Revisiting the AL's top rookies

Today I received a press release trumpeting the many and varied accomplishments of Elvis Andrus, which got me to thinking more about the American League Rookie of the Year candidates.
This isn't in the release, but would you believe that Andrus is the only American League rookie who's going to wind up with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title? Andrus is going to clear 502 plate appearances by a dozen or so, while nobody else is going to reach even 450. That alone wouldn't be enough to push Andrus past candidates Gordon Beckham and Nolan Reimold. It's his 33 steals and excellent defense at shortstop that do that.

Does that mean he's the best candidate? Well, I think it probably means he'll win the award. But it doesn't mean he's the only worthwhile candidate. A's closer Andrew Bailey has pitched brilliantly, with a 1.88 ERA and a lovely strikeout-to-walk ratio. And there are some starting pitchers ... well, there are four of them. And that's the problem. Jeff Niemann, Rick Porcello, Brett Anderson, and Ricky Romero all have roughly a dozen wins and ERA's right around 4. It's hard for me to imagine many voters sorting through them, and arriving at a particularly good choice.

That choice does exist, though. Anderson's 11-11 record is the worst in the group, but he's got more strikeouts than everyone else and fewer walks. It's because of those strikeouts and walks that I probably would vote for Anderson.

Again, though, Andrus is a worthy candidate. As the release points out, Andrus is the first 20-year-old to play 140 games in the American League since Alex Rodriguez, 13 years ago. What's most impressive about Elvis Andrus isn't his performance or his age; it's the incredibly rare combination. I cannot advocate giving an award to a player because of what he will do, someday. But if you could have just one of these young men for the next five seasons, Andrus would be the one.