Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Rookies of the Year: Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers
NEW YORK -- Jose Fernandez arrived early. Wil Myers made it big after a blockbuster trade.
Neither one needed much time to create a splash, and together they brought both Rookie of the Year awards back to Florida.
Fernandez stood out in a very deep National League class this season, and the precocious Miami Marlins pitcher received 26 of 30 first-place votes from a Baseball Writers' Association of America panel in results announced Monday.
Myers won the American League prize after the Tampa Bay slugger put up impressive offensive numbers in barely half a season. The right fielder was chosen first on 23 of 30 ballots, beating out Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias and Rays teammate Chris Archer.
"Honestly, when I was called up that didn't even cross my mind. As the season went on I could see I would have a chance," Myers said on a conference call from his North Carolina home. "To be able to win is just a huge honor and I'm very excited about it."
The two announcements marked the beginning of awards week in baseball. NL and AL Manager of the Year will be revealed Tuesday, with the Cy Young winners Wednesday and MVPs on Thursday.
Myers became the third Tampa Bay player in six years to be selected Rookie of the Year, joining Jeremy Hellickson (2011) and Evan Longoria (2008). Seated next to each other, Myers and Archer smiled and shook hands when the winner was revealed on MLB Network.
Fernandez easily topped runner-up Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers as Cuban players ran 1-2 in the NL race. The only previous Rookie of the Year winners from Cuba came in the AL: Jose Canseco in 1986 and Tony Oliva in 1964.
"It means a lot just to be compared to those guys," Fernandez said. "I'm not sure I was even born when those guys were playing. But for sure I heard the names before. ... All the kids in Cuba play baseball."
Puig received the other four first-place votes and amassed 95 points to 142 for Fernandez, who made the All-Star team at age 20. He went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts for a last-place club that finished 62-100.
Fernandez was shut down in September after 172 2-3 innings to protect his precious arm. Still, his debut season was so superb that he's one of three finalists for the NL Cy Young Award -- though Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is a heavy favorite.
Fernandez already has one big prize, however, and he hugged his mother and grandmother when he won.
He came to the United States by boat as a Cuban refugee in 2008, apparently rescuing his mom along the way. Drafted 14th overall in 2011 out of high school in Tampa, Fla., he had never pitched above Class A before this season. Fernandez was ticketed for Double-A Jacksonville at the end of spring training when injuries left two holes in Miami's rotation.
Fernandez became an unexpected addition to the roster, making him the youngest pitcher on a major league team on opening day.
"I wasn't planning on being in the big leagues," he said.
The surprises haven't stopped -- on and off the mound.
One day before winning the rookie award, a shocked Fernandez was reunited with his grandmother in Florida with help from team owner Jeffrey Loria.
"Out of nowhere," the pitcher said. "I have no idea how it happened."
Now, she can visit for a few years and see him play in the majors.
"Pretty excited about that," Fernandez said.
After the Marlins dumped nearly all their high-priced stars last winter, Fernandez was a rare bright spot this season. The right-hander became the fourth Marlins player in 11 years to win Rookie of the Year, following Chris Coghlan (2009), Hanley Ramirez (2006) and Dontrelle Willis (2003).
"I'm very happy that he won," Puig told MLB.com in comments circulated by the Dodgers. "He worked really hard to achieve this and he pitched extremely well with Miami and he deserved this just as we deserved to be nominated. I am happy for him, that a Cuban won. I'm happy his grandmother arrived and I hope he enjoys his time with his grandmother and enjoys the prize he won."
The 22-year-old Myers batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in only 88 games after he was called up from the minors June 18. He immediately added much-needed power to the middle of the Rays' lineup, helping them reach the playoffs as an AL wild card.
Myers was rated one of baseball's best hitting prospects when he was traded from Kansas City to Tampa Bay last December in a seven-player deal that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals.
"There were some mixed feelings in leaving Kansas City," Myers acknowledged. "I don't want to say they gave up on me. They made a move they thought would better their team and it did."
Worked out well for Tampa Bay, too.
The Rays were 36-33 before Myers arrived this season and went 56-38 the rest of the way. They won a tiebreaker at Texas for the final AL playoff berth and beat Cleveland in the wild-card game before getting eliminated by World Series champion Boston in the division series.
Myers finished with 131 points in the balloting to 80 for the slick-fielding Iglesias, traded from the Red Sox to the Tigers just before the deadline in late July. Both teams ended up in the AL championship series.
Iglesias was listed first on five ballots. Archer and fellow pitcher Dan Straily of the Oakland Athletics each got one first-place vote.