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Rating NL's top rookies

9/8/2009

Hey, here's a name I hadn't considered in a while. From Rosenthal:

    Chris Coghlan, National League Rookie of the Year.
    Who? What?

    Coghlan, the Marlins' left fielder, isn't as well-known a rookie as Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ or Braves righty Tommy Hanson, but he should be.

    In August, he became only the second National League rookie in the last 60 years to produce 47 or more hits in a month; Wally Moon had 52 in July 1954.

    For all the talk about American League Most Valuable Player, the races for the two rookie awards are far more competitive, featuring numerous candidates in each league.

    Coghlan, 24, is third in the N.L. in batting with a .376 average since the All-Star break. He has a higher on-base/slugging percentage than Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen and Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler, the latter of whom has not played since Aug. 24 because of a bruised right knee. Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee is closer to Coghlan in OPS but has nearly 150 fewer plate appearances.

Actually, I think there are numerous (viable) MVP candidates in both leagues, too. Just as many MVP candidates as Rookie of the Year candidates, really. But we've discussed them plenty already. You know how I feel about Joe Mauer, and you know I think that Chase Utley and Hanley Ramirez have been just as good as Albert Pujols. But you probably don't know how I feel about the rookies, because until this moment I didn't know how I felt.
For example, I had no idea how well Coghlan's been playing. Last time I checked -- back in June, probably -- he was just sort of sputtering along with no talk of any award, and now he's the best Rookie of the Year candidate in the league, with a .310/.382/.448 line that's easily the best among the three qualifying rookies (Fowler and Colby Rasmus being the others). That said, McCutchen's right behind Coghlan, OPS- and PA-wise, and he's got more doubles, more triples, and more home runs. Oh, and he's also far more valuable with the glove.

So among the hitters, McCutchen's actually the guy.

Can any of the pitchers bust up the party? I doubt it. In the presence of solid candidates like McCutchen and Coghlan, it would probably take 14 or 15 wins for a starter to draw real support, and Happ and Randy Wells are both sitting on just 10 wins now. And no National League rookie reliever has more than three saves.

At the moment, then, it's McCutchen's to lose. Which is yet another reason to like the Pirates' future.

(Later today: American League rookies.)