The 2018 National League Rookie of the Year race is absolutely loaded this year. It’s not often that fans get to see this much elite fresh blood injected into the MLB. Fans have seen strong classes in NL in the past, as recently as 2013 and 2015. 2015 was headlined by Kris Bryant, Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Nola, Addison Russell, Joc Pederson, Odubel Herrera, and Kyle Schwarber.
2013 was considered to be one of the greatest influxes of pitching talent in a single season. 2013 featured the late and great Jose Fernandez, a Hall-of-Fame talent, as well as Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, Zack Wheeler, Julio Teheran, Trevor Rosenthal, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. On the other side, Nolan Arenado, Christian Yelich, Anthony Rendon, Scooter Gennett, Yasiel Puig, Marcell Ozuna, A.J. Pollock, Matt Adams, Didi Gregorius, and Adam Eaton were headlining as well. These players demonstrated incredible levels of quality and depth. A great deal of top-shelf elite talent was present, along with others who became quality everyday players.
2018’s lineup is just as loaded. Numerous players have shown superstar potential this season. Here’s a look at some of the biggest names this year.
Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
The Braves have found their next superstar player. Acuna is not only having a remarkable season for a rookie, but he’s having an excellent season in general. He’s hitting .290/.368/.578 with 25 home runs in 94 games at the major league level. He has an outstanding .397 wOBA and 150 wRC+, and his defense hasn’t been too shabby either with seven Defensive Runs Saved.
He has a 3.8 fWAR and 4.3 bWAR; again in just 94 games. He’s done all this despite the fact that he will not be legally allowed to drink until this December. Acuna is a future superstar of the highest caliber in this league.
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
The fact that people view the 19-year-old phenom as the heir to Bryce Harper, if Harper were to walk in free agency, says enough about him. In 99 games, Soto is hitting .306/.421/.529 with 18 home runs. His walk rate of 16.6% is flat-out ridiculous for a teenager, as is his .421 on-base percentage. His strikeout rate is 20.4 %, which isn’t too bad in general. When one takes into account his .795 BB: KK ratio, his strikeout rate becomes even more impressive.
He has an elite .404 wOBA, and 153 wRC+ to go with his traditional stats. The poise and maturity which he has shown this season for such a young guy is next level. Again, he may be the next Bryce Harper. ‘Nuff said.
Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals
Bader doesn’t have the gaudy offensive numbers of the top two, but there is no doubt that he has made a similar impact on the Cardinals due to his all-around ability. He has a bWAr between Soto’s and Acuna’s, and he trails just a bit both in fWAR. The center-fielder is an above-average producer with the bat, but his speed on the basepaths (27 stolen bases) and defense (20 DRS) truly stand out. He does a little bit of everything while doing two things at an elite level. His talent could help him become a sabermetrics superstar.
Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have found their next ace. The 24-year-old Walker Buehler has a 3.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 122 strikeouts in 110.2 innings. As a starter, however, he has a 2.71 ERA, 0.975 WHIP, and all of his 122 punchouts in 109.2 innings. Before his start in Colorado on Saturday, he had a 2.03 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, .551 OPS against, and 58 whiffs in 48.2 innings dating back to July 31.
He has the arsenal of an ace and the talent of a future CY Young-winner. He gives the Dodgers’ starting rotation a pillar to build around, with or without Clayton Kershaw.
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
Buehler was locked into a pitcher’s duel back in August with the Cardinals’ own young ace-in-the-making, Jack Flaherty. In 132.1 innings, the 22-year-old stud has a 2.92 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, and 160 strikeouts. With injuries to Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, along with Luke Weaver not panning out as they’d have hoped, Flaherty has been a God-send. He and Buehler give the MLB two more CY Young-potential young stars.
Dereck Rodriguez, San Francisco
Rodriguez wasn’t a top prospect, but the 26-year-old has quietly put up an excellent season. In 103.1 innings, the lone bright spot on a miserable Giants team has a 2.35 ERA and 1.055 WHIP. His lack of strikeouts have hurt him a bit, but they have not stopped him from being an excellent player.
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