My top five choices for National League Rookie of the Year:
Even if the Cubs hold him back for a month -- you know, to work on his defense -- that still leaves him plenty of time to hit 25 to 30 home runs and drive in a lot of runs. Even if he hits .240 -- and the projection systems suggest he'll do better that, more in the .260 range -- the power numbers will be impressive. And I think he'll hit higher than .240. The defense may hold down his WAR, or at least not contribute much value, but if he plays less than 135 games, the legend of Kris Bryant will begin.
As with Bryant, the big question is how the strikeout rate will affect his production. He's quietly had a big spring as well, hitting .389 with six home runs, although he's fanned 13 times in 60 plate appearances. His swing generates easy power and he hit 33 home runs and stole 30 bases at Triple-A while drawing 100 walks. Even if he hits .240, he should draw enough to give him a solid OBP. Combine that with good defense in center, and you'll understand why the Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to clear room for him.
3. Jorge Soler, RF, Cubs
Manager Joe Maddon compared him to Vladimir Guerrero with better plate discipline. That's high praise and while perhaps a bit exaggerated, speaks to Soler's talent. Soler is still pretty aggressive at the plate, if not the wild hacker that Guerrero was. He's looked good in spring training and has the raw strength to hit 25 home runs. The projection systems see more of a .265 hitter without a lot of walks, but he's a difficult guy to accurately project since he had just 236 plate appearances each of the past two seasons in the minors. This all points to his primary issue: He has to stay healthy.
He's a wild card, coming over from Korea, where he hit .356 with 40 home runs in a high-offense league with pitching far below the major league level. Still, there's power in the bat and while he may only share time at shortstop with Jordy Mercer, he should also fill in some at third and second. If he gets 400 plate appearances, maybe he knocks out 12-15 home runs.
I'm in the skeptical camp after reading reports of his defense at third base that probably pushes him to left field. Still, the D-backs are probably committed to him after signing him to the big contract, so he'll get a chance to play, whether at third or left, and he could hit 25 home runs in that park. But keep an eye on Jake Lamb, a late call-up last season who's the better defender and had a .407 OBP in the high minors.