The Baseball Writers Association of America named the recipients of the 2012 American League and National League Rookie of the Year awards on Monday, and the winners were Mike Trout of the Angels in a unanimous vote and Bryce Harper of the Nationals in a close race versus the Diamondbacks’ Wade Miley. As it turns out, the Rookie of the Year balloting had quite a few connections to the Rays.
The obvious thing here is that Rays rookie left-hander Matt Moore did not receive a single vote for Rookie of the Year, something we’ll talk more about later today. But that’s just the start. Trout won the Rookie of the Year award unanimously for the first time since Evan Longoria in 2008. Trout may have matched Longoria’s feat, but it was Harper who had a similar season to Longoria’s rookie year. Harper posted a .270/.340/477 line with 26 doubles, 9 triples, 22 homers, 59 RBI, and 120 strikeouts versus 56 walks, not all that far off from Longoria’s .272/.343/.531 linee with 31 doubles, 27 homers, 85 RBI, and 122 strikeouts against 46 walks. Amazingly, Harper is three years younger than Longoria was in his rookie season, turning 20 just a few weeks ago. Trout himself is only 21. Baseball fans are going to be in for a treat watching those two develop into the faces of the game over the next few years, a process that has already firmly begun.
The connections continue with the fact that Harper was coached by ex-Rays bonus baby Matt White in USA Baseball, and then we get to Miley, who the Rays actually selected in the 20th round of the 2005 draft but he couldn’t sign. Miley delivered a Rays-worthy season for the Diamondbacks in 2012, going 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA with 144 strikeouts against just 37 walks in 194.2 innings pitched.
Starting pitchers are used to heading to the mound every fifth day. The same is not true of position players. Richie Shaffer has had a hard time playing just every fourth day for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League as a member of their taxi squad. But while his numbers have not been so pretty, Shaffer’s time in Arizona has definitely been a worthwhile experience. Bill Mitchell of Baseball America talked about the work Shaffer has done with Rays infield coordinator Jim Hoff at third and first base and the hitting work he has gotten in with Rays minor league hitting coordinator Steve Livesey. Nice to see Shaffer making progress, and talking to Mitchell, it’s clear that he has the character the Rays love as well.
“The guys who can be consistent the most are the guys that are going to advance,” Shaffer said. “Everyone out here is extremely talented and whether or not they make it or stay in the major leagues is a factor of, can they be consistent day in and day out throughout a professional season with their mentality, with their physical traits and their body.”
Just about every offseason league had a day off on Monday, but the Phoenix Desert Dogs did play, beating the Peoria Javelinas 6-4. Shaffer, playing because someone is apparently injured, went 1 for 3 starting a first base, Kirby Yates worked around 2 hits to pitch a scoreless 8th, striking out 1, and Rays top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee had a rough day, going 0 for 4 as the designated hitter for Phoenix. Lee has been streaky all fall and is 1 for his last 12 to see his average dip to .257- although his on-base percentage is a solid .345.
Bill Chastain did a mailbag for the Rays’ official website and provided a few interesting insights. He began by saying that he thinks David Price will win the AL Cy Young, but he had a few nuggets later in the article. He talked about how the Rays may trade a starting pitcher but have no sense of urgency to do so, that Stephen Vogt‘s 0 for 25 start to his career was simply terrible luck and he has the ability to be a solid hitter in the big leagues- and he has improved defensively at catcher as well, how the biggest boost to the Rays’ offense next season will simply be Evan Longoria (hopefully) staying healthy the entire season, and that based on the Rays’ current roster, Sam Fuld looks like the Rays’ starting centerfielder for next season. It will be very interesting to see how the Rays decide to play out this offseason, whether they trade a starting pitcher and how they address their offensive needs.
And finally, Steven Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times discussed how everyone had known back in 1995 that the Rays’ stadium situation was far from ideal but at least there was a stadium to attract an expansion franchise. Maybe having the Trop did play a role in getting a major league baseball team to Tampa Bay, but it’s frustrating that from the start people knew that the stadium had its issues and now, 17 years later, those issues remain unaddressed with progress stalled on a potential new stadium for the Rays.