The Minnesota Twins have a relative lineage of Rookie of the Year award winners. Tony Oliva was the first Twins rookie of the year back in 1964. Rod Carew won it a few years later in 1967. John Castino shared the award with Alfredo Griffin in 1979. A couple of 1989 Twins draft picks would win the award, when Chuck Knoblauch won in 1991 and Marty Cordova won in 1995. Are we watching another Rookie of the Year award winner in the 2013 season?
Oswaldo Arcia was called-up for a one day cameo on April 15. When bad weather and a speedy paternity leave from Wilkin Ramirez conspired, Arcia was sent down. However, a Darin Mastroianni injury just a few days later led to a quick recall and Arica has basically been in the lineup ever since. He got off to a slow start, but strung together a 15 game stretch where he doubled just about every stat and he is currently sitting at a .300/.340/.500 triple slash. As a result, he has vaulted himself near the front of the very early Rookie of the Year leaderboard.
Initially, I would have guessed that Arica would return to Rochester with a healthy Mastroianni. Now, the only reason I think that would happen is if the Twins want to play the service time game and consequently annoy many fans. Arcia has shown that he is a hitter and he has some power in his bat to boot. His defense is behind his offense, but he isn’t a statue and his arm is strong. Besides, Rookie of the Year awards are largely won based on fat offensive stats.
Arcia isn’t the only candidate. Right now, the leaderboard is dusty, with very few impressive rookie campaigns. There aren’t any rookie closers, an archetype that can ride large save totals all the way to the ROY bank. That leaves position players and starting pitchers. A few of the more notable names, like Brandon Maurer, Brad Peacock, Dan Straily and Arcia’s teammate Aaron Hicks, have struggled mightily. Trevor Bauer and Allen Webster are big-name prospects, but have not thrown many MLB innings. Jackie Bradley Jr. was an early favorite, but was sent back to the Minors. MLB-ready elite prospects like Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy and Mike Olt haven’t seen a single MLB game.
Who are the leaders right now? I see a fairly clear top 5, presented in no particular order:
Brandon Barnes leads all rookies in fWAR. He is an Astro, so he is basically not on any radar. He is a 27-year-old rookie (Happy Birthday, Mr. Barnes) who spent seven seasons in Houston’s system. He strikes out a lot, but adds a decent amount of power. He can play center, but seems to be spending most of his nights in right. He’s hot right now, but his .459 BABIP points toward some regression and perhaps some major regression.
Justin Grimm is a legit prospect and one of two Texas Rangers on this list. Through five starts, Grimm has posted over a strikeout per inning and limited walks enough to be effective. He is 2 and 2 but could win some serious games with the combination of his talent and this Rangers’ team. His strand rate is very high, so he might be a regression candidate as well.
Conor Gillaspie has been steady as the White Sox’s primary third baseman. He has an OPS+ of 105 and positive defensive value according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. His .275/.337/.440 triple slash isn’t all that impressive, but as the rookie with the most playing time under his belt, it might be enough to seize the lead after these first six weeks.
Nick Tepesch has been slightly above average in seven starts with Texas, posting an ERA+ of 112. Tepesch has posted solid strikeout numbers and a good walk rate. He has won three games for the Rangers, while posting an ERA just over four. He and Grimm have rotation spots for now, but that could change as the Rangers get healthy.
Arcia is easily the best prospect of this bunch and also the youngest player (he is actually the second youngest player in all of the American League, only Manny Machado is younger). You all know what Arcia brings to the team. He has the bat to put up impressive stats. Impressive stats can win awards. This is a fact that no one can argue with.
If I had to choose one of these players right now because MLB decided to give the award five months early and decided to let one unknown blogger make the selection, I’d go with Gillaspie, because he’s basically been the White Sox’s third baseman all season and his numbers are pretty good. That being said, Barnes, Grimm and Arcia have been more impressive, but with fewer games under their collective belt.
Who will win?
I would argue that only Arcia and Grimm will be in the discussion by the end of the season. Both were top 10 prospects in their system. The other three could stay hot for a full season, but I’ll play the odds and say they won’t.
It’s important to remember who could still be lurking. Trevor Bauer could eventually stick in the Bigs and has the talent to put up impressive strikeout totals. You could substitute Allen Webster’s name into that sentence as well. Wil Myers will be joining Tampa Bay any day now, and should hit and hit for power. A lot. Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt are going to be exciting rookies, as soon as Texas opens positions for them. But will Texas open positions for them in time for each player to accumulate stats? Based on these factors, I feel there are three long-term candidates.
- Arcia – Already playing and looking like he belongs.
- Myers – Not dominating AAA, but likely bored and needing a call-up for a spark (editorial).
- Bauer – Awesome repertoire, but can be harness it? If he does, he could be special, and fast.
Of course, as I started writing this, Aaron Hicks decided to hit two home runs, rob one from Adam Dunn and become everyone’s favorite player. Perhaps Hicks will thrust himself into the race. I would love nothing more than to have to choose between two Twins at the end of the season in my meaningless awards article.
On to the accountability portion of the post:
Pre-season prediction (found here): Myers
Updated prediction: Arcia
It’s more fun to be a homer.
I’ve been going through the last 25 Twins drafts over the last week or so. Here is a link to 1989, which I posted on Monday. It was a fun draft, with lots of impact players added to the Twins’ system. If you enjoy it, keep an eye out for each year from 1988-2012 at Kevin Slowey was Framed! with a new year posted daily.