Editor's note: This column by Yahoo! Sports national baseball writer Tim Brown made the case two months ago that Chris Coghlan deserved the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Coghlan was given the honor Monday, November 16.
So, you get to the big leagues before you're 24, immediately after batting .344 in your only month in Triple-A, fewer than three years after being drafted off the campus at Ole Miss.
You get a couple hits in your debut, and while the first month is a little rough, your club – the Florida Marlins – is patient, and sure enough you hit .294 in your second month.
An infielder your whole life, you get assigned to left field and merely confirm your outstanding athletic ability. Then you bat leadoff, something else you've never done but give it a try, and before long your on-base percentage from there is almost .400.
And then your first personalized set of bats from Louisville Slugger arrives, six of the most beautiful slabs of ash you've ever seen. And there's your name on the barrel – CHRIS COGHLAN(notes) – just like you belong, and life is so good you can barely stand it.
Then your eyes drift a little lower.
"It's humbling," he says, "to say the least."
Well, what are you going to do? You set the bat company straight and you run through those bats, save one just for the novelty of it, and just in time another box of bats arrives.
You tear it open.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
So, you do what a rookie does. You keep your head down and keep swinging whatever they send you, and on July 24 you get called upon to pinch-hit at Dodger Stadium in the eighth inning and you jolt a home run using your very own personalized Dodgers bat.
Coghlan thinks in hindsight he'll have to get those bats squared away or, perhaps easier, surrender and become a Dodger.
"One of the two," he says, laughing.
Meantime, he'll stick with the Marlins and help push them into the final weeks of a season in which he is a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate (and frontrunner) and, partly as a result, they remain surprise contenders.
Coghlan not only stands with and above his fellow rookies – batting .305 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs – but has the most hits (63) and the best batting average in the game (.394) since Aug. 1, or about the time Nick Johnson(notes) arrived in a trade from Washington. You could say Coghlan, a left-handed hitter and on-base hound like Johnson, took to his new teammate.
"He's a guy I'd like to be one day as a hitter," Coghlan said. "He's patient, he hits the ball all over the park. He's also seen guys I haven't, so he helps that. I don't know if it was me getting hot because of him, but I will say he's helped me out a bunch. They do seem to overlap."
Raised in Maryland (he wears Cal Ripken Jr.'s No. 8) and Florida (he played high school ball with Marlins' director of player personnel Dan Jennings' son), Coghlan plays with an edge and relentlessness the Marlins adore. He became a good left fielder. His .391 on-base percentage is best among regular National League leadoff hitters. And they've won a lot of games with him chipping in from both places.
For that, he is the NL Rookie of the Year.
"I really don't think about it," he said. "I mean, I know it's a possibility. But, that's not my concern, not something I dwell on. The thing I've enjoyed most is our season as a team. People keep counting us out and we come together and persevere and we're back in the picture. It's exciting. That's why I play the game."
The rest of the field:
J.A. Happ(notes), Philadelphia Phillies: The NL's best rookie pitcher who played a huge part in patching the Phils' rotation, Happ has 10 wins and a 2.77 ERA but will miss at least a start because of an oblique injury.
Gerardo Parra(notes), Arizona Diamondbacks. Parra played left, but is a good enough athlete to play center and has the arm to play right. He leads NL rookies with 52 RBIs and is batting .352 with runners in scoring position.
Casey McGehee(notes), Milwaukee Brewers. McGehee's power numbers are as good or better than any rookie from either league and he is batting .295, but his candidacy could be hurt by lack of playing time.