About a month ago, I did a post on how Nick Franklin had become a darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate because of the lack of dominant choices in the American League.
One month later, I’d amend that to say that Franklin is now one of the frontrunners for the award. Franklin has hit six homers, driven in 17 runs and has a .506 slugging percentage in July, and overall leads all AL rookies in both homers (10) and RBIs (32). Not bad for a guy who didn’t get his first at-bat in the big leagues until May 27.
But that’s the way the ROY race is going to go this year. It’s going to be competed by a bunch of guys with partial seasons. Right now, I’d still list Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias as the man to beat, but even he had a 33-game stint in Pawtucket before becoming the Red Sox regular shortstop. Iglesias is hitting .330 in 62 games, which is eye-catching, no question. But Iglesias, who was hitting over. 400 as late as July 6, is trending in the wrong direction, going 4-for-40 (.100) over his last 12 games. Iglesias’s .787 OPS and 114 OPS-plus are well below Franklin’s .832 and 137.
If I were a Franklin fan, I’d cast a wary eye toward Tampa Bay, where the Rays have not one, not two, but three rookies who could be threats. One is the heralded Wil Myers, acquired in a winter trade with the Royals and called up on June 18. In 34 games (18 fewer than Franklin) he has put up an impressive .328/.358/.533 line (compared to Franklin’s .277/.340/.492). In 137 at-bats (58 fewer than Franklin), Myers already has seven homers and 27 RBIs, so he’ll be a formidable foe. Both of them had two homers on Sunday, perhaps a foreshadowing of a back-and-forth race.
Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer also bears watching. He’s 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA in 11 starts as one of a mere handful of rookies in any starting rotation. In his last start, Archer hurled a two-hit shutout against the Yankees. Two starts before that, he fired a five-hit shutout against the Astros. In July, he’s 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA. Considering the Rays rarely lose these days, Archer could rack up the victories. And considering that the AL rookie pitcher with the most wins, Justin Grimm (7) is now pitching in the National League with the Cubs, Archer is likely to be the top pitching candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Then there’s Rays rookie reliever Alex Torres, who is way under the radar as a setup man, but has astounding numbers. In 19 games, he’s pitched 31 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run. Actually, just one run total, earned or unearned, for a 0.29 ERA. He’s allowed just nine hits, walked 11 and struck out 38. Few people have noticed, but if Torres keeps up that dominance, they’re going to have to. Besides, he had this pickoff move.
Other rookies could still break away from the pack, of course, such as Kansas City’s David Lough, the Angels’ J.B. Shuck, and the White Sox’s Conor Gillaspie. But right now, Nick Franklin has as good a shot as anyone.