, 1 for third). These percentages do not add up to 100.
1) Brandon Lowe, Rays 2B (79.4 percent, 26 first-place votes)
Lowe played just 43 games last season, but the Rays were confident enough in what they had to sign him to a six-year, $24 million extension, which could be worth $49 million over eight seasons if two options are exercised. He leads all MLB second basemen with a 1.7 fWAR and is third in home runs (10) and second in slugging percentage (.568).
2) Michael Chavis, Red Sox 2B (38.3 percent, 7 first-place votes)
Chavis made his debut on April 20 and doubled in his first Major League at-bat. He started at second base and has been there ever since. If the Red Sox ever thought he was a temporary replacement until Dustin Pedroia or Brock Holt returned, Chavis appears to have grabbed the job for good with nine home runs and a .981 OPS.
3) Spencer Turnbull, Tigers RHP (23.3 percent, 0 first-place votes)
He moved methodically through the Tigers' system after being taken in the second round of the 2014 Draft. He has emerged as a mainstay in an organization flush with young pitching prospects. His fastball sits at 94-95 mph, and while control is a problem at times and his changeup remains a work in progress, he’s one of many reasons the Tigers are so optimistic about the future.
Others receiving votes: Yusei Kikuchi, LHP, SEA (3 first-place votes); John Means, LHP, BAL; Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, TOR; Nicky Lopez, 2B, KC; Corbin Martin, RHP, HOU; Ty Buttrey, RHP, LAA; Marcus Walden, RHP, BOS; Dan Vogelbach, DH/1B, SEA
1) Chris Paddack, Padres RHP (82.8 percent, 24 first-place votes)
Paddack works off a fastball/changeup combination that has elevated him to an elite level. Over his nine starts, he averaged 9.82 strikeouts per nine innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer seven times. The challenge for the Padres is managing his workload. He threw 90 innings in the Minors last season in his return from Tommy John surgery and had already reached 51 1/3 innings after Monday's start.
2) Pete Alonso, Mets 1B (48.3 percent, 6 first-place votes)
Sometimes a guy is every bit as good as his hype. Alonso went to Spring Training not even guaranteed of a roster spot and looked like a finished product from day one. He has cooled off in May as opponents attempt to find holes in his swing. Every young player deals with this kind of challenge, and there’s no reason to think Alonso won’t come out on the other side.
3) Alex Verdugo, Dodgers OF (30.6 percent, 3 first-place votes)
He started just one of the Dodgers' first eight games as manager Dave Roberts juggled a deep roster. Verdugo homered in his first start. He became a regular this month and has kept his batting average above .300 every day.
Others receiving votes: Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL (3 first-place votes); Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, SD; Christian Walker, 1B, ARI