Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year?


Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year?

We've already seen some MLB postseason awards, but the biggest accolades kick off this week.

The Rookie of the Year for each respective league will be announced Monday night.

The finalists, as already announced by the league, are Washington's Bryce Harper, Arizona's Wade Miley and Cincinnati's Todd Frazier.

Harper took the world by storm when he was called up at the end of April. He didn't put up other-worldly stats like Mike Trout, his counterpart in the AL, but Harper had arguably the best season ever for a 19-year-old.

The Nationals' super rookie hit .270 with a .817 OPS, 98 runs, 22 homers, 59 RBI and 18 steals in 597 plate appearances over 139 games. He ran hard on the bases, played hard in the field, and swung hard at the plate, netting a 5.0 WAR (according to BaseballReference's metric).

Miley, 26, got a taste of big-league action last season, starting seven games for the Diamondbacks. The southpaw appeared in 32 games in 2012 (including 29 starts) and compiled a 16-11 record with a 3.33 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 194.2 innings. Miley struck out 6.7 batters per nine innings and boasted a fantastic 3.89 KBB ratio while putting up a 3.2 WAR

Frazier, 26, also saw some time in the majors last season, with 121 plate appearances over 41 games. The big right-hander spent most if his time at third base for the Reds this year, but also started 36 games at first base in Joey Votto's absence and even made a few appearances in the outfield. He slugged 19 homers and drove in 67 in 465 plate appearances with a .273 average and .829 OPS, good for a 1.9 WAR.

Harper and Miley were both named to the NL All-Star team, while Frazier missed out. Given the hype surrounding Harper and the fact he is a full six years younger than both of the other challengers, the Nationals' phenom will likely take home the award Monday night.

All three are good choices, as both Harper and Frazier helped lead their team to the playoffs while Miley was Arizona's most consistent starter, but I think one more player should have been added to the finalists.

Milwaukee signed Norichika Aoki away from Japan this winter and the 30-year-old outfielder forced his way into the starting lineup as the season progressed. Aoki hit .288.355.433 with 37 doubles, 10 homers, 81 runs and 30 steals in 151 games. As the Brewers made a push for the playoffs in the season's final month, Aoki keyed the charge with an .898 OPS in September, adding seven steals, 21 runs, 18 RBI and 18 extra-base hits.

Aoki also played a very solid outfield and sported a 3.3 WAR, second only to Harper among NL rookies. There are some out there that believe foreign players should not be eligible for Rookie of the Year awards, and it's a valid point, but the adjustment from Japan to MLB is arguably just as hard as going from Double-A or Triple-A to the big leagues.

Aoki won't usurp any of the three candidates, but he should at least have been in the consideration.

MLB will announce the Manager of the Year Tuesday night, Cy Young winners Wednesday night and the MVP of each league Thursday evening.

Finally getting a little luck, Kevan Smith comes up huge in White Sox comeback win

Finally getting a little luck, Kevan Smith comes up huge in White Sox comeback win

Hit ‘em where they ain’t, right?

Kevan Smith hasn’t had an overabundance of luck following that old baseball maxim in his short time up with the White Sox this season. But Monday, Smith came up with one of the game’s biggest hits, tattooing a ball into the right-field corner for a game-tying double in the seventh inning of the White Sox 5-4 comeback win over the visiting Boston Red Sox.

Hitting the ball hard hasn’t been a problem for Smith, but he’s run into some bad luck, hitting balls hard but right at fielders. Move some of those batted balls a little bit in one direction or the other, and Smith’s numbers could be very, very good.

On balls hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater, hitters across the league are hitting .539 (7,068-for-13,108), according to BaseballSavant.com. Entering Monday’s game, Smith was just 4-for-12 on such batted balls, making him significantly unluckier than the average hitter. That seventh-inning double had an exit velocity of 93 mph, coming close to the kind of hard contact Smith’s been making this season.

He’ll take coming through in the clutch Monday, though, contributing big time to the White Sox fourth win in their last five games.

Finally, Smith was able to hit it where they ain’t — or, if for nothing else but grammar's sake — where they weren’t.

“For once, right?” Smith said with a smile after the game. “Been working hard on my swing. It’s frustrating, obviously, whenever you hit it right at people, but that’s the way the game goes and that’s why you’ve got to realize it’s a ‘failing’ sport. You’ve got to get used to failing. But it fell for me today and in a big spot. So it felt good.”

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Smith’s numbers have been impressive of late. Including his 1-for-2 game Monday, he’s hitting .350 with three doubles in his last six games.

It’s nice for him to finally see some results from what’s been a good swing.

“That’s what’s tough because when you’re not getting hits, you think you have to do more, you think you have to get in the cage more. But you’re going to take hard hits all day long,” Smith said. “It’s just staying confident, trusting the work, just going out each day being consistent. And that’s what I’ve been doing, and hopefully they start falling a little more.”

Smith also made an impact on the base paths, coming around to score from second on Melky Cabrera’s infield single a few batters later. An aggressive two-out send from third-base coach Nick Capra set up the run, one that might not have scored if not for the throw bouncing away from Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez.

Instead, Smith slid in safely for the eventual game-winning run, delivering yet another win for the White Sox, who are feeling much better during a to-this-point 4-1 home stand since returning from a 3-7 road trip at the end of last week.

“I thought the ball got through,” Smith said of the play. “I knew he was playing up the middle a little bit because he was kind of stacked behind me at second. When he hit the ball, I was like I’m either going to hold up at third or he obviously got it. And then when he starts waving me, kind of caught me off guard. I thought it got through, but after I got in (to the dugout) I found out it didn’t. When he says go, I’m going. Fortunately it worked out in our favor.

“Obviously the rough road trip, but we had a lot of good games, we battled hard. And (manager Rick Renteria) got us together a little bit, kind of got us refocused and ready for this home stand. We have a good squad in here. We’re excited. We just have to trust that each of us are going to do our part, just come together and keep having big wins like this and getting this good energy in the clubhouse. Feels good.”

Benches clear as Bryce Harper charges mound in Nationals vs. Giants


Benches clear as Bryce Harper charges mound in Nationals vs. Giants

Fireworks came early when the Nationals-Giants ballgame turned into a wild boxing match on Monday. 

The gloves came off and benches cleared after San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland pegged 2015 N.L. MVP Bryce Harper with a fastball in the eighth inning.

To put it mildly, Harper did not take that too kindly as he charged the mound and launched his helmet in the direction of Strickland, missing wide. Punches for both parties, however, connected. Each side got in a nice right hook, leading to a massive scrum near the mound. 

It took about five Giants players and coaches to separate Strickland from the brawl, and even in the dugout he remained emotional. For Harper, it resulted in his ninth career ejection.   

The two competitors do have some history. Three years ago, Harper hit two home runs off of Strickland, admiring both for a long time. 

This is just Game 1 of the series, so the bad blood may be just beginning.