Major League Baseball’s Rookie of the Year Award is a lot like the Best New Artist award at the Grammys. A very good start to a career doesn’t guarantee that it will be a great career. It’s not even a predictor that the player will have a good career. And that makes sense because outliers can happen just as much in a player’s first year as it can in subsequent years. Young players can get hurt and scouting reports can pinpoint flaws in the young player’s game. If the young player does not adjust properly to these new strategies against him, a downturn to oblivion can occur. Fortunately, teams have somewhat of a cushion if faced with this blow because the system is set up so that young players can’t make very much money.
What this post aims to do is to give you a list of the top voted rookies from 2002 to 2004 to see how those who have had great rookie seasons have fared since. Perhaps we’ll catch up the list in a later post.
- Eric Hinske – Hinske has been a decent, league average performer in his ten big league seasons. He’s had a unique knack of finding his way to winning teams. A fact that may or may not be coincidence. He’s never approached the 4.0 rWAR he compiled in his first season and has 10 rWAR total after ten years.
- Rodrigo Lopez – Accumulated 8.0 of his 8.3 career rWAR in the first and third season of his ten year career. Wrecked by high homer rates and WHIPs otherwise. Always seems to find a job though.
- Jorge Julio – Pitched for nine years in the big leagues. 2009 was his last season. Compiled 99 saves and 38 holds but it was all downhill after his rookie season. Poor control and a high homer rate led to only 1.3 rWAR in nine years with a negative WPA.
- Bobby Kielty – Was a better player than people realized for seven seasons. Good on base percentage despite trouble hitting for average and was a decent outfielder. Got less and less time to play the longer he played. His last season was 2007. 5.4 rWAR in seven seasons.
- John Lackey – It’s easy to laugh at Lackey now, but he was a real good pitcher for quite a few years as his 25.9 rWAR compiled over ten years indicates. Recently announced that he will undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss 2002.
- Jason Jennings – This first round draft pick started his big league career at 20-9 in his first 39 starts. But injury and ineffectiveness plagued the rest of his career. Last seen in 2009, Jennings had a nice season for the Rockies in 2006, but that’s about it after his fine career start. It probably didn’t help him playing in good hitters parks his entire career.
- Brad Wilkerson – Wilkerson was a good on base guy with decent pop in his bat but he struck out a lot and didn’t hit for a high average. He had a very bad year in 2008 for three different AL teams and that was the end of his career.
- Austin Kearns – Kearns should have been the Rookie of the Year in 2002 but he never again matched what he did that season. He was a decent player just above league average. But bad years in 2008, 2009 and 2011 may spell the end for Kearns. Though he might still be useful as a role player for somebody.
- Kazushi Ishii – This Japanese import only played four years in the majors starting when he was 28 years old. He was somewhat effective his first two years with the Dodgers as he struck out over eight batters per nine innings which somewhat offset his high walk rate. But in his third year, he lost the ability to strike people out and after one more season with the Dodgers and then a disastrous year for the Mets, he was done.
- Damian Moss – Moss was from Australia and had a great first season with the Braves. He was traded after the 2002 season to the Giants where he pitched decent. He was traded to the Orioles later that season and he bombed there. The then Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed him as a free agent in 2004 and after a horrendous look-see, he’s never been back in the majors since. He toiled in the minors through the 2010 season but did not play (at least in this country) in 2011.
- Angel Berroa – Burst on the scene for the Royals in 2003 and compiled 4.0 rWAR that season. But his OPS fell 94 points the following season and another thirteen points the season after that. The Royals finally said enough when he compiled a puny .592 OPS in 2006. He hung around through the 2009 season with various teams but never recaptured the magic of 2003. He played for the Diamondbacks’ Triple A affiliate in 2011 and played very well there as an outfielder after spending much of his earlier days as a shortstop. Perhaps he’ll get a Spring Training invite.
- Hideki Matsui – Matsui of course was the 2009 World Series MVP. He’s had a very productive career though he is getting long in the tooth now.
- Rocco Baldelli – Baldelli’s illness was in the news and it scuttled what was a promising career. He retired after the 2010 season. While his career did start with extreme promised, it might have been the same even without the illness as he showed no patience at the plate and it was a real weakness in his game.
- Jody Gerut – Few remember the bang with which Gerut began in MLB career. He hit 22 homers and 33 doubles in his rookie season and finished with a 120 OPS+. But his OPS fell 91 points the following season and he never recovered. After not playing in the majors in 2006 and 2007, he made a rousing comeback with the Padres in 100 games for that team. He finished with a 132 OPS+ that season. But it was again downhill after that. Retired after the 2010 season.
- Mark Teixeira – Has remained a star with 39 rWAR already compiled in his nine year career. Power numbers continue despite an alarming drop off in batting average.
- Dontrelle Willis – His struggles have been well documented. Had a decent comeback season this season.
- Scott Podsednik – The Podfather was 26 when he finally broke full time into the majors in 2003. His brilliant first season was only followed up by one other decent season. A good defender and a good base stealer, he was a disappointment after that rookie campaign offensively. He played for several Triple A affiliates in 2011 but never cracked into the majors this last season.
- Brandon Webb – The former Cy Young Award winner tried making a comeback this past season from terrible injury problems, but never got back to healthy enough to pitch. Much doubt exists if he can ever throw another major league pitch.
- Marlon Byrd – Byrd has continued to be a productive major league player but never a great one. He’s just a league average hitter for his career and a league average defender. L
- Miguel Cabrera – A superstar.
- Bobby Crosby – Crosby was quite the shortstop sensation for the Oakland A’s in 2oo4 and was even better in 2005. But after his rookie season, he couldn’t stay healthy and his production dissipated. He was out of baseball in 2011.
- Shingo Takatsu – Takatsu was a 35 year old pitcher when he came over from Japan in 2004. He saved 19 games for the White Sox that season. The following season, he gave up nine homers in just 28.2 innings for the White Sox and they traded him to the Mets where he didn’t do much better. That was it for his major league career. The Cubs signed him as a free agent in 2008 but that didn’t work out. The Giants tried the same thing in 2009 but that didn’t work out either.
- Daniel Cabrera – How Cabrera got Rookie of the Year votes in 2004 is beyond this writer. His ERA was 5.00 despite his 12-8 record and his 4.6 K/9 rate compared to his 5.4 BB/9 was atrocious. The Orioles kept trying to fix him and despite leading the league in walks twice, HBPs twice, wild pitches twice and earned runs once, they kept running him out there. His career WHIP was 1.573. Not good. After the 2009 season, he’s been out of baseball.
- Zack Greinke – Though still somewhat of an enigma, this former Cy Young Award winner had a very good season for the Brewers and is one of the better pitchers in baseball.
- Alexis Rios – If it wasn’t for the trials of Adam Dunn, the horrible 2011 campaign of Alexis Rios would have had more press. Two terrible seasons sandwiched around a good 2010 campaign leave most to wonder what kind of player Alexis Rios really is.
- Jason Bay – Jason Bay was a terrific player until he signed a big contract to play for the Mets. These last two seasons have been lost ones as he battled the spacious Citi Field and concussion syndrome. The fences will be moved in next season and with that and the concussion stuff hopefully behind him, we’ll see if he can become a star again.
- Khalil Greene – This former #1 draft pick (2002) had a terrific rookie season and was touted as the next great shortstop. Injuries somewhat hampered his 2005 and 2006 campaigns. But he bounced back and had a very good year in 2007 for the Padres as he hit 27 homers and drove in 97. But he then tanked in 2008. He was given a chance by the Cardinals in 2009 and bombed again and has been out of baseball since.
- Akinori Otsuka – Otsuka was 32 when he came over from Japan to pitch for the Padres in 2004 and he was sensational, posting a 1.75 ERA. He wasn’t quite as good in 2005 and after that season, the Padres traded him as part of the deal that got them Adrian Gonzalez from Texas. Otsuka was terrific for the Rangers and became their closer in 2006. He saved 32 games for them and only walked eleven batters that entire season. He was somewhat effective for the Rangers in 2007 in only 34 games and his MLB career was over.
- Aaron Miles – Miles will be forever famous for the website named after his pitching exploits (he’s an infielder) for the Cardinals. That site is still one of this writer’s favorites: Aaron Miles’ Fastball. But seriously, he never should have been considered for the Rookie of the Year that season. He’s a role player and nothing more. He has a career OPS+ of 75.
- Matt Holliday – Holliday, is of course a star for the Cardinals and has already compiled 31.5 rWAR in his career in eight seasons. A questionable glove in the outfield, Holliday has a career OPS+ of 137 and when healthy is one of the most feared hitters in baseball.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Aaron Miles, Angel Berroa, Eric Hinske, Hideki Matsui, Jason Bay, John Lackey, Marlon Byrd, Matt Holliday, Rocco Baldelli, Rookie of the Year, Zack Greinke