Jose Fernandez's tremendous 2013 season was compared often to the rookie seasons of Dwight Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela. And now, the 21-year-old Miami Marlins pitcher has something else in common with those two: a National League Rookie of the Year award.
Fernandez beat out Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals for the award, handed out Monday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Fernandez received 26 of 30 first-place votes. Puig finished second. Miller was third.
The NL award was thought to be the more hotly contested of the rookie prizes, but Fernandez actually received more first-place votes than AL winner Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays, won earned 23 first-place votes as he won in a non-shocker.
Fernandez's story is interesting because he was unexpectedly thrust into the big leagues before opening day at age 20. The call-up was criticized as a ticket-selling gimmick for the lowly Marlins, who had traded most of their stars the season before.
Fernandez seemed likely to take some lumps, playing for one of the worst teams in baseball. Quite the contrary, Fernandez was spectacular for the Marlins. He had a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 172.2 innings. He led all rookies with a 4.2 WAR, according to Fangraphs.
Fernandez's ERA was the best in baseball from any pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. This, on a team that finished the season 62-100 — meaning Fernandez wasn't getting a ton of support.
He's the fourth Marlin to win the rookie of the year award since 2003, joining Chris Coghlan (2009), Hanley Ramirez (2006) and Dontrelle Willis (2003).
There was a strong case to be made for Puig, who hit .319/.391/.534 with 19 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games. He helped a revive a Dodgers season that was a last-place disappointment when he was called up from Double-A. By the time they made the playoffs, the Dodgers were 66-38 when Puig played. But he only received four first-place votes. That's more a commentary on how good Fernandez was.
The AL side wasn't surprising. Myers, the 22-year-old Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, hit .293/.354/.478 in 88 games for Tampa Bay, after making his major league debut on June 18.
He hit 13 homers and drove in 53 RBIs this season, giving the Rays a late-season boost as they advanced into the playoffs as a wild-card team. He hit .308/.362/.542 in September and October, with four homers and 14 RBIs in that time frame. Myers' 88 games played are the lowest of any position player who has won the top rookie award.
Coming into this season, Myers was the No. 4 prospect in the game according to Baseball America. He made offseason headlines in 2012 when the Kansas City Royals, who drafted him in the third round in 2009, sent him to the Rays in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. Many — including us here at The Stew — believed it wasn't a great trade for the Royals, an opinion you're likely to hear again now that Myers has been crowned.
Myers beat out Jose Iglesias of the Detroit Tigers (who finished second) and teammate Chris Archer (third place). Myers is now the third Rays player to win the Rookie of the Year, joining Jeremy Hellickson (in 2011) and Evan Longoria (2008). This makes the Rays the only team in MLB with three Rookie of the Years winners on its roster. Because you're probably wondering: Myers' hair wasn't as wild as his last TV award appearance.