The NL Rookie of the Year race is starting to heat up. Teams are starting to see some emergence and separation as a favorite, contender or sleeper. There are also individual awards, such as the NL Rookie of the Year award. Much like the American League, the senior circuit has clear candidates for each of the three categories. Take a look at some of the rookies who are in contention for the yearly award.
NL Rookie Favorites
Spencer Strider, SP, Atlanta Braves
Spencer Strider started the season in the Atlanta Braves bullpen posting some very impressive numbers. By the start of June, the rookie right-hander found himself in the Braves’ starting rotation. In the middle of a pennant chase. Strider headed into the All-Star break first among all major league rookie pitchers in WAR and second in strikeouts. His recent performance against the league’s top teams is certainly noteworthy. That could signify good fortunes for the Braves’ chances at repeating as World Champions.
Brendan Donovan, OF/3B/2B. St. Louis Cardinals
For the St. Louis Cardinals, Brendan Donovan has been one of the more consistent hitters and most versatile players in all baseball. Whether playing in the outfield or the infield, Donovan ranks among the best in the game. Offensively, he won’t hit for power but has been a player who can generate some runs and clutch hitting. Heading into the break, he ranked fourth among major league rookies in doubles, fifth in RBI and sixth in total hits.
Michael Harris, CF, Atlanta Braves
Since being called up in late May from Double-A Mississippi, Michael Harris has fit quite nicely for the Braves. His production in June earned him Rookie of the Month honors for the month. Despite not being in the Majors for two months, Harris ranks in the top 10 among rookies in runs, doubles, RBI and stolen bases. Coming into the All-Star break, Harris went through a bit of a slump at the plate. He is showing signs of regaining the consistent play he had in June. Harris will be the odds-on favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year honors if he returns to form.
NL Rookie of the Year Contenders
MacKenzie Gore, SP, San Diego Padres
Mackenzie Gore certainly started off looking like a solid favorite for National League Rookie of the Year honors. Through June 4, Gore had a 4-1 record alongside a 1.50 ERA without allowing a homer. Gore has been a big reason the Padres kept pace with the Dodgers. Since then, he has been 0-3 with an ERA of 4.08, giving up five home runs and a few no-decisions. The key element for Gore is finding consistency and retracing the steps. If the Padres get within distance of the Dodgers and earn a Wild Card, he could go from contender to potential favorite in quick order.
Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
Since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 20, Oneil Cruz has shown flashes of glove work and some offense. On July 14, Cruz set a record by throwing a grounder first with a velocity of 97.8 mph. That throw is the fastest throw on record in baseball’s Statcast era. In the short time Cruz has been in the majors; he has hit four homers and 16 RBI with four stolen bases. His chances at Rookie of the Year will be improved if he turns up the volume at the plate.
Seiya Suzuki, RF, Chicago Cubs
Seiya Suzuki fits quite nicely in the lineup, signed by the Chicago Cubs as a free agent out of Japan. Suzuki got off to the season’s hot start, earning him the April National League Rookie of the Month and the NL Player of the Week on April 17. If Suzuki gets back to the standard he set, the chances of Suzuki’s Rookie of the Year aspirations go up.
Juan Yepez, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Much like Brendan Donovan, Juan Yepez is a very versatile player for St. Louis. Yepez is also very productive early on in the season at the plate, collecting 11 home runs and 27 RBI to date. Coming into the All-Star Break, Yepez struggled offensively and ended up on the 10-day injured list with a right forearm strain. The break should allow him to rejoin the Cardinals sooner rather than later. If he regains his early season form, Yepez could become a solid contender in the Rookie race.
Christopher Morel, CF/2B/SS, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are in the middle of a rebuilding phase, and Christopher Morel is a factor in those plans. Since his call-up from Double-A Tennessee, his impact on the Cubs lineup is undeniable. At the All-Star Break, Morel ranks second in the National League in triples and assists as an outfielder. While he still has work to do defensively, Morel has a chance to become a contender if he can help the Cubs climb out of the Central Division cellar log jam with the Pirates and Reds.
NL Rookie of the Year Sleepers
Luis Gonzalez, OF/P, San Francisco Giants
The Giants have two players in one with Luis Gonzalez. Heading into the All-Star break, Gonzalez ranked 10th in the NL in sacrifice flies and third in the NL in assists by a right fielder. He ranks third in doubles and 10th total runs among major league rookies.
Hunter Greene, SP, Cincinnati Reds
The chances of Hunter Greene being named National League Rookie of the Year are slim. If Greene can get his mechanics under control, there is a chance things could turn around for him. In his second start, Greene set a major league record by throwing 39 pitches with 100 miles mph or greater velocity in a single game. He w s also part of a rare unofficial combined no-hitter in May against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Spencer Strider, Brendan Donovan, Michael Harris, MacKenzie Gore, Oneil Cruz, Seiya Suzuki, Juan Yepez, Christopher Morel, Luis Gonzalez, Hunter Greene