November 11, 2013
Internet Baseball Awards
American League Top Rookie
In a year thin on rookies in the American League, Wil Myers stole the show. Acquired by the Rays from the Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis in last winter’s megadeal, Myers produced from the moment he was called up in mid-June, hitting .288/.321/.413 through his first month of action. By season’s end, he led AL rookies in nearly every offensive category, including on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and TAv. While he wasn’t extremely patient, he didn’t suffer from the impatient approach of some rookies, swinging, chasing, and walking at roughly league-average rates. Opposing pitchers may make adjustments that he’ll have to counter in the future, but they couldn’t prevent Myers from taking home this year’s IBA for AL Top Rookie.
Myers’ impressive performance filled a glaring hole in Tampa Bay’s lineup. Before his call-up, the Rays had deployed a platoon of Matt Joyce and Sam Fuld in right field. (Joyce and Fuld finished the season hitting .235 and .199, respectively, though Joyce’s low batting average belies his adequate offensive play.) Myers went on to start the balance of the Rays’ games in right thereafter, providing a stable source of power in the middle of the order.
His reliability, however, wavered in the postseason, where Myers posted an unpleasant .100/.143/.100 in 20 at-bats (seven of which ended in strikeouts) and misplayed a pivotal fly ball in ALDS Game One. Unfortunately, the Rays’ fortunes seemed to sink with Myers’: the team managed only 16 runs in the playoffs, nearly a run behind their per-game average during the regular season.
But Myers’s uninspiring small-sample finale had no bearing on his precocious displays of talent during the regular season, which led him to a landslide victory in the IBA polls. He secured 447 out of a possible 553 first-place votes, and finished nearly 3,000 ballot points ahead of runner-up Jose Iglesias. Myers may not have graced the baseball world with a rookie season for the ages, but as the results indicate (quite conclusively), he was beyond good enough to earn Top Rookie honors.
That’s not to say that other AL rookies did nothing to challenge Myers’s supremacy. Jose Iglesias flashed Gold Glove potential in Boston before being traded to Detroit, where he firmly entrenched himself as the team’s best defensive infielder. A quick glance at his offensive numbers makes Iglesias look like a five-tool phenom, but some of his success was fueled by an unsustainable BABIP, especially early in the year. All things considered, Iglesias projects as a bottom-of-the-order contact hitter. If he becomes a perennial contender for Gold Gloves, though, he’ll be everything his heavy-hitting Tiger teammates need him to be.
Rounding out the rest of the top five were starting pitchers Chris Archer, Dan Straily, and Sonny Gray. Archer solidified his place in the Rays’ rotation with a respectable 3.22 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 128⅓ innings. Straily and Gray, meanwhile, reinforced Oakland’s reputation for developing productive young arms. Straily was somewhat erratic in his 152⅓ innings but finished the season strong, posting a 2.00 ERA over his final six starts. Gray quickly became one of Oakland’s most important players, pitching 64 stellar innings down the stretch and limiting the potent Tigers lineup to three earned runs in his two hard-fought postseason starts.
But in the end, no one could match the numbers put up by one of baseball’s fastest-rising stars… and the owner of one of its worst haircuts.