Yasiel Puig took the sport by storm when he burst onto the scene in June. His propensity for churning out one boneheaded play for every miraculous one gained him notoriety — enraging some baseball fans and exciting others. But Puig overshadowed some other standouts across the league. And with the stiff competition, who will come away with the honor of Rookie of the Year?
Below are the finalists for Rookie of the Year and FOX Sports.com’s take on who should win. The BBWAA will announce the actual winners on Monday.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
Archer made his debut late last season, but is eligible for this year’s awards. After getting drafted in 2006 by the Cleveland Indians, Archer was traded two times before getting called up to the bigs. In 2006 he was part of a three-player trade to the Cubs for Mark DeRosa and in 2011 he landed in Tampa after Chicago traded him in the deal for Matt Garza.
Archer’s first start in 2013 was less than ideal as he lasted only four innings against Cleveland (the team that drafted him), yielding five earned runs on seven hits on June 1. Throughout the rest of the month and early July he settled in and over a four-start period surrounding the All-Star break he put together his best stretch of the season, earning four wins over 31 innings. He allowed only one earned run in that stretch and pitched two complete-game shutouts. He cooled off as the season wore on, but stepped up big for the Rays as they endured an injury to starting pitcher Alex Cobb. Archer finished the year 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 101 K’s in 128 2/3 innings. Pretty solid stuff from a 24-year-old rookie — the right-hander turned 25 on Sept. 26.
Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
Signed by the Red Sox in 2009 as an amateur free agent, Iglesias actually made his debut in 2011. However, he didn’t play more than 25 games until this season.
Iglesias began the year in Boston and split time between third base and shortstop before being traded to Detroit on July 30 as part of the three-team deal that sent Chicago White Sox starter Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. As the everyday shortstop in Detroit, Iglesias shined defensively, making acrobatic plays at short. At the plate he hit .303 for the season, batting .330 for the Tigers after a .259 stint with the Red Sox. Iglesias’s defense and contact hitting make him a solid shortstop for any team and lands him on the short list of the year’s best rookies.
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
The second of the Rays’ rookie finalists, Wil Myers’ debut was probably the most anticipated of any first-year player this year. As part of the major deal between Kansas City and Tampa Bay that sent pitchers Wade Davis and James Shields to the Royals, much was expected from the young prospect and Myers delivered in a big way.
The 22-year-old outfielder made his debut on June 18 and hit his first home run, a grand slam, only four days later at Yankee Stadium. Talk about a "hello world" moment. Myers played 88 games, finishing with a .293 average, 13 homers, 50 runs and 53 RBI (an AL-best among rookies.)
FOXSports.com winner: Myers
Archer’s inconsistence and Iglesias’s lack of offense give Myers the edge as he showed his potential to be a 30-homer, 100-RBI contributor. We fully expect the youngster to make that leap next year when he will get the chance to play a full season.
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
As the only rookie to also be up for another major award (Cy Young), Fernandez would seem like a shoo-in if not for the play of a certain young Dodger outfielder, who we will get to shortly. Drafted by the then-Florida Marlins as the 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft, much was expected of the Cuban-born right-hander. Even on a team as offensively inept as the Miami Marlins were this year, Fernandez baffled hitters all seasons long.
In his third start he gave up five earned runs. That would be the most he would yield over his next 25 starts. Fernandez improved all year and posted a 7-1 record with a 1.32 ERA after the All-Star break. That is no small feat given the Marlins offense finished dead last in runs scored. Fernandez posted superb numbers not just for a rookie, but for any pitcher as he finished with a 2.19 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and 187 K’s over 172 2/3 innings … and at the ripe age of 21 no less. Expect big things from this guy in years to come.
Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
As one of the many talented young arms on the Cardinals, Miller stood out prior to Michael Wacha’s late-season heroics. Miller was drafted by St. Louis as the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft and made his debut in 2012. Even though he pitched mostly out the bullpen last year, he made his first start in the final game of the season and tossed six innings of one-hit, shutout ball with seven strikeouts vs. Cincinnati.
That promising outing landed him in the rotation to start the 2013 season and he picked up right where he left off, winning seven of his first 10 decisions with a 1.91 ERA in that stretch. The highlight was a complete-game shutout against Colorado where Miller only gave up a lead-off single before retiring the next 27 Rockies and finishing with 13 strikeouts. He continued to pitch well as the season progressed and finished 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 169 K’s over 173 1/3 innings. Miller didn’t fair too well out of the bullpen in the postseason, but his first full season as a starter speaks for itself.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
OK, we are all very familiar with this guy so I won’t belabor the point here. Puig is a wild card and plays with an unbridled enthusiasm and flare that made him the focal point of baseball during the dog days of summer, where the season can seem long and unexciting to some. But antics and personality aside, the guy can hit the baseball. Over 104 games, Puig batted .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBI, 66 runs and 11 stolen bases. Very good numbers from the 22-year-old Cuban. While he was criticized early for his lack of patience at the plate, he improved greatly in the season’s final months. Over his first 212 plate appearances, Puig walked only 12 times while striking out 51 times. But over his final 220 trips to the plate, he walked 24 times while striking out only 46 times. That is serious improvement over a short period of time. If Puig can continue to refine his game, he will no doubt become a superstar in this league. The Dodgers went 64-32 in his starts on their way to an NL West title.
FOXSports.com winner: Fernandez
Though Puig received most of the attention this year and Miller put up a very solid season, Fernandez was extraordinary and if not for Clayton Kershaw, the Marlins young arm would be the favorite to take home Cy Young honors alongside his ROY.