Brian Anderson leads all National League rookies in—deep breath—games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, runs batted in, runs scored, times hit by pitch and Win Probability Added. He’s tied for first in extra-base hits. Anderson’s consistency, durability and versatility make him a critical piece to the Marlins’ future.
And yet, his shot at the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year award is slipping away. Anderson must be at his best over these final six weeks, and even that might not be enough to sway BBWAA voters. Less-than-full seasons from Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. have hijacked the conversation with brilliance rarely seen from such young players.
Consider the “quiet” weekend Soto just had against the Marlins. His Nationals team dropped a critical series at home, all but dooming their postseason pursuit. Even so, the 19-year-old phenom reached base four times in the three games. He continues to occupy a spot in the middle of a lineup that features several of MLB’s most reputable offensive players.
If Soto had enough playing time to qualify, he would rank second among all National League players this year with a .413 OBP. Since the league was integrated, his full .290/.413/.522 slash line has only been done once by a rookie over 300-plus plate appearances. Reds outfielder Bernie Carbo finished runner-up in the 1970 NL ROY balloting at .310/.454/.551.
Bryce Harper is a pending free agent, and the juxtaposition of their 2018 production works in his teammate’s favor. Soto has been the better player, making the longtime face of the franchise seem almost expendable moving forward. Although not directly related to this award race, that still speaks to how dramatically “Childish Bambino” has impacted his organization in just three months.
What Acuña lacks in superhuman plate discipline, he makes for with an electrifying all-around skill set.
The consensus No. 1 MLB prospect entering this season has lived up to the hype. According to Statcast, he “barrels” the ball in 9.9 percent of his plate appearances, the best rate in the NL (min. 150 batted ball events). Despite his campaign being interrupted by a knee injury, Acuña maintains an elite Sprint Speed of 29.7 ft/sec.
Stats have the biggest influence on a writer’s vote, but a potential “tiebreaker” might be Acuña’s aesthetic brilliance. The 20-year-old makes a home run binge look effortless.
This sabermetric darling is actually not the NL rookie leader in Wins Above Replacement. That would be the explosive Harrison Bader, who has accumulated 2.7 fWAR.
Bader is viewed very favorably by Ultimate Zone Rating (6.1 UZR), while rating as a transcendent outfielder when going by Defensive Runs Saved (22 DRS). In combination with an above-average bat, the Cardinals‘ kid could make up a lot of ground on Soto and Acuña down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Miami’s own BA continue to fade from the NL ROY conversation due to a recent power outage. He hasn’t homered at all in August. Sunday’s 0-for-5 lowered his slugging percentage below .400 for the first time in months. Anderson can go yard against some of MLB’s most fearsome pitchers, but must do it more frequently.
In 2009, Chris Coghlan was rewarded with the hardware for quantity over quality.
However, a decade has changed the criteria dramatically. Compilers no longer have the inside track.
Toggling between right field and third base (which keeps him in the lineup on a daily basis), Anderson would need to find another gear to rally from behind.