Recent National League Rookie of the Year winners include Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Hanley Ramirez of the Miami Marlins (now Dodgers). The NL rookie class was far and away superior to the AL in 2013 and you could legitimately give the award to six different players and feel darn good about it. In fact, this was one of the best rookie classes in recent memory.

The Winner: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins

The Good: The young Cuban didn’t turn 21 until the end of July but he finished third in strikeout rate among NL starters with at least 100 innings pitched. He also finished second in ERA behind Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and sixth in xFIP behind the likes of Kershaw, Matt Harvey of the Mets, and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. The durable right-hander got better as the year progressed. He commanded four pitches like a veteran and both his mid-90s fastball and slider are legitimate strikeout pitches.

The Bad: It’s hard to find things to pick at but he did struggle a bit with his control against left-handed hitters. In almost identical innings pitched (89.1 vs 83.1), Fernandez walked 40 left-handed batters and 18 right-handed hitters.

The Future: The sky is the limit for the young Fernandez who has legitimate No. 1 starter potential. He’s big and strong with a good delivery, which bodes well for his future. It’s up to the Marlins to legitimately commit to the future and build a championship-caliber team around him.

The Next Five

2. Yasiel Puig, OF — Dodgers: Puig was the most dynamic freshman hitter and he carried the Dodger’ offence on his back from the moment he reached the Majors. He made an impact at the plate, on the base paths and in the field but he needs to play under more control at times. The Dodgers’ scouting staff did an amazing job of identifying his talent when nearly everyone else considered him and enigmatic lottery ticket. He was narrowly edged out for the award by Fernandez.

3. Julio Teheran, RHP — Braves: The 22-year-old Teheran rebounded admirably from a disappointing 2012 season. The right-hander showed outstanding control for his age and his newly-found slider was a true weapon. The Braves have the makings of a very talented young pitching staff with the likes of Teheran, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and possibly Alex Wood.

4. Shelby Miller, RHP — Cardinals: The Cardinals rode their rookies all their way to the playoffs and Miller was front and center to the action. I am a little worried about his fly-ball-heavy tendencies but he does a solid job of limiting the base runners for when he gives up the four-baggers. His low-to-mid-90s fastball and curveball are solid weapons but he needs to develop another weapon to help combat tough left-handed hitters.

5. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP — Dodgers: Ryu, 26, isn’t flashy but he was consistent and he pitched the most innings of any rookie in the big leagues. He utilizes a four-pitch mix with a solid fastball that he uses to set up one of the best changeups in the Majors.

6. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP — Cardinals: Rosenthal was far-and-away the best rookie reliever in the Majors in 2013, although Farquhar made a late push to challenge him for that mantle. He appeared in 74 games with an eye-popping strikeout rate of 12.90 K/9. He paired his swing-and-miss stuff with excellent control. His fastball sat around 97 mph but he needs to settle on a more reliable second pitch after utilizing his heater almost 80% of the time.…

During the past seven seasons the American League Rookie of the Year award has been won by the likes of Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. The 2013 AL rookie class was not a strong one. The winner had few legitimate challengers, although he certainly deserves the distinction.

The Winner: Wil Myers, OF — Rays
The Good: Just 22, Myers hit for average and power and got on base at a decent clip. He also hit both right- and left-handed pitchers equally well. Although he appeared in just 88 games, the young player finished tied for seventh in the AL in fWAR (2.4) — and was 0.3 WAR out of fourth place — among right fielders with at least 300 at-bats.

The Bad: A former catcher, Myers is still learning the nuances of playing the outfield and isn’t much of a threat on the base paths, either, so his value is tied solely to his bat right now. He struck out almost 25 pecent of the time, and will probably have to trim that number to continue to hit for average on a regular basis, but it’s a reasonable trade-off for the power he can provide.

The Future: With each passing year, the Royals’ decision to trade Myers (and at least six years of control) for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis should get worse and worse. The freshman hitter should settle into the middle of the Rays’ starting lineup for years to come as the club’s key run producer.

The Next Three

2. Jose Iglesias, SS — Red Sox/Tigers:
Iglesias provided more offence in 2013 than anyone expected with a batting average of more than .300 but he was about league average when the season ended. The slick-fielding shortstop held his composure while anchoring the infield defense for two playoff-bound clubs while also filling in at the hot corner in Boston.

3. Chris Archer, RHP — Rays: Archer edged two other American League starting pitchers — Dan Straily of Oakland and Martin Perez of Texas — for the best rookie hurler in the AL. He had the best all-around numbers of the three and both his fastball and slider can be deadly weapons when they’re clicking. If he can find a weapon against left-handed hitters — such as an improved changeup — then he could become a true beast.

4. Danny Farquhar, RHP — Mariners: Farquhar led the AL in strikeout rate among rookie relievers (both starters and relievers, actually) with at least 50 innings pitched. He also had the edge in both FIP and xFIP despite a modest ERA. He was the only first-year reliever in the AL that was entrusted with regular save situations. …

An impressive group of MLB freshman are set to be introduced to national (nay, worldwide) audiences with the 2013 now underway. During the regular season, the rookie class of ’13 was much stronger in the senior league than the junior circuit and that’s set to be the case in the postseason, as well. Below, you’ll find this author’s best (educated?) guesses at the rookies in each league that are most likely to have the biggest impacts during the month of October.

The 2012 rookie class had little impact on each playoff series — including Washington’s Bryce Harper, who hit just .130 in five games and was out-played by St. Louis’ (gulp) Pete Kozma in the National League Division Series. Here’s hoping the freshmen of 2013 elevate their postseason play to a much higher level.

American League
1. Wil Myers, OF, Rays: The rookie outfielder played just 88 games at the big league level in 2013 but he was the Rays’ second-most-potent hitter behind veteran third baseman Evan Longoria. He strikes out at a healthy clip but the 22-year-old rookie has shown the ability to hit for both average and power. He also gets on base at a solid clip. It’s easy to envision him developing into a middle-of-the-order threat for years to come.

2. Chris Archer, RHP, Rays: Experience is definitely not the strength of the Rays’ playoff starting pitching staff. As such, the club will look for Archer to step up his game like Alex Cobb did in the Wild Card match. A former Indians and Cubs farmhand, the right-hander has improved his control but his fastball command still needs a fair bit of work and playoff nerves usually don’t help. When he’s on, Archer is one of the hardest pitchers to hit in the American League.

3. Dan Straily, RHP, A’s: Straily isn’t flashy but he succeeds by relying on a three-pitch mix, solid command/control and a spacious home ball park. Like Tampa Bay, the A’s starting roster is made up young players — mostly freshmen and sophomore hurlers — outside of Bartolo Colon. Straily has been quite durable throughout his career and had a very strong month of September so he’ll hopefully have plenty left in the gas tank to survive well into October.

4. Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox: Just how healthy is veteran center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury? That’s the million dollar question. If he’s not good to go, or has his foot injury flare up, Bradley should see significant playing time. His bat may not be quite ready for primetime but he provides above-average defense and is a smart baserunner.

5. Xander Bogaerts, IF, Red Sox: Bogaerts has arguably the highest ceiling of any player on the American League list but the versatile youngster is likely looking at a bench role or is in danger of being left off the roster altogether in deference to Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, and Stephen Drew. On the plus side, Middlebrooks is far from a proven commodity and quite streaky, while Drew is prone to injury.

6. Sonny Gray, RHP, A’s: Gray has even less big league experience than Straily and, with the injuries to A.J. Griffin and Brett Anderson, he’ll probably see some key innings in the playoffs. One thing to watch with the young hurler, though, is that he’s already almost 35 frames over his career high in innings pitched. He’ll need his plus curveball to help keep the veteran Tigers hitters on their toes.

7. Bruce Rondon, RHP, Tigers: There are experienced players up and down the Tigers roster so Rondon stands out as a rare inexperienced rookie among the grizzled veterans. A balky elbow will keep him out of the first round of the playoffs but he could surface at some point, depending on how deep Detroit goes into the playoffs and how well his rest/rehab goes.

National League
1. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers: Puig has swung the most potent bat in the 2013 MLB rookie class but he slowed down considerably in September. His return to earth could be due to pitchers around the league finally figuring out a weakness or he could be wearing out after the longest season of his careers in Cuba and in North America. Or a little bit of both. The young outfielder was also hobbled late in the month by a sore foot caused by a foul ball.

2. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Dodgers: There are four high-ceiling, young starters on this NL list and Ryu leads the way because of his consistency. He’s not as flashy as the other pitchers but he masterfully utilizes a four-pitch mix and has a killer changeup that has a 10 mph separation over his 90 mph fastball. Ryu was surprisingly ineffective against left-handed hitters in the regular season.

3. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates: The Pirates have a solid one-two punch in reclamation projects A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano. Cole offers intriguing upside and he’s been surprisingly reliable for such an inexperienced arm. Interestingly, his command has been better in the Majors than it was earlier in the year in the minors. Cole is already more than 50 innings above his career high so the club probably won’t want to lean on him too heavily during the playoffs.

4. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals: The Cardinals relied on first-year players more so than any other club in the playoffs. Miller was a key piece of the starting rotation but he started to tire a bit late in the year and the fly-ball-heavy hurler gave up nine of his 20 home runs allowed in August and September. Also keep an eye on Miller against tough left-handed hitters; they slugged 100 points higher against him during the regular season.

5. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves: The days of Maddux/Smoltz/Glavine are a distant memory and the Braves enter the post-season with a very young rotation. The development of his slider has been credited for helping Teheran realize his potential but he has yet to develop a reliable weapon against left-handed hitters. They had an OPS of more than .800 against him during the regular season (versus RHHs with a .581 OPS).

6. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Cardinals: The Cardinals’ bullpen is quite possibly the biggest weakness on the big league club so Rosenthal could be a key player for the Red Birds. Should closer Edward Mujica’s late-season meltdown continue, the rookie reliever could find himself in some end-game situations. His mid-to-high-90s fastball and changeup is a nasty combination. Heck, the fastball is downright dominant on its own.

7. Justin Wilson, LHP, Pirates: The former minor league starter has thrived with the move to the bullpen at the big league level. He’s quietly had one of the best seasons of any rookie reliever in the Majors. The Pirates are well represented from the left side of the bullpen with Wilson and third-year hurler Tony Watson.

8. Evan Gattis, C/1B, Braves: Gattis ended up being less of an impact player than people thought he would be after the sizzling start to his big league career. Despite his poor on-base average and low batting average — as well as almost entirely disappearing in the months of June and August — the versatile player still provided right-handed pop with 21 home runs. His ability to play catcher gives the club a lot of late-game options if three catchers are carried on the playoff roster.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Wood, LHP, Braves; Michael Wacha, RHP, Cardinals; Paco Rodriguez, LHP, Dodgers; Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals……

With less than a week left in the regular season (where did the year go?), we’ll soon be crowning Prospect Insider’s awards for the top rookies of the year. Before we do that, though, it’s time to have a look at the top freshman players in a number of select statistical categories.

Rate stats have been used over counting stats for (hopefully) obvious reasons, including the varying levels of games that each rookie has played.

The Hitters (Minimum 150 ABs)
 Batting Average
1. Yasiel Puig, OF — Los Angeles Dodgers: .331 (.396 BABIP)
2. Scooter Gennett, 2B — Milwaukee Brewers: .319 (.366 BABIP)
3. Jose Iglesias, SS — Detroit Tigers: .310 (.365 BABIP)
4. Junior Lake, OF — Chicago Cubs: .305 (.394 BABIP)
5. J.B. Shuck, OF — Los Angeles Angels: .293 (.322 BABIP)

Notes: Both Puig and Lake have received the most help from their batting averages on balls in play (BABIP). Neither player is going to consistently produce BABIPs near .400, so regression going forward should be expected — although good foot speed could help both players regularly post above-average BABIPs. With a strikeout rate above 25 percent, a high batting average is not going to be a part of Lake’s game with those kinds of contact issues. Based on his ability to make consistent contact, and solid understanding of the strike zone, Shuck should be able to maintain a decent (hollow) batting average going forward. Iglesias is the enigma of the group, as no one familiar with him as a prospect expected him to hit this well over a full season.

On-Base Percentage
1. Puig: .400
2. Josh Satin, 1B — New York Mets: .376
3. Christian Yelich, OF — Miami Marlins: .360
4. Darin Ruf, 1B/OF — Philadelphia Phillies: .358
5. Iglesias: .357

Notes: Puig’s on-base average is boosted significantly by his batting average (and BABIP). Satin, a 28-year-old rookie, has been an on-base machine, which has helped make up for the lack of power one would expect from a corner infielder (and it also helps to offset the high strikeout rate). Yelich has shown good patience for a young player, although he’s been swinging and missing a lot for someone with limited power potential. Iglesias’ on-base average is based almost solely on his batting average, as he rarely walks (4 percent walk rate).

Isolated Slugging (Extra Base Hits Divided by At-Bats)
1. Evan Gattis, C — Atlanta Braves: .245
2. Ruf: .229
3. Matt Adams, 1B — St. Lous Cardinals: .224
4. Puig: .219
5. Corey Dickerson, OF — Colorado Rockies: .204

Notes: Gattis, who could do no wrong in many people’s eyes in the first half of the season, has had his warts revealed. He doesn’t hit for average and his on-base percentage is below .300, but he’s produced the best power of any rookie in the Majors. Ruf has been a power and on-base machine for the Phillies, and is clearly the superior option to Ryan Howard at this point — but the veteran first baseman’s contract is a major stumbling block. The top three power hitting rookies — Gattis, Ruf, and Adams — are cheap sources of pop but could all face roadblocks to regular playing time in 2014.

fWAR
1. Puig: 4.1
2. A.J. Pollock, OF — Arizona Diamondbacks: 3.5
3. Juan Lagares, OF — Mets: 2.7
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B — Rockies: 2.7
5. Wil Myers, OF — Tampa Bay Rays: 2.1

Notes: In terms of WAR, two of the top three rookies are a complete surprise: Lagares and Pollock, as neither player was considered a top prospect prior to the season. Both outfield prospects have created their value more through their gloves than their bats and neither are great bets to see regular playing time in the years going forward. Puig has easily been the best all-around rookie — although his offensive work is definitely his meal ticket — and his WAR reflects that fact.

The Pitchers (Minimum 70 IP)
ERA
1. Justin Wilson, RHR Pittsburgh Pirates: 2.13
2. Jose Fernandez, RHS — Marlins: 2.19
3. Anthony Varvaro, RHR — Braves: 2.67
4. Trevor Rosenthal, RHR — Cardinals: 2.74
5. Brandon Kintzler, RHR — Brewers: 2.88

Notes: This list reflects just how many unsung freshman relievers there are in the Majors this season. Both Varvaro (despite pitching for a playoff contender and in one of the best bullpens in baseball) and Kintzler has operated in near obscurity while Wilson and Rosenthal have played key roles for clubs in the thick of the playoff hunt. The presence of four relievers on the list also helps to underscore just how good the 21-year-old Fernandez — the lone starter — has been in 2013; it’s too bad his strong season has been wasted on the second-worst team (record-wise) in baseball.

xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching)
1. Rosenthal: 2.41
2. Kintzler: 3.02
3. Fernandez: 3.09
4. Gerrit Cole, RHS — Pirates: 3.19
5. Alex Wood, LHP — Braves: 3.23

Notes: By taking out the factors that the pitchers cannot control, we find three ERA leaders (Rosenthal, Kintzler and Fernandez) and two new hurlers in Cole and Wood. Fernandez and Rosenthal don’t put many balls in play thanks to high strikeout rates but Kintzler is more of a pitch-to-contract guy that puts a lot of balls into play and relies heavily on the defense behind him. After pitching to contact a lot early on in his big league career, Cole has seen his strikeout rate increase quite a bit as of late.

K/9 (Strikeouts per Nine Innings)
1. Rosenthal: 12.82
2. Tony Cingrani, LHS — Cincinnati Reds: 10.32
3. Fernandez: 9.75
4. A.J. Ramos, RHR — Marlins: 9.71
5. Todd Redmond, RHR — Toronto Blue Jays: 9.30

Notes: Rosenthal dominates hitters pretty much with one pitch — a 97 mph fastball, which he leans on almost 80 percent of the time. His changeup has been a valuable weapon for him too.  Cingrani piles up strikeouts with the help of a deceptive delivery and he relies even more heavily on his heater (91 percent of the time). On the flip side, Fernandez mixes in at least four different pitches and utilizes his plus fastball less than 60 percent of the time. Redmond is a command/control guy that won’t overpower anyone. However, he relies on his slider for strikeouts, which helps to explain why he strikes out three batters per nine innings more against right-handed hitters than those from the left side (to whom the slider is less effective).

WHIP (Walks+Hits per IP)
1. Fernandez: 0.98
2. Justin Wilson, RHR — Pirates: 1.05
3. Chris Archer, RHS — Rays: 1.08
4. Cingrani: 1.10
5. Redmond: 1.10

Notes: Not surprisingly, we find a number strikeout pitchers on the WHIP leader board. One new pitcher — Archer — is a surprising name to find on this list because of his traditionally below-average control. It goes to show how the strides he’s made in that area in 2013 and how dominant he can be when he finds the strike zone. Wilson has been helped by a crazy-low .220 BABIP. Among all pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched this season, Fernandez’s rate places him fourth in the Majors behind the likes of Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. The first-year player should receive consideration not only for the rookie of the year award, but also the Cy Young award in the National League.…