COMMENTARY | The 2013 MLB season is sprinting toward the final month.
With the finish line in sight, playoff teams are beginning to separate themselves from the pack as the eventual individual award winners will look to pad their resumes for a chance at some highly sought-after hardware.
Evan Gattis, C, Atlanta Braves
Gattis was poised to run away and hide with this award after the first two months of the season. The Braves' 26-year-old rookie translated a .281 average into 12 home runs and 32 RBIs through June 1, but an oblique injury stunted his national rise while the hot play of Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton has left little room for Gattis to see the field with as much consistency as he did early in the year.
Gattis still leads all rookies in home runs (15) and RBIs (47), as well as leading all MLB pinch-hitters with four clutch homers off the bench. However, without regular at-bats, Gattis' average has dropped to .243 and has opened the door for other rookies to stake their claim to the award.
Puig may have the inside track for this award as his call-up showed just how much difference one player can make to a ballclub. Since June 22, Puig-mania has helped lead the Dodgers to a 45-10 record. During this stretch, L.A. has catapulted from dead last in the National League West all the way to a commanding 7 1/2-game lead in the division, making it a virtual playoff certainty at this point.
Although it may have been too early for him to earn an All-Star selection in early July, Puig's .352 average through his first 68 games is now deserving of strong R.O.Y. consideration. His 12 home runs and 28 RBIs may not be able to contend with other rookies on paper, but Puig does have 92 hits and a rookie-leading .979 OPS. And for the sabermetric voters out there, Puig's 3.6 WAR is also tops among all rookie position players.
Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves
Coming into spring training, the Braves were just hoping Teheran could make the club and be a solid No. 5 starter on an otherwise polished pitching rotation. Fast forward five months into the season, and Atlanta's rookie has been its most consistent thrower.
The right-hander has gone 10-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 24 starts this season. On the team with the best record in baseball, Teheran has the lowest starter's ERA while the highest WAR (3.0) of any Atlanta hurler.
Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
As the lone bright spot to another dismal season for the Fish, their rookie phenom has at least made fans stop to consider that better times could be ahead in South Florida -- assuming their owner doesn't trade him for a supply of magic beans.
Forget about just ranking high among rookie candidates, the Marlins' uncontested ace slides in at No. 3 in all of baseball with a 2.41 ERA.
The 21-year-old has currently surrendered the fewest number of hits of any pitcher in baseball, while only giving up one more earned run than presumptive CY Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
And of all the hurlers in MLB, his opponents' batting average of .189 is only bested by Kershaw's .182. Had Fernandez pitched in the AL, he may have found his name etched into the side of the CY Young Award this season, but he'll settle for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
All the hype in L.A. has gone to Puig, but the Dodgers would be nowhere without their pitching staff. Kershaw is sure to be the Dodgers' biggest headline-grabbing pitcher, but just outside of their ace's considerable shadow stands South Korean-born lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Through 24 starts, Ryu has a 12-4 record with a 2.95 ERA. This 12 wins ties him with Kershaw for the team lead. With the Dodgers' one-two left-handed punch of Kershaw and Ryu, potential playoff opponents had better be able to hit the southpaw. I'm looking at you, St. Louis Cardinals, with your .235 team average against lefties.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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