Going into the 2015 season, it was widely speculated that the National League Rookie of the Year award was going to be a two horse race between the Cubs Kris Bryant and the Dodgers Joc Pederson. At the end of April it looked like that would indeed be the case, as Pederson was slashing .298/.461/.596 and had hit 4 home runs, while Bryant was in Chicago slashing an impressive .318/.455/.409. However, as the season wore on, both players began to slow down and others began to emerge. By the the time the All-Star Game rolled around the race was more crowded, and although Pederson and Bryant were the only rookies on the NL roster (both were also in the Homerun Derby), their performance had begun to drag. This is especially true in Pederson’s case as the young outfielder was slashing .230/.364/.487, albeit with an impressive 20 homeruns, at the break. On the other hand Bryant was still producing at a decent rate, finishing the first half with a .269/.376/.467 line and 12 homeruns. Since the All-Star Game, Pederson continues to quickly fade, (.211/.354/.435, 3 home runs) and although Bryant is maintaining a respectable season (.262/.364/.478, 21 homers) the door has been opened for others to enter the conversation.
Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets: Called up in May, Noah Syndergaard has been highly effective for the New York Mets, compiling an 8-6 record to complement a 3.21 ERA and 9.49 K/9. Syndergaard has been a key cog in the Mets run to the top of the NL East and will continue to be a big contributor come October. The only thing that could be working against Syndergaard is a possible innings limit set by the Mets. The Mets said earlier in the season that Syndergaard would be looking at a limit of about 175 on the season. Already at 122 1/3, and averaging over 6 innings per game, that leaves Syndergaard with about 10 or 11 starts before he reaches the innings limit. With Steven Matz coming back soon however, Syndergaard might be able to pitch to the end of the season, which would make him even more of a prime candidate to steal the Rookie of the Year from Bryant. Looking past Syndergaard however, there are more candidates making their case for the award, and these fellow rookies could get looks even if the pitcher isn’t shut down and even if Bryant continues to perform admirably for the Cubs.
Matt Duffy, 3B, 2B, SS, 1B, San Francisco Giants: Among those in the aforementioned other tier is Matt Duffy of the Giants, or as you know him, the kid that replaced Pablo Sandoval. Duffy has been a revelation for the Giants, as he is currently slashing .302/.341/.446 with 10 home runs and five triples while offering the versatility to play all over the infield. Duffy has set up the Giants to have a dynamic young duo in he and second baseman Joe Panik for years to come. People have been expecting Duffy to fizzle out all year, but he has defied expectations and continues to be a driving force for a Giants team that is trying to make a playoff push. With the Giants a mere 3.5 games behind the Dodgers for the division lead, expect Duffy to get serious consideration for RoY honors if he can help push the Giants into the playoffs.
Chris Heston, SP, San Francisco Giants: Another Giants candidate, starter Chris Heston has impressed this season, going 11-8 while accumulating a 3.56 ERA and tossing a no-hitter back on June 9th against the Mets at Citi Field. Heston has gone through a rough August, however. Heston went 0-3 and was knocked around for a 5.76 ERA in the month, most recently against the Cardinals on Sunday, a game in which the young righty lasted a mere 3 2/3 innings while letting up 5 earned runs and two homers. The past month has seen Heston’s season ERA rise from 3.24 to 3.56. 3.56 is still a respectable number, but if Heston is going to beat out Syndergaard for the award, he’s going to have to pitch really well in September, hopefully avoiding an other demotion to the minors.
Jung Ho Kang, 3B, SS, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates: Seemingly the forgotten man in all this Rookie of the Year talk, Kang has quietly put together a very solid year, slashing .288/.362/.455 and hitting 12 home runs. Kang’s presence in the lineup has made it easier on the Pirates during the multiple times they’ve been without Josh Harrison this season, as the 28 year-old has given the Pirates a legitimate threat while Harrison has been on the shelf. Thanks to Kang stepping up, the Pirates have been able to keep a solid hold on the first wild card while staying in the NL Central race. All of these factors together have put Kang towards the front of the pack in a crowded Rookie of the Year race.
Randal Grichuk, Outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals: Grichuk was having a good season for the first place Cardinals before going down with an elbow injury earlier in August. Just before the injury Grichuk was cruising. In 14 August games Grichuk had 4 home runs, a triple, and two doubles. The hot streak on top of his already impressive 2015 campaign was enough to put Grichuk right into the thick of the RoY race. However, Grichuk is listed as an honorable mention here due to the fact that he has been on the 15-day DL since August 17th, and it is currently unknown as to when he can return.
Taylor Jungmann, SP, Milwaukee Brewers: Jungmann has been one of the very few bright spots on a woeful Brewers team, going 8-5 with an impressive 2.48 ERA. The knock against Jungmann is that he has only thrown 90 2/3 innings at the major league level this year, while Syndergaard and Heston are both already well on their way to 150 innings and more each. At the same time Heston and Syndergaard are both on playoff-bound or playoff hopeful teams, while Jungmann’s Brewers are just waiting for the season to finally end.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: Maikel Franco was slashing .277/.340/.490 and had hit 13 home runs before going down with injury. Franco went down on August 11th, and is expected to miss the rest of the 2015 campaign. As a result the Dominican has only played in 77 games for the Phils this year, a fact that has dragged him out of the race for Rookie of the Year honors.
Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs: Russell is a magician with the glove and has been solid at the plate, slashing .241/.299/.378 with nine home runs. But if there is going to be a Cub taking home Rookie of the Year we all know his name and it isn’t Addison Russell.
*All stats prior to Monday night’s games