Week of BBWAA awards opens with rookies
Top American and National League youngsters take center stage on Monday
The one honor that can't ever be won a second time goes first, as a week of Baseball Writers' Association of America awards begins on Monday.
The Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards will be presented to the top first-year players in each league in a special announcement show on MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET, to be followed by Manager of the Year on Tuesday, Cy Young on Wednesday and the Most Valuable Player on Thursday.
While several favorites in the other awards have won before and could again, the Rookie of the Year honor is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In the American League, the finalists are Rays pitcher Chris Archer, Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias and Rays outfielder Wil Myers, all hoping to succeed 2012 winner Mike Trout of the Angels.
In the National League, Marlins starter Jose Fernandez, Cardinals starter Shelby Miller and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig are bidding to follow 2012 winner Bryce Harper of the Nationals.
Only Fernandez is also a finalist for another award -- NL Cy Young -- so the NL conversation begins with him. Whether it ends with him remains to be seen, with two other impressive rookies in the mix, as well.
Fernandez put up impeccable numbers, leading all Major League pitchers with a .182 opponents' batting average and posting a 2.19 ERA that ranked second only to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's 1.83. He went 12-6 in 28 starts, racking up 9.75 strikeouts per nine innings, second in the NL.
"I think anyone who watched the game of baseball last year, and watched Jose pitch every five days, knows how spectacular a young man he is," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.
If he were to win, Fernandez could become the Marlins' fourth rookie winner in 11 seasons -- joining Dontrelle Willis (2003), Hanley Ramirez ('06) and Chris Coghlan ('09).
Miller also presents a strong case from the mound, winning a spot in the Cardinals' rotation out of Spring Training and going on to win 15 games to help St. Louis to the NL Central title. Miller made 31 starts, the most by a Cards rookie since Rick Ankiel in 2000, and was among rookie leaders with a 3.06 ERA (fourth), 169 strikeouts (third) and 173 1/3 innings pitched (fourth).
In terms of making a splash on the Major League scene, it's hard to top Puig, who started his career on a hitting tear and provided highlight play after highlight play all the way into October. He hit four homers in his first five games after his June 3 promotion, rolling to 44 hits that month -- second all-time only to Joe DiMaggio's 48 for a debut month.
Puig wound up batting .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games, experiencing some growing pains along the way but displaying all the tools for stardom.
In the American League, the conversation begins with Tampa Bay, where Archer stood out as the best rookie pitcher in the league, and Myers lived up to the hype after a winter blockbuster trade brought him to the Rays from Kansas City.
Myers, acquired in a deal for veteran starters James Shields and Wade Davis, didn't come up to the Majors until June 18, but he still managed to lead all AL rookies with 53 RBIs, while batting .293 with 13 home runs as an integral part of the Wild Card-winning Rays' run to the postseason.
"I think that Wil [stepped] right into the middle of the order of a playoff-contending team and really hit the ground running," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Among AL rookies, Archer ranked first in ERA (3.22), opponents' average (.226) and shutouts (two), and was named the AL Pitcher of the Month and AL Rookie of the Month for July.
Iglesias, who was traded from the Red Sox to the Tigers as part of the deal that sent veteran pitcher Jake Peavy to Boston, had an impact on the two AL teams that vied for a trip to the World Series in October. The 23-year-old from Cuba played third base in Boston with Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, and then he became the Tigers' answer at shortstop with veteran Jhonny Peralta on a 50-game drug suspension.
Iglesias batted .303 in 350 at-bats between his two stops, and he made an immediate impact on the left side of the Tigers' infield, showing range that helped mitigate the effects of third baseman Miguel Cabrera's injury.
The Rookie of the Year presentations will be just the beginning of four nights of announcements on MLB Network, all at 6 p.m. ET. The remainder of the schedule:
Tuesday: Manager of the Year
AL finalists: John Farrell, Red Sox; Terry Francona, Indians; Bob Melvin, A's
NL finalists: Fredi Gonzalez, Braves; Clint Hurdle, Pirates; Don Mattingly, Dodgers
Wednesday: Cy Young Award
AL finalists: Yu Darvish, Rangers; Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners; Max Scherzer, Tigers
NL finalists: Fernandez, Marlins; Kershaw, Dodgers; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Thursday: Most Valuable Player
AL finalists: Cabrera, Tigers; Chris Davis, Orioles; Trout, Angels
NL finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates; Yadier Molina, Cardinals