MLB Rookie of the Year: Is it a solid success predictor?

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs to first base after hitting an RBI single during the second inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 31, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs to first base after hitting an RBI single during the second inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 31, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
(Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images) /

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The most intriguing of the position players are those above whose average WAR figures run between 3.98 (Harper) and 5.77 (Bellinger); all those figures indicate an extremely solid, everyday player who will likely go to more than one All-Star game.

The question is which of those six players is most likely to move up into the superstar category, to become a player who will definitely challenge for Hall of Fame consideration. It’s tempting to say all of them could, but what does BA progression from ROY year onward say?

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Film study and analytics are now part of every team’s attempt to understand how to control an opponent’s offense, but the ROY winners arguably have real targets on their backs. So, whether or not a young player adjusts to the rest of his league “figuring him out” could be a predictor.

Of the six players averaging between 3.98 and 5.77 here, three of them have higher career batting averages than the averages posted in their ROY years: Harper, Bryant, and Bellinger.

It makes some sense these three, then, are most likely to push into the true superstar category in more than a reputational way. Harper arguably leads the way since he is an eight-year veteran already.

A similar, progression examination of these pitchers shows only two of the seven pitchers in this group saw their WHIP figures drop as their careers progressed. It’s no surprise that one is deGrom, and with a 5.92 average WAR over six years, he may already be on the threshold of the Hall of Fame, assuming four or five more productive years.

Kimbrel, on the other hand, is already a ten-year veteran (with an average WAR of 1.96) who’s coming off a frankly lousy half-campaign in ’19 with the Cubs. He’s very likely to be considered a very, very good reliever, but not more than that when all is said and done.

An examination of awards was also promised, and no, this isn’t fair to the most recently selected ROYs. This is also why we’re not looking at the players honored for the past two seasons. What was considered were ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and Cy Young awards, as well as MLB (not league) leadership in BA, HR, RBI, ERA, wins, saves, and WHIP for given years.

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Once again, the gold standard is Gehrig, who took 11 such honors before the MLB Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, or Silver Slugger awards were even given (beginning in 1940, ’57, and ’80, respectively).

Gulp. Yeah, he did things like lead MLB in RBI with 173 in 1927 and 185 in 1931.

So, there’s that, and it’s fair to say that of the 20 ROYs here, only Mike Trout is likely to pick up more than 11 of the expanded honors considered here. He has seven. He’s played eight years fewer than Gehrig. Buster Posey has seven, but he’s closer to the end of his career than Trout in all likelihood.

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So, what this all comes down to is a considered opinion that the 20 MLB Rookie of the Year awards given between 2008 and ’17 will have predicted two Hall of Fame locks once all these players have finished. One out of ten. That figure stands a chance of rising to five or 25 percent.