We had Connelly’s take on the AL ROY Candidates a couple of days ago, so now is the turn of the NL. As opposed to the AL, there seems to be a clear favorite for the Rookie of the Year in the NL. We will take a look at the standout guy and the others who could be in the running.
Before we get into the favorite and those close to him we shall look at who is just on the outskirts and any other honorable mentions.
Devin Williams – MIL
The 25-year-old reliever, who was drafted back in 2013, has only made 27 appearances in the last 2 seasons but 2020 has been the one he has really stood out in. As a reliever, it is always going to be hard to win the Rookie of the Year but Williams is giving it a go with an ERA of 0.60 and a 3-1 record after just 15 innings pitched in 14 appearances.
Generally, you see pitchers rely on their fastball as their go to pitch and cause the most amount of damage, especially in the later innings, but Williams relies a lot more on his 84mph changeup. In fact, he has used a changeup 50.6% of the time, with 23 SOs and no hits allowed off it.
This contrasts to 2019, as he used his sinker 39% of the time, and his changeup 36.6%. His sinker has rarely been used this year and this has been hugely effective for him. He has a weak contact percentage of 10% and his exit velocity has dropped from 86.9mph to 82.7mph. This coincides with a big change in movement in his pitches, particularly his changeup. This has led to his changeup being called the best in the Majors this season, and the video below makes it hard to argue.
Ian Anderson – ATL
This pitcher is very exciting. The Braves’ first-round pick in 2016 is ranked #3 in their system and came in to make 2 solid appearances against Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees of all teams.
He has a 3-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, a changeup, and a curveball. He uses them fairly and always mixes up what he’s going to do. They are all effective, picking up 14 SOs in 12 innings and only allowing 7 hits and 3 runs.
His debut against the Yankees saw him pick up 6 SOs in 6 innings of work, allowing just 1 hit and 1 run. His second appearance was slightly more expensive but he managed to pick up 8 SOs in 6 innings. His stuff isn’t the most spectacular in terms of standout movement but the way he manipulates his velocity across his 3-pitch arsenal shows great control of his pitches. He can reach 94.5mph with his fastball, before dropping to 87.7mph with his changeup and 80.3mph with his curveball.
There is plenty more to come from Ian Anderson, and given time he probably would be a serious contender for NL ROY. However, he made his debut too late in the season to match the other contenders. For now, enjoy this video of all 8 SOs against the Red Sox.
On The Edge
Sixto Sanchez – MIA
The third pitcher to make it onto this list. The number 1 prospect in the Marlins’ system has shown his incredible ability and variable stuff in his 3 appearances in 2020.
Sanchez has a 5-pitch arsenal, that shows his versatility, but he also has the ability to on his main 3; his changeup, four-seamer, and sinker. He shows great horizontal movement with all of his pitches, as well as the ability to SO with all of them. His changeup is his most dangerous weapon with 12 SOs and is his most used pitch. This allows him to go deep into appearances, with 19 innings pitched in just 3 starts. His most successful appearance was against the Tampa Bay Rays, where he had 10 SOs in 7 innings.
Just like Anderson before him, he was quite late making his debut into the 2020 season to put himself fully in the running, but with a few more positive appearances under his belt to end the season then he could put himself in prime position. The video below shows his ability with his 3 main pitches, and the movement across the zone.
Alec Bohm – PHI
A favorite of mine due to my coverage of him for the Phillies Top 20 Ranks (which you can find here). Since being called-up in the middle of August he has continued to excel and showcase the abilities that had him ranked #2 in our ranks.
His average has continued to stay around .300, with 2 HRs that had exit velocities of 100mph and 110mph. Although 76 PAs is a small sample size, he has shown incredible maturity to use the strike zone well and only has a SO rate of 17.1%.
He has continued to spread the ball around the field well, with his pull% and oppo% being very similar, and he has even shown the ability to go down the center of the field more regularly. If he can progress with more XBH and in particular HRs then he has a better chance of being considered a serious contender for NL ROY. His average is solid and his ability to hit the ball is never in doubt, now it is about turning his hits into more XBHs. His power is there and his ability is there, now it is just about producing those results.
The Closest Challenger
Dustin May – LAD
The closest challenger to the standout contender comes in the form of RHP Dustin May.
Drafted in 2016, he has steadily progressed through the farm system to put himself as the #1 starter for the Dodgers and was the opening day pitcher for 2020. He has pitched the most amount of innings by a Dodgers pitcher this season, and he has shown the stuff that has led to him becoming a starter after just 4 starts in 14 appearances in 2019.
He heavily uses his 97.8mph sinker (50.9%) and has utilized its horizontal and vertical break to pick up 12 SOs and encourage more ground balls. He seems to have improved his control over his pitches, and although his SO rate isn’t the best, he has reduced his ERA from 2019.
The way the ball moves in the above video shows how nasty his stuff can be when it is on point. He is still young and fairly inexperienced as a starter, so improved command will come over time, but he makes his low SO rate work and this makes him an exciting pitcher for the future.
Jake Cronenworth – SD
The main contender for NL ROY comes in the shape of the 26-year-old shortstop from the San Diego Padres, Jake Cronenworth.
In a team that has been in the spotlight due to the incredible ability of Fernando Tatis Jr, Cronenworth has shown his own strengths at the plate by averaging a monster .330, with 9 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 HRs. One of those HRs included a grand slam against the Astros, that brought about the title “Slam Diego Padres”.
Although his offensive ability has been on full show and well highlighted, his defensive versatility has seen him become an integral part of the Padres’ plans. He stepped into first base when Hosmer was absent for several games, before making second base his regular home at the expense of Jurickson Profar.
With an exit velocity averaging 91mph, including three 105mph HRs, his power has been clear to see. This is despite not many seeing a true power potential for him. Drake had him as a 35 future power in his Padres’ Ranks (find that here), and ranked 20th in the organization overall.
His increased aggressive approach, combined with his increase of strength has allowed him to be one of the standout stars of a season that had plenty of doubts about it. Within an infield that contains Tatis, and a resurgent Machado, the Padres threaten to be a dangerous batting line-up, with incredible athleticism defensively.
The numbers are clear to see and the superlatives seem to be exhausted due to how he has entered this 2020 season. The standout candidate for the NL ROY and it would be fully deserved. For now enjoy another HR from the man destined to be the NL ROY, off of fellow candidate Dustin May nonetheless.