Who Are the American League's Best Rookies?

Jack O'Connell writes about the Yankees, and after Ivan Nova pitched a gem over the weekend, O'Connell points out that Nova, despite a mid-season trip back to the minors, is looking like a strong Rookie of the Year candidate:

Ivan Nova just might be running away with the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award if he had not had to spend most of the month of July in the minor leagues because of the Yankees’ pitching logjam...

The righthander’s 13 victories in 17 decisions are the most for rookie pitchers, and seven shutout innings brought his ERA below 4.00 at 3.97. This was a scoreless game for five innings. Nova was most impressive in working out of tight situations.

--snip--

Nova’s victory total is the most for a Yankees rookie pitcher since reliever Ron Davis was 14-2 in 1979 and most for a Yankees rookie starter since Doc Medich was 14-9 in 1973. Neither was a Rookie of the Year winner, but Nova is a firm candidate this year. His competition comes from fellow starting pitchers Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays and Michael Pineda of the Mariners, reliever Jordan Walden and first baseman Mark Trumbo, both of the Angels. Nova has not lost since June 3 at Anaheim. In 10 starts since, he is 9-0 with a 3.59 ERA.

It's not been a good year for rookie hitters in the American League; Trumbo probably is the only legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. But even him ... yeah, he leads the rooks with 23 home runs and 69 RBI. He's also got a .297 on-base percentage. Which isn't to say he's not a good player. But this season's rookie hitters have shown a striking inability to reach base. Seven of them have at last 250 plate appearances and Eric Hosmer's .320 OBP is the highest. And Hosmer, who got off to a great start in May, is not a Rookie of the Year candidate because he's hit only five home runs in his last 72 games.

Which does, as O'Connell suggests, leave mostly pitchers.

At the moment, Nova's got the edge because of his 13-4 record. Pineda's got a lot more strikeouts, but he's 9-8 with an ERA close to Nova's. Hellickson's got a 3.04 ERA, but he's 11-8.

Walden's got 28 saves, and has an outside shot at the award with a strong finish. Duty compels me to mention that, saves aside, Walden has pitched little (if any) better than no fewer than three of Kansas City's rookie relievers. But Rookie of the Year Awards don't go to non-closing relievers, so Walden's in the clear on that front.

Right now, I would vote for Pineda or Trumbo. But if Nova wins 16 or 17 games, it's probably his to lose. And either way, I'm going to take back everything I said about Nova back in March.

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