Inside the MLB rookie numbers

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.

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