None of the three finalists for AL Rookie of the Year started the season with their major league clubs. Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, and Miguel Sano all came up during the season as their clubs battled for the playoffs. Because they started the year in the minor leagues, none of the three played even 100 games in the big leagues.
The graphs below show the important statistics for the three finalists, along with other notable AL rookies in 2015. The three finalists are highlighted in blue.
Both Lindor and Correa were very good, though, so you really can’t go wrong with either one. Correa was the first overall pick in the 2012 June Amateur Draft and has been a highly-regarded prospect throughout his young career. He’s been given an Alex Rodriguez comp and, like A-Rod, produced very good numbers at a very young age in the major leagues. It’s easy to forget now just how good A-Rod was as a young shortstop for the Mariners. When A-Rod was 20 years old, the same age as Correa, he played a full season, hit 36 home runs with 123 RBI and an incredible .358/.414/.631 batting line. He was 59% better than league average as a hitter and provided above average defense. He was worth 9.2 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). That’s more than twice as many Wins Above Replacement as Correa just had, although Correa didn’t get nearly the playing time that the young A-Rod did. Correa may not have been A-Rod-esque, but he had a terrific season for a 20 year old and looks to have a great future.
Francisco Lindor was also a first round pick. He was taken 8th overall in 2011. He was known more for his glove than his bat as a minor leaguer, so it was a surprise to see him hit 12 home runs and slug .482 in 438 plate appearances at the big league level. His best slugging percentage at any level of the minor leagues was a .429 mark in Rookie ball in 2014 and his overall batting line in his minor league career was .279/.354/.384. He hit better than that in his first taste of big league action.
There were five other rookies who finished with more combined WAR than Sano. Let’s quickly look at these other guys:
Billy Burns (2.6 WAR) had the most playing time of the eight rookies highlighted here. As WAR is an accumulating stat, more playing time generally means more WAR. Burns did a good job of getting on base and stealing bases but didn’t show much power and was close to average as a fielder.
Devon Travis (2.4 WAR) did much of his damage in April, when he came out of the gate strong by hitting .325/.393/.625 with 17 runs, 6 homers, and 19 RBI. He slowed down a bit in May but was still hitting .269/.333/.500 when he was injured and went on the DL on May 16th. He came back in late June and played one more month before his season ended in late July.
Eddie Rosario (2.3 WAR) struggled in the OBP department (.289) but had good power (13 homers, .459 slugging percentage) and stole 11 bases in 122 games.
Carson Smith (2.2 WAR) was the best reliever in the Mariners’ bullpen statistically, and picked up 13 saves after Fernando Rodney imploded, but ended up pitching more often as the setup guy when Tom Wilhelmsen took over the closer’s role down the stretch. Still, he was one of the top rookies in the AL in 2015.
Who I think will win: It will come down to Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor and I fully expect Correa to win the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year award. He played for a playoff team and put up eye-popping stats for a 20-year-old shortstop. The voters will love him.
Who I would vote for: As good as Correa was, I’d give my vote to Francisco Lindor, who hit nearly as well as Correa in a more difficult park for hitters and played much better on defense.