With Spring Training just a few weeks away, it’s about time to start the Preseason Awards looks. The first award we’ll take a look at is the AL Rookie of the Year. In 2016, the AL had plenty of standout rookies in Michael Fulmer, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Naquin, Nomar Mazara, and Edwin Diaz just to name a few. Who could possibly succeed Michael Fulmer as the Rookie of the Year in the American League? Let’s take a look at the top 10 choices..
Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox: Benintendi, a consensus top-5 prospect in all of baseball, remains a prospect and holds his rookie status due to him missing games because of an injury in 2016. He could compensate with a Rookie of the Year in 2017. He batting .295 with a .359 OBP in 2016.
Yoan Moncada, White Sox: Moncada will surely make an impact on the White Sox. Even if he doesn’t start off the year as the starter at 2B or 3B (since Lawrie and Frazier are entrenched there for now), once one of them gets traded, Moncada is up. He’s the #1 prospect in baseball for a reason.
Lucas Giolito, White Sox: The #3 prospect in baseball, Giolito has ace written all over him. He and fellow top prospect Michael Kopech figure to be leading the White Sox rotation for years to come.
Aaron Judge, Yankees: Judge provided a glimpse of his immense power at the major league level after the Trade Deadline in 2016. In August, Judge went .500 with 3 extra-base hits including a pair of home runs. He struggled in September, but everyone knows how much power this young outfielder has.
Yulieski Gurriel, Astros: The Cuban import debuted with the Astros last year and batting a respectable .262 in his first taste of MLB action. He figures to get heavy playing time in 2017, and as a veteran hitter, he should be able to use his experience to put up good numbers.
Bradley Zimmer, Indians: Zimmer could eventually make his debut in Cleveland this year, with the departure of Rajai Davis. However, the Indians still have a lot of players who can play the outfield including Tyler Naquin, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. An injury to one of these could open the door for top prospect Zimmer.
Dan Vogelbach, Mariners: Vogelbach is expected to platoon at first base for the Mariners, so he’ll get consisted playing time from the onset of the season. He batting .292 in AAA last year with 23 homers, 25 doubles, and 96 RBIs.
Jharel Cotton, Athletics: Cotton made his Oakland debut last September and impressed. He held a 2.15 ERA in 5 starts. He’s not a top-100 prospect, but he has the chance to put up consistent numbers that could garner serious consideration.
Jose De Leon, Rays: Just recently acquired from the Dodgers, De Leon figures to get some action with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. He didn’t have the best MLB debut last year with the Dodgers, but he still has lots of talent and the top-50 prospect might fare better in St. Petersburg.
Francis Martes, Astros: The frequent target of the White Sox for a potential Quintana trade, Martes has the chance to impact the Astros’ weak backside of the rotation and provide an impact like McCullers, McHugh, Velasquez, and Musgrove have in past years for the Astros.
PREDICTION: Andrew Benintendi
Of course, the top prospects aren’t always the contenders for the AL Rookie of the Year. Last year, it was Byron Buxton who was on top of many Rookie of the Year prediction lists and he was far from that in 2016. It ended up being Fulmer was on the second half of many top-100 lists. Tyler Naquin wasn’t even a top-100 prospect and Gary Sanchez didn’t get consisted playing time until August. We might have some dark horses on our hands as the season progresses. Guys like Carson Fulmer, Joe Jimenez, Brent Honeywell, David Paulino, Yohander Mendez, and Chance Sisco could eventually enter the conversation.
Who do you think is the preseason favorite for the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year?