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#pounditSunday, October 17, 2021

Top 10 MLB Rookie of the Year candidates

Ronald Acuna

The pennant races are heating up, as are the awards races in Major League Baseball. The 2018 season has given the sport some standout rookies who look like potential stars for years to come. Some are already making their mark right now.

Here’s a look at the top five Rookie of the Year candidates in each league, including a National League race for the ages.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

5) Walker Buehler, Dodgers

With all the pitching injuries the Dodgers have dealt with over the course of the season, they’ve really needed some help from unlikely sources. Buehler has been one of the welcome pick-me-ups. In 94.1 innings, he’s struck out 102 and posted a 2.96 ERA. He has an ERA that is lower than Rich Hill, Alex Wood, or Kenta Maeda. He has become one of the more reliable starting pitchers on a contending team.

4) Jack Flaherty, Cardinals

Flaherty has been brilliant during August and helped the Cardinals become a serious postseason contender. He’s gone 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA this month, including two starts where he did not allow a run. In his latest start against the Dodgers, he had a no-hitter going for a while before allowing a solo homer — his only hit allowed in the game. The Cardinals have gone 4-0 in his August starts. On the season, the 22-year-old has gone 7-6 with a 2.97 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 115.1 innings. The Giants’ Dereck Rodriguez may have a better ERA, but Flaherty has given the Cardinals more innings, which makes the difference.

3) Brian Anderson, Marlins

Largely overlooked because he’s playing on a Miami team that was never meant to go anywhere, Anderson has quietly had a solid season. The 25-year-old is batting .277 with 26 doubles and nine homers with a .754 OPS. He’s walked 50 times and has good on-base skills. Though Anderson may never be a star, he’d certainly be a solid contributor on a contender and a standout on a bad team like Miami. His solid but not great offensive numbers will ensure that he remains behind the two frontrunners in the NL race, but a third-place finish is well within the realm of possibility.

2) Juan Soto, Nationals

Soto vs. Acuna is basically a coin flip at this juncture. Soto got a late start, but he’s been unbelievable for the Nationals at the age of 19. He has 15 home runs in 83 games, his OBP is over .400, he’s slugging over .500, and he’s played a good right field. He only has ten fewer walks than he has strikeouts. That’s impressive for anyone, but when you’re 19 and you skipped Triple-A entirely, it’s really quite mindboggling.

1) Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves

Acuna has a few key advantages over Soto. He’s played in fewer games but actually has more home runs, with 21 of them in just 76 games. His OBP isn’t as good and he strikes out more, but he also plays better defense. Another bonus is that he looks far more likely to be in a pennant race than Soto does at this point, fairly or not. You can’t really go wrong with either of them, but given the excitement Acuna has brought — particularly in an August where he went on a stretch of eight home runs in eight games — he might have the edge.

See the AL contenders on Page 2

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