September baseball is upon us, meaning we're one step close to October and the excitement of the MLB postseason. While the division races are far from over, we're taking a look at the players who helped put their teams in position to play meaningful September baseball.
With a number of worthy candidates for Rookie of the Year this season, the race is nowhere near a runaway like in years past. Here’s a look at the top Rookie of the Year candidates for each league.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
AL: Edwin Diaz, RP, Seattle Mariners
While relief pitchers rarely get the attention that starters do, Diaz has certainly made a name for himself as the Mariners closer this season. The 22-year-old right-hander has established his ability to mercilessly mow down his opponents, often with a 101-MPH fastball that has dropped batters to their knees. He's still settling in to his role as closer -- a job he's held only since Aug. 1 -- but Diaz is a young star with dominant stuff. And we'll be hearing a lot more about him for years to come.
2.54 ERA, 12 SV in 13 OPP, 13 HLD, 70 SO, 4.67 SO/BB in 39 IP.
Getty ImagesStephen Brashear
AL: Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Sanchez has been incredibly fun to watch since he arrived in the big leagues last month, but the short time he's spent in the majors will likely eliminate his chances of winning Rookie of the Year. Sure, he's the second-fastest player to reach 10 home runs (22 games), he's hitting out of his mind with a .348/.423/.713 slash line and his defense has been absolutely stellar, but even if he continues to play at this pace, the sample size is simply too small. If Sanchez doesn't miss a game the rest of the season, he will finish the year having played 55 games. Only one position player has ever earned ROY honors playing fewer games: Willie McCovey, who hit .354/.429/.656 in 52 games with the 1959 Giants.
.348 BA (1st among rookies, 2nd in MLB among players with 75+ PAs), .423 OBP (1st rookies, 3rd in MLB), .713 SLG (1st in MLB), 11 HR (12th rookies) in 130 plate appearances.
Getty ImagesRob Tringali
AL: Dylan Bundy, SP/RP, Baltimore Orioles
Bundy's road to the majors hasn't been easy, but the former No. 4 overall pick (2011) has finally arrived and is making a huge impact for the O's. Bundy, whose history of injuries includes Tommy John surgery in 2013, started the season in the bullpen. After slowly working up his innings count, he was moved into the starting rotation at the All-Star break and has been pretty solid ever since. He's 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA since becoming a starter and seems to have finally turned into the pitcher Baltimore was expecting when it drafted him six years ago.
3.47 ERA (3rd among AL rookies), 1.32 WHIP (4th among AL rookies who have pitched 80+ innings), 8 wins (2nd among AL rookies), 85 SO (4th among AL rookies).
Getty ImagesLachlan Cunningham
AL: Max Kepler, RF, Minnesota Twins
Kepler has been a pleasant surprise for the Twins this season, as he is quickly developing into a disciplined hitter who is putting up one of the best rookie campaigns in franchise history. He is racking up home runs at a historic rate with 16 in only 373 plate appearances and averaging a homer in every 20.5 at-bats. While Kepler has stiff competition for ROY honors, he's been a bright spot for the disappointing Twins, who are on pace to lose 100 games this season.
.244 BA (4th among all AL rookies), .320 OBP (11th AL rookies), .457 SLG (5th AL rookies), 16 HR (2nd AL rookies), 59 RBI (1st AL rookies).
Getty ImagesJason Miller
AL: Tyler Naquin, CF, Cleveland Indians
Consider Naquin the best rookie you've never heard of. He made the team out of spring training as a true rookie as a fill-in for the injured Michael Brantley. Due to Brantley's lingering injury and the PED suspension of Marlon Byrd, Naquin has flourished in a starting role for the Tribe. He leads all AL rookies in slugging percentage and triples, and is second in batting average and on-base percentage.
Naquin's outstanding yet unexpected rookie campaign has been especially impressive considering he wasn't expected to be more than a Triple-A or big league backup outfielder before the season started. He's certainly got the best chance at beating out Michael Fulmer for ROY honors, but with two very deserving players, it's going to be a tough call for the voters. KEY STATS:
.303 BA (2nd among AL rookies, 3rd among all rookies), .361 OBP (2nd AL rookies, 3rd all rookies), .557 SLG (1st AL rookies, 2nd all rookies), 5 3B (1st all rookies), 14 HR (3rd AL rookies) in 301 plate appearances.
Tony Dejak/APTony Dejak/AP
AL: Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers
Fulmer is the front-runner for this year's AL ROY honors, but by no means is he a runaway favorite. He's pitched just as well, if not better, than Tigers ace Justin Verlander this season and currently has the best ERA in the AL at 2.77 (among qualified pitchers). The right-hander leads all AL rookies in wins (10-6), and the only rookie with more victories this season is L.A.'s Kenta Maeda. Fulmer's 112 strikeouts are the most of any AL rookie pitcher, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.20 is the fifth-best among all qualified rookie pitchers.
Out of all of the AL candidates, Fulmer has the highest wins above replacement (WAR) at +2.5, compared to Naquin's +2 WAR and Kepler's 1.2. And while an AL pitcher hasn't won ROY honors since 2011 when Jeremy Hellickson won it with Tampa Bay, Fulmer certainly has the credentials to break that trend this year.
2.77 ERA (1st among all qualified pitchers in the AL), 1.08 WHIP (1st all rookies), .223 BAA (1st AL rookies, 3rd all rookies), 112 SO (1st AL rookies).
Getty ImagesJason Miller
NL: Kenta Maeda, SP, Dodgers
At 28 years of age, Maeda is the oldest of the leading ROY candidates. He started playing professional baseball in 2008 for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league and was signed by the Dodgers this past January. You could say Maeda is a seasoned professional, so it's no surprise that his first year in MLB has been so impressive. Maeda leads all qualifying rookies in wins (14), ERA (3.29) and strikeouts (156) and has helped hold down the Dodgers' rotation and fueled their playoff push in Clayton Kershaw's absence.
14 wins (1st among all rookies), 3.29 ERA (1st among all qualifying rookies), 1.08 WHIP (1st rookies), 156 SO (1st rookies), 3.80 K/BB (1st rookies), 9.18 K/9 (2nd rookies) in 153 innings pitched.
Getty ImagesLisa Blumenfeld
NL: Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
Story burst onto the scene this year in historic fashion, hitting seven home runs in his first six games and finishing the month of April with 10 homers -- tying a rookie record set by George Scott in 1966. Story's 27 homers are a record for a NL rookie shortstop and three fewer than the major-league record. While he's in the top five of the major offensive categories, it doesn't hurt that the 23-year-old's home park the most hitter-friendly park in MLB. Story is the only player that could realistically challenge Seager for ROY honors, but his chances will be hurt by his recent thumb injury, which landed him on the DL in late July for what will likely be the rest of his record-setting rookie season. Story's lack of plate appearances (due to injury), plus the fact that he calls Coors Field home will likely be the deal breakers for voters.
27 homers (1st among all rookies), 72 RBI (1st rookies), 67 runs (2nd rookies), .567 SLG (1st rookies), .909 OPS (2nd rookies) in 415 plate appearances.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
NL: Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Diaz was the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year at the midway point of the season, as he led in most offensive categories. But his numbers were slightly down in the second half and a thumb injury has sidelined him since the start of August, causing a drop in his overall production. He’s wise beyond his years when it comes to consistency and discipline at the plate, making him a solid middle-of-the-order hitter for the Cards. Diaz is preparing to return to the Cardinals for their September playoff push.
110 H (2nd among NL rookies), 25 2B (2nd among all rookies), 14 HR (5th NL rookies), 57 RBI (4th rookies), .312 BA (2nd among rookies who have played in 50+ games), .376 OBP (3rd rookies in 50+ games) through 96 games.
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
NL: Steven Matz, SP, New York Mets
While it looked like the NL Rookie of the Year race would come down to the wire, Steven Matz's shoulder injury put his campaign -- and maybe the rest of his season -- in jeopardy. Matz is 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 22 starts but hasn't pitched since since Aug. 14 because of left shoulder "tightness." Matz, 25, was impressive as September call-up last season and continued his success into his first full rookie season, striking out over 23 percent of batters he faced. His 4.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best among qualified rookie pitchers, and his 1.21 WHIP is the third-best among the same group. Matz's K/9 rate is 8.77, third to only L.A.'s Kenta Maeda and Colorado's Jon Gray (among rookies).
3.40 ERA, 129 SO (3rd among all rookies), 8.77 K/9 (3rd rookies), 1.21 WHIP (3rd rookies), .257 BAA (3rd rookies).
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
NL: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seager has pretty much run away with the Rookie of the Year honors in the second half, and his first-year campaign is among the best in Dodgers history. Seager is among the top rookies in virtually every offensive category and his .317/.378/.535 slash line is the best among all qualifying rookies. While Seager's biggest competition for the award is ironically two other shortstops, Seager has 100-plus more plate appearances than Aledmys Diaz and Trevor Story — not to mention, he plays in a tougher hitter's park than Story.
169 H (1st among all rookies), 24 HR (2nd all rookies), 38 2B (1st rookies), 65 RBI (2nd rookies), 49 walks (1st rookies), .317 BA (1st, rookies), .535 SLG (4th NL rookies), .912 OPS (3rd NL rookies) through 588 plate appearances.