Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was the unanimous choice for National League Rookie of the Year last night. Bryant, who played youth baseball with Bryce Harper, smacked 26 homers and drove in 99 runs after making his major league debut in mid-April.
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa took home the honors in the American League after slashing .279/.345/.512 with 22 homers and 68 RBIs. The 21-year-old did all his damage in only 99 games after debuting in early June.
Who was the Nationals’ top rookie? No first-year Nationals received any votes, but a few were valuable parts to a team that suffered from numerous injuries throughout its 83-win campaign.
“You need real depth that can fill in and take you through games when you’re missing players,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “I thought we did that this year. You’re talking about the emergence of Clint Robinson, of Michael Taylor, of Joe Ross. These guys came through and really performed this year, and they’re gonna be a big part of the future.”
After getting a taste of the action late in 2014, Taylor played his first full season in the big leagues this past season. With Denard Span and Jayson Werth beginning the year on the disabled list, Taylor became the Nationals’ opening day center fielder. He ended up playing 96 games in center, 38 in left and three in right. The 24-year-old used his brilliant speed, gliding through the outfield to make a number of leaping catches.
At the plate, Taylor displayed power and clutch hits,but also struggled with discipline, particularly with off-speed pitches. He slashed .229/.282/.358 with 14 homers, 15 doubles, two triples, 63 RBIs and 49 runs scored. Taylor also went 16-for-19 in stolen base attempts.
Taylor injured his right knee while attempting to make a catch at the center field wall at Nationals Park against the Padres on Aug. 27. Swelling was persistent in the knee over the final month and Taylor slumped to a .184 average with just one home run over his final 29 games.
The 2016 outlook for Taylor is bright, as he appears to be penciled in as the center fielder of the future for the Nationals with Span becoming a free agent. The Nats still could make a trade or sign a free agent if they fear more inconsistencies from Taylor at the plate, but as of now, Taylor looks to be back roaming center on opening day.
Ross impressed after making his debut against the Cubs on June 6. The 22-year-old right-hander went 5-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 starts before finishing the season in the bullpen as he approached an innings limit. Overall, Ross showed pinpoint control for the most part, walking 21 while striking out 69 over 76 2/3 innings. In fact, he set a new Nationals record by waiting 54 batters into his big league career before issuing his first walk.
Ross was arguably at his best when he went into the eighth inning in back-to-back starts against the Brewers and Pirates. Over the two wins in mid-June, Ross allowed just three runs with two walks while striking out 19 over 15 1/3 innings.
Ross displayed poise on the mound throughout his rookie year. He pitched so well that he even bumped veteran Doug Fister to the bullpen during the second half.
With right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Fister entering free agency, Ross figures to be headed back to the Nationals rotation in 2016.
Robinson certainly didn’t fit the part of your normal rookie. The 30-year-old played 921 games in the minors between 2007-2014 while only receiving two brief shots in the majors with the Royals and Dodgers. The Nationals signed Robinson to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training last winter and he took advantage of it. The 6-foot-5, 245-lb. career first baseman proved he was serviceable in the outfield during the spring and his bat impressed enough to make his first opening day roster.
A professional hitter, Robinson slashed .272/.358./.424 with 10 homers, 15 doubles and 34 RBIs in 126 games. He split time in the field, filling in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman at first base for 47 games, playing in the outfield for 37 games and even pitching for an inning in a blowout loss to the Diamondbacks.
Robinson will be a key member of the Nationals bench in 2016 and figures to find his way into starting lineup plenty of times especially with the nagging injuries bothering Ryan Zimmerman the past two seasons.
Left-hander Felipe Rivero became a key member of the Nationals bullpen after making his major league debut on April 17. The hard-throwing 24-year-old went 2-1 with 2.79 ERA, striking out 43 while walking 11 over 48 1/3 innings. The former starter is comfortable facing batters from both sides of the plate. Right-handers hit just .200 off Rivero while lefties managed just a .198 average.
Rivero allowed just one run over three hits with 11 strikeouts in his final 12 appearances of the season and reached 100 mph with his fastball for the first time in his career.
Rivero will be a major factor in a Nationals bullpen that has many questions heading into 2016. His role depends on the futures of veteran right-handers Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen with the Nats. Either way, expect Rivero on the mound in late-inning, high-leverage situations all year.
So who was your top rookie on the 2015 Nationals?