Here are my Top 5 Rookie Position Players:
5. Kris Bryant Cubs 3B
I have always had some reservations about Bryant, most of which revolve around his contact rate. There was a great Fan Graphs article at some point about it since the season started, but I first started paying attention to the stat a few years ago after sitting near a scout at a Durham Bulls game who was talking about it as a way to rule out players, contact does not guarantee success, who will likely wash it in the Majors. I first saw Bryant a few years back at USA Baseball. It is really hard not to love the way the ball jumps off his bat and not think he's going to be a tremendous power hitter for years to come. However, it seems that the contact rate issues are starting to mount for the Cubs third baseman. He leads the league in strikeouts and has a .141/.258/.269 slash line with just 2 home runs over his last month of play. Still, Bryant's overall stats for the year are good with 14 home runs, an OPS+ of 118, and a WAR of 3.0. He's still a young player with a limited amount of at-bats in the Majors and can still make some adjustments to how he is being pitched. He makes my list, but is in real danger of falling off if I revisit this post and his performance does not improve. Here's a look at that power.....
4. Jung Ho Kang Pirates SS
Kang is in his first year in the MLB, but played for awhile in Korea before coming over this past off season. Sometimes overseas veterans can be a little hard to figure out. The Cardinals were in on the Kang bidding and I was not completely sold on him being an impact player. However, he appears to be the real deal. Kang has done a job for the Pirates this year spending time at both third and shortstop. His overall line currently stands at .291/.362/.446 with 8 home runs, 2 triples, and 17 doubles. I like that production out of Kang, but he has actually gotten better as the year has gone along. During July he posted a .379/.443/.621 line with 3 home runs, and 8 doubles. I am curious to see how the season ends for the shortstop. He is certainly in the conversation for Rookie of Year this year.
3. Matt Duffy Giants 3B
Duffy has been a big surprise this year for the Giants. He's was never a huge prospect for the Giants with a career minor league line of .304/.387/.413. He got on base, but he has never hit for double digit home runs, and has never taken an at-bat in Triple A. Like most baseball fans, I was not expecting much out of him when the Giants jumped him up from Double A to replace Pablo Sandoval. So far this year, playing third base full time, Duffy has slashed .309/.346/.464 with an OPS+ of 128. If you're a fan of WAR he actually leads all rookie position players in the statistic at 3.6. Duffy should also be in the running for Rookie of the Year, but I just do not hear his name get dropped very often in that conversation. Perhaps I am conversing with the wrong people.
2. Randal Grichuk Cardinals OF
This spring Cardinals manager Mike Matheny compared Randal Grichuk to a Lamborghini. I laughed. Grichuk seemed like a tools player, but he also spent the last year bouncing between the Cardinals fourth outfield spot and Memphis. There were some great moments for Grichuk last year, like hitting a home run off of Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs, but also lots of frustrations. He struck out 31 times in 110 at bats, had an OBP of .278, and only walked 5 times. This season Grichuk has just over 250 at bats with a slash line of .288/.336/..572, 40 extra base hits, and an OPS+ of 144. He's a fun player to watch and Cardinals fans rave about his skills, especially his bat, but I need to see a little bit more before I am completely sold on Randal Grichuk. So, why did I put him ahead of the other players if he's not a slam dunk? I think he and Bryant actually have the highest ceiling on this list. Kang is approaching 30, Duffy is going to be a high average/high on base with a little pop, but Grichuk and Bryant could both be something special. They just happen to be trending in opposite directions at the moment. He would be my pick to win the NL Rookie of the Year at the moment.
1. Carlos Correa Astros SS
I am going out on a limb here by saying that Correa will win the American League Rookie of the Year. He has fewer at-bats than anyone on this list, but has a slash line of .291/.345/.567 with fourteen doubles, fourteen home runs, 8 steals, and an OPS+ of 148. Correa was the first overall draft pick by the Astros back in 2012 and has the potential to be exactly what teams hope to get out of having that first overall pick: A franchise player. There are not too many good offensive shortstops left in the game, but Correa looks like he is going to be a great one for years to come. At just 20 years old we are likely in for a long run out of Carlos. I am guessing it's going to look pretty nice at the end assuming he stays healthy.