Yesterday, the BBWAA announced that Julio Rodriguez (Seattle Mariners) and Michael Harris (Atlanta Braves) won Rookie of the Year for the American League and National League respectively. I would have given the nod to Spencer Strider (also of the Atlanta Braves) over Harris but both are strong choices and seem at the precipice of having really strong careers. Rodriguez even managed to put on a show at the Home Run Derby and won a Silver Slugger award before last night's announcement.
It did get me thinking last night about what winning a Rookie of the Year means for the rest of their career though. Obviously the award is just for that year and also isn't meant to foretell an entire career. If it did, Gregg Olsen wouldn't have beaten out Ken Griffey, Jr. for the AL ROY in 1989. But I was curious who the best players to win the ROY were over a given period.
Here are the American League Rookies of the Year from the 1990's ranked by career WAR. Once again, this is not who the best rookie was in the decade but a look at who was the greatest player overall that happened to win ROY:
10. Bob Hamelin (2.5 WAR)
Hamelin gets screwed twice here. He won his ROY in the strike year of 1994 and then was primarily a DH which WAR is not a fan of. His 1995 season was one of the worst sophomore slumps ever as he batted .168. He rebounded a bit in 1996-97 but was out of the majors by 30 and retired in the middle of a minor league game the next season. It must have been so frustrating to have that success and then not able to come close to capturing it again.
9. Pat Listach (4.3 WAR)
Listach never should of won ROY. He beat out Kenny Lofton (who was better that year but played for a worse team) and Listach was simply a speedy contact hitter who got very lucky in 1992 when those weak hits became singles and he batted .290. The remaining five years of his career, he'd bat .230 and eventually would break his foot which took away his speed as well.
8. Marty Cordova (7.7 WAR)
This is the rare case where a player had a good rookie and sophomore season and then had it go awry. For Cordova, it was back issues that turned him from a good player to an average one overnight. He probably deserved the ROY when he won but the players he beat out went onto much better careers: Garret Anderson, Andy Pettitte, Shawn Green, Ray Durham and Troy Percival.
7. Ben Grieve (8.4 WAR)
If you could have bought stock in a player, I would have bought a shitload of Ben Grieve after the 1998 season. He was only 22, showed some power with 41 doubles and 18 home runs and even walked 85 times. His next two seasons for Oakland were pretty good too. It wasn't until he was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that his power seemed to vanish. He only hit 12 home runs in his entire career after turning 27. Out of everyone in the bottom half of this list, there is no one I thought would be a superstar more than Grieve.
6. Sandy Alomar, Jr. (13.7 WAR)
Has a worse player ever been to six All-Star Games? He even started three of them! Kevin Appier should have won the ROY in 1990 instead of Alomar but at the time, there was a major catching drought in baseball. That's why you saw Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone starting well into their 40's. Alomar only played in 100 or more games four times in his career but benefitted from playing on great Indians teams in the mid/late 90's but the mystique he held over people continues to baffle me. He even got six Hall of Fame votes!
5. Tim Salmon (40.5 WAR)
There is a vast difference between Alomar to Salmon. Salmon played his entire (and very good) 14 year career with the Angels and ended up with 299 home runs. He never was going to be a Hall of Famer but he might be the best player to never make an All-Star Game (I still can't get over Sandy Alomar made six). Salmon was a key part of the 2002 World Championship team and likely will (and should) get his number retired by the team eventually.
4. Nomar Garciaparra (44.3 WAR)
Nomar might have had the best peak of anyone on this list. Six seasons of over 190 hits. Two AL Batting Titles (at .357 and .372 no less). He even had 56 doubles one season. Derek Jeter a had better career but from 1997-2000 if you didn't want Nomar instead, you're lying. He was better defensively too. But Jeter had one tool that Nomar never did and that's durability. It all fell apart quick for Nomar starting in 2004 and was out of baseball by the time he was 35. But in his peak, he's the closest hitter to Joe DiMaggio that I've ever seen.
3. Chuck Knoblauch (44.6 WAR)
Knoblauch won four rings in his career and was legitimately a sensational player with the Twins. Having said that, I'd much prefer Tim Salmon's career over Knoblauch's. It almost doesn't matter how good he was in Minnesota, all he's known for is not being able to throw to first with the Yankees. His personal life was a disaster after playing as well and was charged with domestic abuse twice. He's probably just a bad person but it's tough not to have a little sympathy for how his career ended. It's the rare case where it was not just physically getting older but mentally not being able to do what he has always done.
2. Carlos Beltran (70.1 WAR)
He'll be on Hall of Fame ballots that should be announced next week. He's by far the best of the new candidates. The only question is when he gets in. I could see the writers punishing him for the Astros scandal in 2017 and maybe that will force him to wait a year or three but he'll be in Cooperstown before the decade is over. The only question is what hat will he wear? He played 839 games with the Mets and 795 with the Royals. Will he pull a Greg Maddux or Mike Mussina and not have a logo on his plaque? It sounds like the Mets are trying to bring him back into the fold after his blip as manager back in 2020 and maybe extend good graces so he'll be the third Met in Cooperstown.
1. Derek Jeter (71.3 WAR)
I know a lot of people have issue with WAR as a stat but I have to defend it here. I have no major qualms with how this list is ranked (I'd put Nomar ahead of Knoblauch but that's a minor gripe). As much as I hate the Yankees, Jeter is properly ranked. As time has gone on, Jeter has gone from being slightly overrated to somehow being slightly underrated as his weaknesses (defense, played too long) get brought up far quicker than they should. He was a shortstop with five World Series rings and he's 6th all-time in hits. That's more hits than Willie Mays, Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner had. He was boring as fuck but he was also pretty great.