Awards season kicks off on Monday with the announcement of the AL and NL Rookie of the Year awards.
In the American League, the choice is clear-cut, with Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu heavily favored over New York Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances and Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker.
In the National League, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong are the three finalists in what should be a close race.
AL: Abreu’s award to lose
Abreu is trying to become the first White Sox player to win the AL Rookie of the Year award since Ozzie Guillen in 1985 and the sixth White Sox player overall, joining Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio (1956), Gary Peters (1963), Tommie Agee (1966) and Ron Kittle (1983).
Jose Abreu, 2014 Season
Abreu led all rookies in home runs (36), RBIs (107), hits (176), doubles (35), runs scored (80), OBP (.383), slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.964). He's the first rookie in major league history to finish in the top five of all three Triple Crown categories.
Abreu became the first player in MLB history to win both the player of the month and the rookie of the month awards twice in the same season.
Abreu would be the first first baseman to win the award since Ryan Howard of the Phillies won in 2005.
That’s not to say that Betances and Shoemaker didn’t have good seasons.
Betances had a 1.40 ERA and averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, both the lowest totals for anyone who threw at least 80 innings this season. Betances also ranked best among those pitchers in opponents’ batting average (.149) and OPS (.442).
At age 28, Shoemaker had one of the best rookie seasons for an Angels pitcher. He finished 16-4 and was 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last eight appearances of the season.
NL: deGrom vs. Hamilton
DeGrom is trying to become the first Mets player to win rookie of the year honors since Dwight Gooden in 1984. The other Mets to win the honor are Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972) and Darryl Strawberry (1983).
Hamilton vs. Wong & deGrom
DeGrom didn’t figure to be in the rookie of the year running after starting the season 0-4, but he was dominant the rest of the year, going 9-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his last 15 starts. DeGrom allowed 20 runs in his first seven starts and only 24 in those last 15.
Included in that was a start against the Marlins in which he tied a major league record by striking out the first eight batters of the game.
Hamilton is trying to become the first Reds player to win the award since pitcher Scott Williamson won in 1999. The last Reds position player to win was third baseman Chris Sabo of the Reds in 1988. Other Reds to take the honors: Pete Rose (1963), Tommy Helms (1966), Johnny Bench (1968) and Pat Zachry (1976).
Hamilton excelled in two areas: baserunning, as he finished second in the NL with 56 stolen bases, and defense. He led NL center fielders with 10 assists and ranked third among them with 14 defensive runs saved.
Hamilton’s 56 steals are tied for the second most by a rookie in the wild-card era, behind only Tony Womack’s 60 for the Diamondbacks in 1997.
Wong is an unlikely candidate to win, but he did close the season very strong. He would be the first Cardinals player to win rookie of the year since Albert Pujols in 2001.