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.