Add Jose Iglesias to the list of Tigers who have a chance to take home honors for the 2013 season. Although Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera have both fallen closer to the pack in the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player races, Iglesias remains steady among the pack of American League Rookie of the Year candidates. The pack is pretty interesting though, because there's nary a player without some sort of flaw that would have knocked them out of the running in past years.
With a batting line of .320/.365/.408 and already among the best defensive shortstops in baseball, Iglesias joins Wil Myers of the Rays among position players in the mix. Before the season, Myers winning ROY seemed like a given, but Iglesias' hot start and beautiful defense immediately announced Myers wouldn't run away with it. Myers is hitting .292/.362/.471 while playing defense that advanced metrics rank as slightly below average. What really counts against him is that he won't even hit the 100-game mark for the season -- Iglesias will finish somewhere in the 110 range. Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck is another positional candidate you hear about. Shuck is on the periphery, batting .293/.326/.370 with below-average defense. (
Another Tampa Bay player, starter Chris Archer, may be the best pitching candidate, though Martin Perez of the Rangers has been mentioned as well. Archer has a 3.19 ERA in 110 innings with 77 strikeouts and 34 walks. However he didn't start his season until June. Perez, August's AL Rookie of the Month, has a 3.41 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 26 walks across 95 innings. Perez has come on strong, winning all five starts in August and putting up a 3.31 ERA since late May. However, that May start was his first of the season. Finally Dan Straily of the A's should probably be mentioned. He has 4.15 ERA, 109 strikeouts and 48 walks in 134 innings. At least he's pitched almost a full season.
As for recent trends, three of the past four AL Rookie of the Year winners have been pitchers: the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson, the Rangers' Neftali Feliz and the A's Andrew Bailey. Two of those were closers with ERAs in the 2s and high strikeout rates. Hellickson also had an ERA in the 2s but was a workhorse at 189 innings. Playoffs may help a bit here. Three of the past five players have been on playoff teams but playing for a postseason bound team has tended to help more often than not. Of course, Mike Trout broke all the trends last year, winning in runaway fashion, as he had an MVP-caliber season and was clearly the only choice.
Using that info, I'm going to eliminate Shuck and Straily from future consideration. Straily's numbers aren't gaudy enough to merit voting. Struck doesn't have a lot going for him. That leaves Iglesias, Myers, Archer and Perez.
WAR is helpful in trying to guess the winner, but not perfect. Austin Jackson, for example, had a 5.15 bWAR in 2010 but lost to Feliz. (Did the Tigers failing to make the playoffs hurt Jackson?) However, all the other winners in the past five seasons have been near, if not at, the top of the bWAR charts. So let's take a look at that: Iglesias (2.3), Archer (2.1), Perez (1.4), Myers (1.0). Keep in mind most recent ROY winners have had bWARs in the 3s and 4s and you see how weak this year's candidates are.
For what it's worth, Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes should among those considered for rookie of the year, batting .303/.355/.518, but he appears to have barely exceeded the service days requirement (no more than 45 before Sept. 1) last year. He, too, doesn't have a clear case, due to not playing enough, though he has played a handful of games more than Myers.
Since Gomes can't win and no candidates run away with it, I'm giving Chris Archer the lead among voters with Jose Iglesias in second place. I really don't think voters are actually using WAR to pick the winners, it just happens they've done a decent job of lining up with the best rookies each season. Iglesias's numbers just aren't gaudy enough, his games total isn't high enough. But you see him a lot in highlights due to the glovework and he's got decent numbers for a shortstop. He's going to need to close the year strong to win. Myers hasn't played enough. Perez could certainly pitch his way into the award but I think he trails Archer at this point.
But if I had to lay odds on any of the candidates, truly the field is wide open and it would be hard to give anyone too much of an advantage right now.