Watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the American League this season, with players such as Edwin Diaz, Nomar Mazara, Tyler Naquin, Gary Sanchez, Max Kepler and Michael Fulmer all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.
This season for the Mariners, Edwin Diaz had an unbelievable rookie campaign, recording 18 saves and posting a 2.79 ERA over 51.2 innings in which he struck out 88 batters. But while he looks to have a bright career moving forward, there were several other better candidates for Rookie of the Year than Diaz.
Likewise, this season saw Max Kepler having a fantastic year, knocking 17 homers and recording 63 RBI’s. However, what’s keeping him from being a true contender for the award in my mind is his dismal .235 batting average. But while that’s disappointing, look for Kepler to raise that number as he gets more experience moving forward.
Tyler Naquin was another one of the standout rookies from the 2016 American League crop. Hitting .296 on the year with 14 homers, Naquin helped play a big role in carrying the Indians into the postseason. He should remain one of their big-time pieces in the future, but he didn’t do enough this season to earn the award.
As with Naquin, the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara is a player deserving of vast recognition, but not the award for Rookie of the Year. Getting off to an unbelievable start, but cooling off drastically as the season went on, Mazara’s 20 homers and 64 RBI’s are very impressive, but not impressive enough for any better than third on my list.
The same holds true for the stats of Michael Fulmer, who was the favorite for the award until the last bit of the season. Still, despite not having the strong finish to the year to cement an award win, Fulmer broke out in 2016 as one of the best pitchers on the Tigers’ staff, with his 3.06 ERA over 159 innings pitched.
That leaves just Gary Sanchez as the player who I feel is most deserving of the Rookie of the Year award for the American League. It is a bit of a controversial pick, as Sanchez’s 20 home runs and 42 RBI’s on the season came over the course of just 53 games played — not even a third of a full season. But despite that, Sanchez had an absolutely historical season that leaves little doubt in my mind that he should win the top honor for American League rookies.