The BBWAA released their winners for 2016 Rookie of the Year tonight, with Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager winning in the NL and Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer winning in the AL. The results weren’t exactly surprising: Seager won his award unanimously, and while Yankee Gary Sanchez and Indian Tyler Naquin gave Fulmer more of a run, he still took more the vast majority of the first place votes.
Also not exactly surprising? The Twins’ 2016 rookies received zero votes.
While most writers had predicted before the season began that the Twins would be bad, most didn’t think it would be because of the team’s rookies. In fact, in Fangraph’s 2016 Staff Predictions poll, the three top vote-getters for AL Rookie of the Year were all Twins: Byung Ho Park, Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios were first, second, and third respectively. Fulmer wasn’t even on the radar.
While Park, Buxton, and Berrios all showed flashes of greatness, they clearly didn’t live up to the hype. Park smacked 12 home runs before seemingly running out of steam, suffering mysterious wrist injuries, being sent to the minors, and eventually opting for season-ending surgery. Buxton had an alarming 118 strikeouts, was sent back to the minors, and only started to show some promise at the tail end of the season. Berrios had a 8.02 ERA in his ten major league starts. So, um, yeah...
As if that weren’t unexpected enough, it turned out the Twins’ actual best candidate for Rookie of the Year was another player entirely: Max Kepler. Kepler had a scorching July, hitting .282/.375/.689 with 12 home runs. He punctuated that performance with a three home run game against the eventual American League champion Indians on August 1st. Soon after that, unfortunately, Kepler slipped into a deep slump that lasted the rest of the season. He ended up hitting just .235/.309/.424 on the season, and his 17 home runs look a lot less impressive when you have a little turd like Gary Sanchez come along and hit 20 of them in just 53 games.
So does this mean that the Twins’ young prospects are a bust? No, it doesn’t. It’s way too early to say something like that. The reason a lot of writers predicted one of the Twins would win the award is because the Twins have a lot of top prospects that have been talked about for a long time. Most people into baseball had heard Byron Buxton’s name before this year, but maybe not Miachel Fulmer’s. Same goes for Byung ho Park, who hit like a million home runs in South Korea, and Jose Berrios had already started the Future’s Game and gotten his name out there too. Writers already knew a good deal about these rookies compared to others, making them easy prediction picks.
Sure, the Twins rookies didn’t live up to those predictions, but it’s not all bad. The reason they were picked is because they really are top prospects. People have seen the talent and potential there. While it didn’t materialize in the big leagues yet this year, there’s still plenty of time for it to come.
Just be patient, Twins fans.