Marlins' Jose Fernandez and handicapping the Rookie of the Year race

Marc Serota

The Miami Marlins have a great candidate for Rookie of the Year in starter Jose Fernandez, but he continues to face stiff competition on the way to a possible 2013 award.

Last night, three of the most likely challengers to the throne of National League Rookie of the Year took center stage at Marlins Park. The Miami Marlins' Jose Fernandez and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig all were involved in the Fish's 6-2 win. Those three players have been at the top of consideration for Rookie of the Year since they established themselves at the beginning or middle of the season, and the race for the crown seems heavier than usual.

Having a horse in the race makes this one of the things to track for Marlins fans in the bleak second half of the season. Fernandez's recent exploits have garnered him some media attention for a player on a team full of unknowns. His strikeouts and his exciting and happy-go-lucky demeanor are charming and fun to watch, so he has the personality that would attract viewers and votes despite the barren wasteland of Miami baseball right now.

But with him facing such stiff competition, can he actually win the award? Here at Fish Stripes, we would like to take this opportunity to begin tracking our Rookie of the Year Power Rankings, a simple tracker of the players who are competing for that National League Rookie of the Year award. Five players will be ranked, but only one guy will end up on top. Who will that be?

1. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins, SP
IP K% BB% ERA FIP FWAR
145 2/3 27.0 8.8 2.41 2.75 3.4

I am in agreement with ESPN SweetSpot's David Schoenfield: after last night's outing, Fernandez has the edge over the pair of Puig and Ryu in this year's race. In a spotlight game (thanks to the Dodgers' massively hot streak), the righty manhandled Puig en route to an 0-for-3 showing against Fernandez, and he outpitched Ryu by flashing more impressive stuff and helping lead his team to a win. While Ryu gave up critical hits just like Fernandez, he did not impress in striking out an inferior Marlins lineup, while Fernandez whiffed eight Dodgers in just six innings. That included once whiffing Puig, who was then scalding-hot mad in the dugout afterward.

Perhaps heading into this performance, Fernandez was a smidgen behind the sensation of Puig, but his dominance in a national theater puts him ahead now. Oh, and he leads all rookies in FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference Wins above Replacement, if that tells you anything.

2. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers, OF
PA AVG OBP SLG WOBA FWAR
289 .351 .412 .556 .413 2.7

Before yesterday's game, Puig was probably ahead. His fantastic start to the season has masked his quiet slide back to slightly more normal; after a .436/.467/.713 (.506 wOBA) June, his lines for July and August have dropped to a just solid .357 mark. That doesn't mean that magical, Puig-tastic month of June does not count towards the end of the year, and the fact that he is on a high-profile team on a crazy hot streak heading towards the playoffs gives him more exposure.

Then again, Fernandez won this battle, and it was probably well-publicized. If he continues to be just good as Fernandez remains excellent, Puig may fall a bit more behind.

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, SP
IP K% BB% ERA FIP FWAR
155 2/3 19.8 7.1 2.95 3.29 2.5

Ryu was the lead man in the Rookie of the Year race before the emergence of his teammate Puig. Then Jose Fernandez picked up the spotlight, further shoving the great performance by Ryu. His edge is in his innings count; he is unlikely to lose any time for the playoff-bound Dodgers, while Fernandez is nearing his final start of the 2013 season.

That sort of longevity leads to both more wins over a replacement scrub, but also more media credibility as a guy who "played the whole season" for his team.

Then again, almost all of Ryu's numbers are outclassed by Fernandez and one of the next two pitchers, and that leaves him with only innings at this side. It may not be enough when pitchers are tossing 14-strikeout games out there.
4. Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, SP
IP K% BB% ERA FIP FWAR
149 21.2 5.5 2.96 3.70 1.9

Teheran has been good all year despite the changing landscape of the Braves' rotation. He is scheduled to pitch the second most innings among the fantastic four NL rookie pitchers, so he too has longevity over the next pitcher on this list. Th 2.96 ERA matching some of the other rookie starters will make Teheran look like he's matching them with more innings.

The problem is that, like Ryu, his peripheral numbers, and particularly his strikeouts, are underwhelming compared to Fernandez. Even Ryu has prevented more home runs, leading to better overall numbers. Teheran has the division-leading Braves on his side, but that does not give him the edge or even the media coverage of Ryu. In most years, Teheran's performance would have been enough, but not with this crop of players.
5. Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals, SP
IP K% BB% ERA FIP FWAR
132 2/3 26.5 7.5 2.98 3.34 2.1

Around the All-Star break, Shelby Miller would have been a fantastic candidate for Rookie of the Year, but a recent slide (4.41 ERA, 4.40 FIP in August) has brought his number behind those of Fernandez and even with guys like Ryu and Teheran. Beyond that, the struggles this month have also eaten into his innings count, as he surprisingly has become the pitcher with the lightest innings workload through 24 starts.

The advantage is that Miller is the only rookie with the sort of fantastic strikeout numbers that Fernandez has boasted. His 145 strikeotus give him a higher strikeout rate than Fernandez, and with Fernandez taking the final month off, Miller should surpass his strikeout numbers and end up with the most impressive numbers of them all. This may be enough to beat back Ryu and Teheran for the title should he continue his season pace.

The race for the NL Rookie of the Year is going to be hot in the last month, so Fish Stripes will keep track of it weekly!

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