Monday, I faced off with FanGraphs' Dave Cameron on MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential.
The good thing was that Dave and I actually disagreed about some stuff.
The bad thing is that he was probably right about everything. Because he's super-duper smart.
Among the stuff we disagreed about: Rookies of the Year.
Actually, I still think I'm right about this one. Darvish posted a sub-2.00 ERA in each of his last five seasons in Japan. He's never been injured, nor was he particularly over-worked there (by Japanese standards, anyway). He's got all the pitches. He's got the prototypical power pitcher's body. This spring, he's struck out 21 hitters in 15 innings. He's also walked eight hitters in those 15 innings. Which is the only negative. In Darvish's entire career.
Yes, this might indicate a problem. Cameron argued that Darvish might become a nibbler, like Daisuke Matsuzaka. Sure, he might. But what seems more likely? That Yu Darvish will suddenly become a fundamentally different pitcher, or that Matt Moore isn't quite ready to dominate the best hitters in the world for six months without any serious bumps?
I love Matt Moore. You have to love Matt Moore. But he's a rookie pitcher with all of 52 innings of experience above Class AA.
Most years, Moore would be my No. 1 Rookie of the Year candidate. Just not this year.
But the American League is the easy league, what with Mike Trout getting returned to the bush leagues.
The National League is tough. Where the American League has two wonderful candidates (Darvish and Moore) and two good ones (Trout and Jesus Montero), the National League has a punch of guys with obvious holes in their candidacies.
Yes, Bryce Harper -- Dave Cameron's choice, by the way -- is one of the most talented young players we've seen in a long while. He's also 19 years old and starting this season in the minor leagues. The latter could change at any moment, though probably won't until May or June, at the earliest. The former won't change until next October, when Bryce Aron Max Harper turns 20.
You can play baseball quite wonderfully when you're 19 years old. But wonderful enough to win a Rookie of the Year Award, when you don't even start the season in the majors?
When Junior Griffey was 19, he played 127 games with the Mariners -- only 127 because he spent a month on the Disabled List -- played quite well, and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year balloting.
Since 1969, only four 19-year-old players have gotten into at least 100 games as major leaguers: Griffey, Robin Yount, Edgar Renteria, and Jose Oquendo. Renteria finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, while Yount and Oquendo missed out completely.
I do think Harper's going to come up this season, and play well. Just not soon enough or well enough to be voted the top rookie in the National League.
So if not him, then who?
Everyone loves Atlanta's Julio Teheran, but he's a pitcher and he's gotten knocked around pretty good this spring. Doesn't mean he won't be good. But he's no Matt Moore, and did I mention he's a pitcher. Everyone loves Arizona's Trevor Bauer -- everyone really loves Trevor Bauer -- but he's opening the season in Class AA and there's talk of him debuting in the majors, when he debuts, as a reliever.
And now we're just about out of exciting National League prospects who are expected to make some sort of impact in the majors this season.
Which is why my choice for National League Rookie of the Year isn't particularly exciting.
He's not exciting because he turns 27 during this season. But he's got the shortstop job in Cincinnati, he's regarded as a solid fielder, and last year he batted .310/.357/.467 in 77 triple-A games.
I don't think he's going to become a star. But I think he's an excellent Rookie of the Year candidate, probably the best in a thin crop.