Impact rookie ball players are always a fascinating part of any MLB season. A year ago, the Philadelphia Phillies began their rebuilding program by introducing 3rd baseman Maikel Franco for his first full campaign, and starting pitchers Aaron Nolaand Jerad Eickhoff as rookies on the mound.
The 2015 National League Rookie of the Year was slugging Chicago Cubs 3rd sacker Kris Bryant, who delivered 26 homers and 99 RBI while producing a ..275/.369/.488 slash line.
While Bryant was an early and well-known, expected contender for the award a year ago, the two players who finished immediately behind him were most definitely not expected to contend.
Those two players were 3rd baseman Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants, and shortstop Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Duffy emerged to solidify the hot corner on the Bay in the aftermath of Pablo Sandoval leaving as a free agent, and hit for a .295 batting average with a dozen homers and steals, and 77 RBI and runs scored.
Kang was a 28-year old from South Korea who played 77 games at 3rd base and 60 at shortstop for the playoff-bound Bucs, hitting for a .287/.355/.461 slash line with 15 homers and 58 RBI.
The top rookie pitcher in the National League a year ago was New York Mets phenom Noah Syndergaard.
The hard-throwing right-hander went 9-7 for the NL champions. He allowed just 126 hits over 150 innings across 24 starts, recording an incredible 166/31 K:BB ratio.
Based on the voting by our TBOH staff writers, there again appears to be a clear front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year race.
That favorite is Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, named as the winner on seven of our eight staff writer ballots.
Last September, Seager took the starting shortstop job away from veteran Jimmy Rollins.
During that final month of the season, Seager produced four homers and 17 RBI and scored 17 runs in 113 plate appearances over the season’s final 27 games.
Despite that experience, he fell short of the 130 at-bats needed to lose his rookie eligibility, and so he goes into the season still holding that rookie status.
The lone vote that kept Seager from being our unanimous choice came from staffer Ethan Witte, who went with Washington Nationals prospective shortstop Trea Turner.
It is a highly speculative choice, as the speedy Turner will begin the season in the minor leagues, finishing up his development as the Nats give their starting job to veteran Danny Espinosa.
Another high-profile favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year Award as we enter the 2016 season is yet another talented young Mets pitcher, Steven Matz.
The Phillies own top prospect J.P. Crawford could also make an impact, though in starting at AA his timetable for arriving is probably not until mid-season as the earliest, and perhaps not until September.