Chris Coghlan - Florida Marlins, OF/2B
Early in the season, it would have been tough to find anybody to fight for Chris Coghlan as the Rookie of the Year. He started the season at Triple-A and was playing second base. When the Marlins had a vacancy in left, they gave him one game in the minors to learn left field before bringing him to the majors, where he was back at second for one game before becoming their left fielder. Coghlan turned out to be a decent defensive left fielder, but with the expected exit of Dan Uggla, it's likely that he'll move back to his more familiar spot on the infield in 2010. After the All-Star Break, Coghlan's honeymoon in the majors was over and he turned on the heat, collecting 113 hits in the second-half, hitting an amazing .372 and finishing the season with 51 multi-hit games. He's not a typical leadoff hitter and isn't likely to stay in that spot either, but he should be a pretty good second baseman for years to come with Florida, likely as a second or third hitter in the lineup or perhaps hitting lower, where he could drive in some runs. The fact that he flourished the way that he did and under the tough circumstances that he did makes Coghlan a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Garrett Jones - Pittsburgh Pirates, OF/1B
It should probably be mentioned immediately that Garrett Jones will not be the Rookie of the Year. After all, he's not even the best candidate from the Pirates. Even so, he's an inspiring story of a guy who has bounced around a little and was an afterthought, but turned out to be an above average everyday player for the Pirates, who will likely put him at first base and just leave him there. At 28, Jones is older than most ROY candidates are, but in just 82 games, he put up impressive power numbers and hit for a very respectable average. If Pittsburgh had more hitters in their lineup, he would have posted better RBI numbers and it's a little scary that his home runs accounted for almost half of his RBI total. Of course, he hit just .152 with runners in scoring position and 16 of his home runs were solo home runs, so just how many RBI he would be able to contribute is up for discussion. Even so, it was a good season for a guy who didn't figure to see nearly this much playing time in the majors.
Andrew McCutchen - Pittsburgh Pirates, CF
McCutchen finally got his shot at playing time when the Pirates traded both Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan during the season, opening a spot for the 22 year old prospect. Always known for his defense and speed, McCutchen showed strong offensive skills with the Pirates and a new-found penchant for hitting the longball. The beauty of McCutchen is that he let's the power come naturally and doesn't fancy himself to become a Hanley Ramirez type who can hit for power, average and use his speed. Instead, McCutchen knows that his payday will come from doing the types of things that he's always done and simply letting himself develop naturally, while holding off the leadoff spot in the lineup for the Pirates, potentially for years to come. McCutchen finished the year with ten outfield assists for the Pirates.
Casey McGehee - Milwaukee Brewers, 3B
McGehee started the season without having a position to call his own, but he was good enough that Milwaukee wanted to keep him around with the big league club. Spending his time as a pinch-hitter and occasional second baseman or third baseman, McGehee just bided his time until he became an everyday player for the Brewers around Memorial Day and it took him until just mid-June to raise his average to a season-high .357 with Milwaukee. Naturally, his average came back down to Earth, but he still finished the season just above .300 and hit 16 home runs for the Brewers. The former Cubs prospect is not a great defensive third baseman and has had some trouble making the move from second, but his bat was good enough to keep him in the lineup. The interesting thing about McGehee is that even though he's had a strong rookie season, where is he going to play? With prospect Matt Gamel looking like he may be ready to be an everyday player for Milwaukee and second baseman Rickie Weeks coming off an injury to play in 2010, will McGehee be able to hang on to his spot in the everyday lineup for Milwaukee or does he go back to being a utility player?
Tommy Hanson - Atlanta Braves, RHP
It was long assumed that when Tommy Hanson came into the Braves rotation, he would instantly be in consideration for Rookie of the Year honors and he didn't disappoint. While the Braves kept him in the minors to start the year, Hanson reached the majors in early June and didn't look back. He held opponents to an impressive .225 average over the season, but had a couple of rough outings down the stretch for the Braves that could have hurt his chances of winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Hanson turned 23 late in the season and should be an anchor in the Braves rotation for years to come.
J.A. Happ - Philadelphia Phillies, LHP
J.A. Happ is a guy who has patiently waited his turn to be a major leaguer. This season was the third season that he appeared in the majors, although the other two were short. Happ's success in Philly goes back to last season when he pitched well for the Phillies down the stretch as a starter and put himself in position to win a job with the club out of spring training. While he did win a job this past spring, it was in the bullpen after he lost his bid to be the club's fifth starter to veteran Chan Ho Park. When Park stumbled in the rotation, Happ switched spots with him and took over in the Phillies rotation, which is where he really started to get the recognition he deserved. As a starter, Happ was 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA and he threw three complete games for the Phillies, two of them shutouts. Happ has been content to do whatever the Phillies asked of him and that continues even now as they ponder whether to use him as a reliever or starter in the NLDS against Colorado. With the problems at the back end of their bullpen, it's possible that the Phillies could use him as a closer if needed in the post-season, although his future is in the starting rotation.
Randy Wells - Chicago Cubs, RHP
Like Garrett Jones, Wells won't win the Rookie of the Year Award, but he deserves to be mentioned. One thing that held Wells back this season was the much weaker than expected Cubs offense. In his ten losses, the Cubs scored a total of just 25 runs and three of those losses were by just one run. Wells' background is interesting in that the Blue Jays took him from Chicago as a Rule 5 pick in December of 2007, but returned him to the Cubs after using him in just one game as a reliever. Late in the 2008 season, the Cubs used him for four relief appearances before putting him into the starting rotation, initially to fill in for an injured Carlos Zambrano, but when Zambrano returned, the Cubs kept Wells as a starter and put Sean Marshall in the 'pen.
|Chris Coghlan made a huge charge in the second-half of the season and could walk away with the Rookie of the Year honors in the National League.|
(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
And the award goes to... We've already ruled out Jones and Wells. When you look at the numbers between Hanson and Happ, the edge likely goes to Happ, considering that he threw three complete games, which would give him a slight edge over Hanson. It's not out of the question though that some - possibly many - voters will give the edge to Hanson. McCutchen and McGehee are close as well, but the edge likely goes to McCutchen based on slightly better numbers and much better defense. If you consider - and it says here, that you should - who is going to be the best long-term player among the candidates, Coghlan, Hanson, Happ and McCutchen all score well; McGehee isn't even guaranteed a starting role next season.
Just for fun, Coghlan was 2-for-7 against our ROY pitching candidates [2-for-2 vs. Happ, 0-for-5 vs. Hanson]. McCutchen didn't face Hanson or Wells, but was 3-for-7 (.429) against Happ.
While you can argue that Happ and Hanson were steady all season long, while McCutchen started his season late and Coghlan wasn't overly impressive in the first-half of the season, the award is given for overall performance. When you consider that, odds are that Chris Coghlan will win the Rookie of the Year honors, likely in a close vote over Hanson, Happ and McCutchen.
Hanson and Happ were very close in numbers and could split a lot of votes, meaning that McCutchen could actually slide into the number two spot. Our prediction though goes 1. Coghlan, 2. Happ, 3. Hanson, 4. McCutchen and 5. McGehee.