Your Turn: Rookie of the Year Watch
Posted: Tuesday July 13, 1999 04:43 PM
We scouted the league for 10 of this season's hottest newcomers and asked you to tell us who your choice for top rookie would be. We got a ton of responses, but no clear winner in either league. Instead, a handful of players got a fairly even number of nominations. Here's a sampling:
Williamson, Reds. Williamson, a rookie? More like a veteran
closer. Fastball in the upper 90s, nasty forkball and slider. His 7-4
record, 11 saves, and 1.66 ERA are impressive. He is without question the
Reds' "go-to guy" in relief and has been a major factor in
Cincinnati's turnaround this season.
Marlins. His fine skills at shortstop overshadow any of his
predecessors, i.e. Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel etc. His
.291 batting average, nine homers and 39 RBIs are all in the top five among
rookies. He is only 22 and his defensive plays have left many in awe. This
kid has Hall of Fame potential.
Red Sox. Early in the season, when he was called up from the minors,
he provided the pop at the plate that the then-slumping Red Sox needed
desperately with the departure of Mo Vaughn. Thanks to
Daubach, the Sox are back in race for the division and most certainly the
Mike Barrett, Expos. To overlook him as one of the Top 10 rookies is
ludicrous, and to include Detroit's Jeff Weaver is confounding. Barrett
plays three positions flawlessly and can produce consistently at the plate.
The bias against the Expos is clear when such a fine player is ignored.
Cardinals. Not only is he hitting a solid .300-plus (after leading the
majors earlier in the year), he's provided real heart and soul for a
struggling team. He had the longest hitting streak in the majors for a
rookie since the late '80s, has played excellent defense at nearly every
position, and always hustles, hustles, hustles. His ability is capped only
by a humility and generosity absent in most professional athletes (and most
people in general). There will likely be other candidates with bigger power
numbers -- no great feat in an era of a tightly wound ball -- but with the
return of baseball to the national spotlight, it seems fitting to bestow
the Rookie of the Year award on someone who earned it the old-fashioned
way: with grit, hustle, humility, and baseball know-how.
Billy Koch, Blue Jays. He is the most ignored rookie this season.
Early in the season, the Jays were desperately scouring the league for a
closer. Toronto even considered trading for the floundering (now injured)
Instead, they got Koch. He has an 1.34 ERA, 14 saves, and provides a strong
anchor to a bullpen with no fireballer. Instead, a guy like Freddy Garcia -- with
his ballooning ERA and tremendous run support from Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinez -- not
to mention David
Segui -- is being given more consideration because of his 9-4 record.
Give me a break! By the way, Koch also has a fastball that has been clocked
at 101 mph, and came back from Tommy John surgery. Beat that, Garcia!
Pirates. He is batting over .300, leads all NL rookies in RBI's, and
has nine home runs at the halfway point. His biggest "flaw" was
supposed to be his defense, but that has been as solid as the rest of his
game. I was shocked to see that he wasn't listed in your top 10. Watch out,
he's going to tear it up even more in the second half!
White Sox. This outfielder is hitting .316 and just hit for the cycle
-- the first rookie to accomplish that feet since 1985. He's also threat on
the basepaths, as has stolen nine bases in nine attempts. He has a fielding
percentage of 1.000, with no errors. Singleton is a player who was not even
supposed to make the team during spring training. Not only has he made the
team, he's also establishing himself as one best young talents in the
Jeff Weaver, Tigers. As Detroit fans, we've been through enough in
the past 10 years. Give us something, please!
Royals. He has demonstrated that he has all the tools. His stats are
great, and he's terrific in centerfield. He's third in the AL in hits and
has 59 RBIs, even though he's batted leadoff almost every game. And, he's
been absolutely amazing in late-inning clutch situations. If he continues
to play the way he has, Beltran should win the A.L. Rookie of the Year.
Mets. He has taken a disappointing New York outfield and given it a
power hitting threat. What would the Mets' outfield look like if Agbayani
wasn't there? With Bobby
McRae and Rickie Henderson all having poor seasons, Agbayani, along
with Roger Cedeno,
has given Bobby Valentine a strong outfield to support his stellar infield
and allowed the Mets to challenge for the wild card and quite possibly the
N.L. East pennant.
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