When the National League Rookie of the Year award is announced tonight, there is probably going to be a decent bit of outrage surrounding it. One player from each division is represented, and the three players that are finalists couldn't be more dissimilar. Let's examine them, shall we?
Representing the NL East is teenage phenom Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. The former top overall pick in the draft didn't turn 20 until October, spending the entire regular season as a 19-year old, making his stats even more impressive. Harper has been highly touted since he was in high school, gaining attention at every stop over his career and impressing more and more people every step of the way. Harper's rookie season was multi-faceted, as he hit for power, showed speed on the basepaths, played excellent defense in center field, and had excellent plate discipline. Like hiim or not, you have to admit that this was one of the best years ever for a teenager.
Todd Frazier of the NL Central's Cincinnati Reds had a much more one dimensional season than Harper, but it was still impressive despite Frazier playing the season as a 26-year old. While Frazier played both first and third base for the Reds in 2012, his defensive season wasn't nearly as elite as that of Harper's, as Frazier graded out below average at first and about league average at third. Frazier's season was reminiscent of that of Mark Trumbo's last year for the Angels, as Frazier hit for a ton of power. He homered 18 times and logged a .225 ISO this season, comparable to the .223 ISO posted by Trumbo last season (though Trumbo did hit 29 homers in 120 more plate appearances than Frazier). Frazier definitely had a good year, and it was better than Trumbo's last season due to his much higher walk rate.
Finally, from the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the NL West, we have the lone pitcher nominated for the NL award this year: Wade Miley. Miley, who will actually turn 26 tomorrow, is much older than Harper, just like Frazier is. But Miley's season was fantastic, and not just "for a rookie". He was one of the best pitchers in the entire National League this year, pitching to a 3.33 ERA and 4.8 fWAR in 194 2/3 innings. Like AL winner Jeremy Hellickson last year, Miley's 2012 saw him post a low ERA despite not striking out very many batters, only 144 for the season. But unlike Hellickson, Miley didn't walk many hitters, allowing just 37 free passes for the season. He really did have a great year.
But when it comes to picking a winner, it's really up to what you favor when you're voting for the award. If future star power is your thing, then Harper is far and away the choice. If you're looking at value in regards to a playoff team, you're probably leaning towards Frazier, who played a key role for the Reds when Scott Rolen and Joey Votto dealt with injuries in 2012. And if you're looking at performance in comparison to the rest of the league, Miley looks like a good choice. But honestly, one player combined all three of those elements in his 2012 season, and that's Bryce Harper. Harper's future in this league is so bright that he needs sunglasses, and he'll be one of the premier stars in the league for years to come. Harper played a huge role in Washington's baseball-leading 98 wins in 2012, logging the most plate appearances out of any Washington outfielder in 2012, clocking in second among all of the team's hitters in fWAR, and going bananas down the stretch, OPSing 1.043 with seven homers in September and October. Finally, Harper's performance in comparison to the rest of the league in 2012 held up quite well, finishing third among all National League center fielders in fWAR (behind Andrew McCutchen and Michael Bourn) and third in both wOBA and wRC+ (behind McCutchen and Dexter Fowler). You might be sick of Harper because of the media attention surrounding him, but honestly, it's deserved. His year was fantastic, and just like in the AL, Miley and Frazier would be worthy winners in other years. But in 2012, Harper is the choice.
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