Expert picks: Rookie of the Year

We asked 27 of our experts to give us their predictions for who will win baseball’s four majors awards — Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and MVP. We’re starting with rookie of the year, which will be announced Monday. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t any suspense in picking each league’s top rookie.

American League

The finalists:

Andrew Benintendi, OF
Age: 23 | B-T: L/L
HT: 5-10 | WT: 180
2017 stats: .776 OPS/20 HRs/90 RBIs
2017 WAR: 2.9

Benintendi was the only rookie in baseball with 20 homers and 20 steals. The left-fielder finished near the top on the Red Sox in homers (fourth with 20), RBIs (second with 90), stolen bases (second with 20) and runs (third with 84).

Aaron Judge, OF
Age: 25 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-7 | WT: 282
2017 stats: .1.049 OPS/52 HRs/114 RBIs
2017 WAR: 8.8

Judge had an historic rookie season, setting the record for homers first-year player with 52 (previous record was 49 by Mark McGwire in 1987). In addition to that, he started in the All-Star game, won the Homer Run Derby and finished the year with the highest WAR (8.8) in the American League.

Trey Mancini, OF
Age: 25 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-4 | WT: 215
2017 stats: .826 OPS/24 HRs/78 RBIs
2017 WAR: 2.8

Not as heralded entering the season as Judge or Benintendi, Mancini’s 24 homers were tied for third most among AL rookies. An eighth-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 2013 draft, Mancini saw time at first base, left field and DH in 2017.

Expert picks: Aaron Judge — 27


National League

The finalists:

Cody Bellinger, 1B
Age: 22 | B-T: L/L
HT: 6-4 | WT: 210
2017 stats: .933 OPS/39 HRs/97 RBIs
2017 WAR: 5.2

Despite not arriving in the majors until late April, Bellinger set the N.L. record for homers by a rookie with 39 in just 132 games. Bellinger led the Dodgers in homers, RBIs (97) and runs (87).

Josh Bell, 1B
Age: 25 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-2 | WT: 210
2017 stats: .800 OPS/26 HRs/90 RBIs
2017 WAR: 3.6

Bell led the Pirates in RBIs (90) and was second in homers (26) and runs (75). His 26 homers were tied for second-most among N.L. rookies.

Paul DeJong, SS
Age: 24 | B-T: R/R
HT: 6-0 | WT: 195
2017 stats: .857 OPS/25 HRs/65 RBIs
2017 WAR: 2.8

DeJong didn’t arrive in the majors until late May and managed to hit 25 homers in just 101 games. His homer total led all N.L. shortstops.

Expert picks: Cody Bellinger — 27

Over/under 45 homers for Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger in 2018?

I’ll go under for both, which isn’t an insult. While I think they very well might hit 40-plus each, baseball history shows how hard it is to go back-to-back with 45-plus. Judge had 52 in 2017, while Bellinger might improve on his 39, but I think it is safer bet he has less than 45. — Andrew Marchand

Will the balls still be equipped with rocket boosters? If not, everyone’s home run totals could drop after a record-setting 2017. Aside from that concern, there’s every reason to believe Judge and Bellinger will remain among the game’s home run leaders. With his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field, Judge has a stroke tailor-made for the short right-field fence at Yankee Stadium — 33 of his 52 home runs came at home. Bellinger, on the other hand, is a pure pull hitter who hit only three of his 39 home runs to the opposite field. As for the over/under: I’d say over on Judge, as there’s a chance he learns to cut back a bit on his strikeouts and avoid a long slump like he had in August. For Bellinger, remember he hit 39 in just 132 games and did it in his age-21 season. Given his youth, he should improve, and given 150 games, he could also approach 45. I’ll say just under for him. — David Schoenfield

I’m going under for both. Interestingly, the 2018 Bill James Handbook projects 45 homers for Bellinger and 44 for Judge, so we’re in the right ballpark.

In Bellinger’s case, you have to expect him to only get into 140 to 145 games even if he’s healthy because that’s just how the Dodgers do things. Plus, we saw in the postseason that Bellinger can rack up the Ks when he gets too aggressive against good pitching. I think he’ll be more focused on falling in with L.A.’s pass-the-baton philosophy and put up power numbers more similar to his second half than his first.

For Judge, it’ll be a waiting game. Teams know the holes in his swing, and they also know what happens in a hurry if they try to exploit one of those weaknesses and fail to execute. He is one of the two or three most dangerous hitters in the game and pitchers will try to work away from his hot zones and force him to expand. Forty homers and an MLB-high totals on walks and strikeouts seems about right. — Bradford Doolitte

Who will have a better year in 2018, Judge or Bellinger?

Let’s be clear: Neither of these guys is the next Kevin Maas. We know this because both young sluggers, especially Judge, have demonstrated an ability to overcome a prolonged stretch of adversity. But Bellinger’s lows tend not to be quite as low or as long. We’ll take his slightly more consistent body of work over Judge’s ridiculous peaks. — Scott Lauber

Starting from the assumption the ball stays lively might seem to favor Judge, but I’m going with Bellinger because of his better overall command of the zone. Both of them struggled at times against breaking stuff later in the year, but Judge’s were worse for longer, especially struggling against sliders. Care to hazard a guess on what he sees a lot of in 2018? — Christina Kahrl

Other than Judge and Bellinger which rookie impressed you the most this year?

Benintendi looks like the real deal. In years to come, we might be debating: Who would you rather have on your team — Judge or Benintendi? Right now, the answer is Judge, but a year from now, it might be different. — Marchand

Rafael Devers didn’t play enough to be a finalist in the voting, but he hit .284/.338/.482 in 240 plate appearances as a 20-year-old. The home run he hit off Aroldis Chapman shows he can catch up to any velocity, and he hit .400 in 50 at-bats against left-handers. That’s a small sample, but he also hit lefties in the minors, so with his power, approach and age, he looks like a guy who is ready to become a big star in 2018. — Schoenfield

Matt Chapman, for his all-around game, bringing both league-best defense at third and impact power at the plate. He won’t be the next Nolan Arenado (he’s just two years younger than the Rockies’ third baseman), but you don’t have to squint very hard to see a Brooks Robinson- or Gary Gaetti-type career if he delivers on what he’s already shown us. — Christina Kahrl

If you lower the minimum career plate appearance requirements to include Judge and Bellinger, those two rank third and fourth all-time in isolated slugging. Babe Ruth is first. If you lower that minimum to just 200 plate appearances, you have a new all-time leader: Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins’ rookie numbers prorated to 162 games were 58 homers and 156 RBI to go with a 1.014 OPS. Those numbers impress me. — Doolittle

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