2008 Fantasy Baseball Rookie of the Year
We are back with our series of Postseason Fantasy Awards. We are going to start with the Rookie of the Year Awards for each league. Be sure to check back next week for our Fantasy CY Young Awards in both the AL and NL.
American League Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mention: Denard Span (Twins), Mike Aviles (Royals), Armando Galarraga (Tigers), Nick Blackburn (Twins), Joba Chamberlain (Yankees), Jed Lowrie (Red Sox)
The AL Fantasy ROY Award was no all that hard to figure out. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria ran away with the award. Longoria posted a .874 OPS, playing in only 122 games. That OPS put Longoria fourteenth in the AL in that category. Longoria hit 27 homers and drove in 85 runs in just 448 at-bats. To offer a fantasy comparison Brewers third baseman (now left fielder) Ryan Braun had a 1.004 OPS in 113 games last season. Braun hit 34 homers and drove in 97 in 451 at-bats. That comparison is perhaps unfair to Longoria, because Braun had one of the more amazing rookie campaigns ever. All that said it just goes to prove how remarkable Longoria’s season was in an historical context. Longoria is going to stay at third base, unlike Braun, but offensively their values should remain pretty similar going forward. Longoria will probably go into next year as my number two third baseman in the AL behind A-Rod.
The runners-up were both excellent contributors this season as well. Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) put up excellent numbers, mostly in the second half of the season, and is given a boost because he now qualifies at short. Ramirez hit 21 homers and drove in 77 in just 481 at-bats. Ramirez posted a solid .792 OPS and even stole 13 bases. Ramirez was caught nine times, so he needs to work on that aspect of his game. If he can refine his base running he should steal twenty bases, making him even more of a fantasy value. Any one who has paid the least bit of attention this season understands that AL short stop was one of the weakest fantasy positions in decades.Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox) steals the last spot from guys like right-hander Armando Galarraga (Tigers) and outfielder Denard Span (Twins) with that very category. His overall numbers were not what fantasy owners had hoped for, but he stole 50 bases and scored 98 runs. Ellsbury had a .729 OPS, which should improve with time. He was caught stealing just 11 times, but he will tell you that there is room for improvement there, and if he improves his caught stealing and OBP rate he could become a Jose Reyes (Mets) type fantasy force. On a side note, Denard Span (Twins) was a free agent pickup in most leagues and he managed to put up very good numbers throughout the second half. Span posted a .809 OPS and 18 steals in just 347 at-bats.
National League Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mention: Chris Volstad (Marlins), John Lannan (Nats), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Jay Bruce (Reds)
Geovany Soto (Cubs) had one of the best fantasy seasons for a catcher in recent years, oh and he was a rookie. Soto posted a .868 OPS and hit 23 homers, driving in 86 in 494 at-bats. Soto put up all of these numbers from a position that fantasy owners rarely expect great offensive production out of, especially in the NL. Soto is likely to be the top catcher in the NL going forward, despite my undying love for Russell Martin (Dodgers) and Brian McCann (Braves).
Soto’s amazing year from a difficult position overshadowed a very solid year from Reds first baseman Joey Votto who put up a .665 OPS, while hitting 24 homers and driving in 84. Votto was terrible for the first month, but really started to come on after that and finished with a very solid year. Votto’s numbers will probably be pretty similar year to year, but he can hit for a bit higher average and around thirty homers with a fair amount of consistency in that ballpark.
Jair Jurrjens (Braves) was a rare bright spot in the 2008 season for the Braves. Jurrjens picked up 13 wins and posted a 3.68 ERA in 31 starts and 188.1 innings. Jurrjens allowed a hit an inning and walked seventy batters, but he was able to work around the runners. Jurrjens needs to cut down on the runners to be a truly elite pitcher, but he has all of the tools going forward to be just that for the Braves and fantasy owners. Jurrjens is a top twenty NL starter for next year.
My NL side note is on the four Honorable Mentions from the NL. Chris Volstad (Marlins), John Lannan (Nats), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), and Jay Bruce (Reds) all should be better than the top three. If you look at the fantasy projections those four players should all become elite fantasy performers. Kershaw and Volstad have ace stuff and are in great pitchers parks. Lannan is more of a personal choice. I really like him and think he will be better than Jurrjens long-term. Lannan allowed less than a hit an inning, and only needs to cut down on his walks to move into the top twenty in the NL. Bruce is obvious. He is an immense talent that in time should become one of the top five fantasy producers in the NL.
By Brian Chmielewski
Fans can contact Brian via email at bchmfantasybaseball @ yahoo.com
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