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Who should win ROY? Here's every case

November 11, 2019

The high level of young talent in baseball today is undeniable, and when awards season comes around, you know the Rookie of the Year Award voting will be fun, whether the races are tight or there is a player who was so dominant, it's just fun to revisit his season.

The high level of young talent in baseball today is undeniable, and when awards season comes around, you know the Rookie of the Year Award voting will be fun, whether the races are tight or there is a player who was so dominant, it's just fun to revisit his season.

This year, each of the finalists for the honor turned in tremendous seasons -- in some cases, setting records and in others, accomplishing feats only reached a handful of times in Major League history.

Complete 2019 Awards coverage

Whether it's with dominance on the mound, prodigious power at the plate or unbelievable plays in the field, this year's class of finalists for the Rookie of the Year Awards is stacked. Watch the live announcement on MLB Network tonight at 6 ET.

All-time Rookie of the Year Award winners

Here's a look at the case for each of them.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Yordan Alvarez, Astros
Perhaps the only question when it comes to Alvarez and the Rookie of the Year Award is whether it will be unanimous. After hitting 23 home runs in 56 games in Triple-A, Alvarez made his long-awaited debut on June 9 and quickly became a force in the middle of the Astros’ stacked lineup.

He was named the AL Rookie of the Month in each of his first three months in the big leagues (June, July and August) and set a Major League record by posting 51 RBIs in his first 45 games. He hit seven homers in his first 12 games, which was a club record. In 87 games with the Astros, Alvarez hit .313 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs, setting a Major League record for OPS by a rookie in a single season (1.067, minimum 350 plate appearances). He surpassed Shoeless Joe Jackson’s record of 1.058 in 1911.

Alvarez led American League rookies in extra-base hits (53) and led all MLB rookies in OPS (1.067), on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.655). After making his debut on June 9, he ranked in the top 10 among all AL hitters in RBIs (second), OBP (third), slugging (third), OPS (fourth), extra-base hits (fifth), homers (tied, sixth), doubles (tied, seventh) and batting average (ninth). His 1.067 OPS was the sixth highest by a player 22 years old or younger in the MLB modern era (since 1900).
-- Brian McTaggart

John Means, Orioles
In a league littered with talented first-year position players, Means paced all AL rookies on the pitching side. The 26-year-old southpaw led all AL rookie starters in wins (12) and walks per nine innings (2.1), finished second in FanGraphs WAR (2.8) and ERA (3.60), third in innings (147 1/3) and WHIP (1.14) and fourth in strikeouts (108). Means also made four relief appearances, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in those outings. And he did it all for the pitching-starved Orioles, who posted the Majors’ highest staff ERA and set an MLB record for homers allowed.

To appreciate what Means did, look at the environment in which he did it. As a team, the Orioles owned a 5.59 ERA. Means pitched to a 3.60 mark. They allowed 1.9 homers per game and issued 3.5 walks per contest. Means held opponents to 1.3 dingers per nine, and walked just 2.2 per nine. He earned nearly a quarter of the Orioles’ wins, and nearly a third of those compiled by their starters. He led the O’s in wins, ERA, WHIP, quality starts and WAR.

Will it be enough to topple Alvarez, the heavy favorite? Probably not. But it's worth acknowledging the diamond-in-the-rough-type year Means put together and the odds he overcame while doing so. A non-prospect who spent three years at Double-A prior to 2019, Means reported to Spring Training expecting to be part of the first wave of cuts. He ended up sneaking onto the Opening Day roster, and he emerged in ways nobody expected.
-- Joe Trezza

Brandon Lowe, Rays
Through the first three months of the season, it looked like Lowe was going to run away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but after missing most of the last three months with a pair of injuries, he opened the door for the rest of the competition to make its case. Alvarez is the favorite to win the award, but Lowe can still make a case despite playing just six games in the second half of the season.

Lowe finished with 17 home runs while hitting in the middle of a lineup that desperately needed his contributions. The first-time All-Star finished with a 2.6 FanGraphs WAR, which is the lowest of the three finalists, but Lowe is the only player who contributed both defensively and offensively. Lowe’s chances at the award took a hit due to injuries, but he still remains a quality choice to win it.
-- Juan Toribio

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Pete Alonso, Mets
The best case for Alonso to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award is that there’s no logical case against him. In addition to setting a Major League rookie record with 53 homers, Alonso paced Major League rookies in games played, RBIs, runs scored, walks, OPS+, weighted runs created, win probability added and wins above replacement, leading many of those categories by colossal margins. He also finished 16th among NL rookies in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage and second in slugging, while playing passable defense at first base.

Statistically, Alonso’s season was one of the most impactful in Major League history. Beyond the numbers, it is impossible to quantify what Alonso meant to the Mets, the borough and the city. Early in the year, Alonso established himself as a clubhouse leader, becoming outspoken to such an extent that many around the team began referring to him as a future captain. He was active in the community, donating 10% of his Home Run Derby winnings to non-profit organizations and even buying customized spikes for his teammates to wear in commemoration of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With respect to Fernando Tatis Jr. and particularly Mike Soroka, who did some of his best work in a pennant race, Alonso is the obvious NL Rookie of the Year. Him not winning unanimously would be a surprise. Him not winning at all would qualify as one of the most significant upsets in BBWAA awards history.
-- Anthony DiComo

Mike Soroka, Braves
Soroka ranked third in the NL with a 2.68 ERA -- a mark bettered by just seven rookies (min. 25 starts) dating back to 1969 (the year the mound was lowered). Six of those seven pitchers won their league's Rookie of the Year Award. The right-hander’s 4.0 FanGraphs WAR ranked first among rookie pitchers and second among all rookies, trumped only by Alonso’s 4.8.

This was a special season for the Braves right-hander, who also ranked second in the NL with a 169 ERA+. Dwight Gooden (229 in 1985), Vida Blue (183 in 1971) and José Fernández (176 in 2013) are the only other pitchers in the Live Ball Era to produce an ERA+ of 165 or better while 21 years old or younger.

Soroka produced a 1.07 ERA through his first eight starts, allowing fewer than two earned runs in each of those outings. Accounting for his success during the injury-shortened 2018 season, he stands as the only pitcher since 1913, when earned runs became an official stat, to allow one earned run or fewer in 11 of his first 13 career starts. No other pitcher had done so in as many as eight of his first 10 starts.

Soroka’s 1.55 road ERA was nearly a run better than any other MLB pitcher this year. Greg Maddux (1.12 in 1995) and Roger Clemens (1.32 in 2005) are the only pitchers (min. 15 starts) since 1969 to produce a better road ERA.
-- Mark Bowman

Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
Before he was sidelined in August with a back injury, Tatis was on his way to one of the most successful rookie seasons in Padres history. He'd posted a .317/.379/.590 slash line while dazzling on defense and on the bases. At 20, he'd become an instant fan favorite in San Diego, and it was easy to see why.

Tatis did things that defied logic. He tagged up from third base on infield popups. He made leaping catches you knew were poster-worthy the moment you saw them. When he got knocked down, he got right back up and responded in style.

Of course, it's impossible to ignore Tatis' injuries in considering him for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He played only 84 games, having also missed May due to a hamstring strain.

But when Tatis was on the field, there was no disputing his value. It's no coincidence that when Tatis' season ended early, the Padres began their late-season spiral to the bottom of the NL West. Clearly, there weren’t many players in the sport more valuable to their team’s success.

Tatis does not have the counting stats of Alonso and Soroka. Both were healthy all year, and both recorded incredible rookie seasons. But if there's a case for Tatis, it’s simple: When he was on the field, no rookie -- and arguably no player in baseball -- was more electric. No rookie in baseball could change a game the way he could.
-- AJ Cassavell