- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Let's get into some predictions the rest of the week. Just to have them on the record. Or something. We'll start with American League Rookie of the Year.
Before we get to the list, it's instructive to look at past winners to see what kind of rookies usually win these awards. Two of the past three AL winners have been historic in their rookie production: Jose Abreu last year and Mike Trout in 2012. There is no Abreu or Trout in the AL this year. Since offense started its decline in 2010, five of the 10 rookies of the year have been pitchers, so even though we're in a pitcher's era, there doesn't seem to be any advantage for pitchers winning.
Three relievers, however, have won since 2009 -- Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves and Andrew Bailey of the Oakland Athletics and Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers. However, in looking at the ESPN.com closer chart, there don't appear to be any rookie relievers in line for saves, although keep on eye on two Toronto Blue Jays, Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. We've had top prospects win -- Bryce Harper, Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez, Buster Posey -- but we've also had guys come out of nowhere, like Jacob DeGrom last year or Chris Coghlan in 2009.
In short, there is no common theme. It adds up to a wide-open race in the AL. My top five:
1. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
No. 18 on Keith Law's latest prospect update, Norris won a rotation job with a big spring in which he's recorded 29 strikeouts and just five walks in 24.2 innings. There's some obvious risk here as he has just 12 starts above Class A ball, but if the control he's shown in spring training holds in the regular season, he's going to succeed.
2. Steven Souza, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
He's not your classic rookie since he turns 26 later in April, but he's a late bloomer, maybe in the mold of Jason Bay, who won NL honors in his age-25 season. Souza, acquired from the Nationals, hit .350 with 18 home runs and 26 steals at Triple-A in 96 games. Warning: He's hit .122 in spring training if you worry about that type of thing.
3. Dalton Pompey, CF, Blue Jays
One of six rookies to make Toronto's roster, Pompey ranks high on the list mostly because we know he has the opportunity. Like Norris, he started 2014 in Class A and reached the majors. He's not going to hit for much power, but he hit .317 with 43 steals across three levels in the minors.
4. Kendall Graveman, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Part of the Josh Donaldson deal, Graveman was an eighth-round pick in 2013 out of Mississippi State who pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball down, inducing groundballs after groundballs. He's not overpowering but has allowed one run in 21.1 spring innings while recording 35 groundball outs to just nine fly ball outs. Maybe big league hitters eventually figure him out, but I think he's going to be good.
5. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
He's going to start the season in the minors, but the White Sox may not be able to hold him down for long. If you saw his outing last week when he fanned nine batters in four innings, you saw a guy who already owns one of the best sliders in the game. He followed that up by allowing one run in 5.1 innings on Tuesday against the Dodgers, a game in which he also threw 20 changeups. Still, just last year he was plagued with inconsistent results at NC State. But if that changeup develops, watch out.
To start some conversation over the 2015 season, let's predict the American League Rookie of the Year. And guess what? It's a wide-open race.