With the lead-up to the 2021 Rookie of the Year announcements, let’s mimic the process the BBWAA takes, ranking the top three contenders in both leagues.
3. Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals, Right Fielder
Carlson played 35 games in the Majors in 2020, and he was not particularly good. He struggled to a 68 OPS+ and 0.1 bWAR. In 2021, Carlson left the past behind him. He fired 53 extra-base hits including 18 home runs. He slashed .266/.343/.437, good for a 117 OPS+. He racked up 3.2 bWAR, continuing to play solid defense in the outfield. His 3.2 bWAR tied for second among rookie position players in the NL.
Fangraphs was slightly lower on Carlson, but he had a respectable 2.8 fWAR and 113 wRC+, both above-average. Moving forward, Carlson should continue to develop as a corner outfielder for the Cardinals. He has shown to have a solid eye at the plate, finishing in the 55th percentile in walk rate according to Baseball Savant. Similarly, he is in the 74th percentile in chase rate. Baseball Savant is not glowing about Carlson’s production at the plate (39th-percentile xwOBA), but his raw power (59th-percentile max exit velocity) could be discovered in 2022. Expect some of his 2021 doubles to become home runs later in his career.
2. Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins, Starting Pitcher
Rogers might get some down-ballot Cy Young votes despite only throwing 133 innings. He had a stellar 2.64 ERA and 158 ERA+, two of the best marks in MLB. He struck out 10.6 batters per nine, strengthening a 2.55 FIP. He made the NL All-Star team, and he racked up 3.5 bWAR. He opened the season by securing the April and May NL Rookie of the Month awards. Like Carlson, Rogers had a tough 2020 season that he quickly behind him. Rogers had an ERA and FIP under 3.00 from April 10 through the rest of the season.
Fangraphs loved Rogers in 2021 as the rookie posted 4.2 fWAR. Similarly, Baseball Savant thinks highly of Rogers. He is in the top 20 percentiles in expected slugging percentage allowed, barrel percentage allowed, strikeout rate, and whiff percentage. Rogers rode a dominant four-seam fastball (-15 run value) and solid changeup (-5 run value) to an excellent campaign. He should have a bright future in a loaded Miami Marlins pitching rotation.
1. Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds, Second Baseman
India led all NL rookies in bWAR, accumulating 3.9, second to Randy Arozarena in MLB. The 24-year-old made his debut on Opening Day, and he did not look back. He bashed 57 extra-base hits including 21 home runs as the everyday second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds. He led the NL in hit by pitches, helping his already strong on-base percentage. India slashed .269/.376/.459 for a sturdy 113 OPS+ on 631 plate appearances. He even tacked on 12 steals. Across the NL, he was sixth in on-base percentage, eighth in runs scored, ninth in walks, and eighth in times on base.
On Fangraphs, India posted 3.9 fWAR and a 122 wRC+. The batted-ball data matches his exceptional season. He finished in the 77th percentile for xwOBA, helped by an 81st-percentile walk rate. India won’t win any Gold Gloves (without dramatic improvement), but he could win the NL Silver Slugger at second base this year. Moving forward, expect India to increase his exit velocity and turn doubles into home runs. He already has an advanced eye at the plate, so he could be a future .400 on-base percentage hitter for the Reds.
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