American League Rookie of the Year race

 A year ago there was quite the debate on the American League MVP race — Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera — and Cabrera won fairly easily. The 2013 AL MVP race hasn’t driven the conversation nearly as much this season, despite both Cabrera and Trout repeating their tremendous seasons and a few others, including Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and even Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Perhaps the closest awards race in the American League this season is the Rookie of the Year chase. Through the All-Star break, it appeared Jose Iglesias of the Boston Red Sox would have the edge. He’s since been traded to Detroit, and while he’s continued to play well, and in a pennant race, the slick-fielding shortstop has been caught by Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers.

As it doesn’t appear there is a pitcher that will challenge the two frontrunner — Seattle’s Danny Farquhar leads AL rookie arms with a 1.8 fWAR, followed by three Athletics arms and then Rangers southpaw Martin Perez — the vote may come down to Iglesias and Myers. Or will it?

Myers enters play Wednesday batting .298/.361/.496 with 13 home runs and a .366 wOBA. He’s been quality in the field, too. Iglesias hasn’t hit for power, but he’s strong on defense and is batting .313/.357/.400 in 102 games. Myers’ 2.3 fWAR leads all AL rookies, with Iglesias coming in at 2.0. There’s a sleeper in the group, however, and he goes by the name of David Lough.

Lough, 27, is the outfielder the Royals turned to when they finally jettisoned Jeff Francoeur and realized they’d traded Myers in a package that landed them pitching. The left-handed batter has been decent at the plate — .284/.306/.406 — but his glove has pushed his fWAR to 2.0, tying him with Iglesias. Lough at least deserves to be in the conversation, though despite his Wins Above Replacement number, he’d be No. 6 for me.

Since the defensive formulas within WAR are a bit behind those of their offensive brethren, I lean heavily away from WAR-based results that are clearly driven by the players’ defensive scores.

Athletics right-hander Dan Straily has posted a 1.5 fWAR in 25 starts and has solidified the back end of the club’s rotation. He ranks second among rookie pitchers in the AL in WAR, but that’s largely based on his advantage in innings. He owns a solid 4.19 FIP.

Sonny Gray has made nine appearances, seven starts, and has been better than Straily with a 2.34 FIP, but he’s logged just 48 innings. Perez has pitched 106 1/3 innings and has been solid for the Rangers.

For me, Myers is the clear leader, and I’m not sure he can be caught, unless he falls on his face the final week and a half of the season.

Others of note include Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, who has been terrific in 46 games and if he had more time in might be challenging Myers and Iglesias for the honors, as wold Gray had been up much earlier in the season. M’s shortstop Brad Miller has been solid in his 69-game stint, and A’s southpaw reliever Sean Doolittle has been very good for the division leaders all season.

If I were voting and the ballot was due today:

  1. Wil Myers, OF — Tampa Bay
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS — Detroit
  3. Danny Farquhar, RHP — Mariners
  4. Martin Perez, LHP — Rangers
  5. Chris Archer, RHP — Rays
  6. David Lough, OF — Royals

There are only about 10 games left, so this may not change much between now and the end of the season, but it’s interesting that all but Farquhar and Kalhoun play for clubs in the playoff hunt.

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Jason A. Churchill

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