Purple Row Awards: Austin Jackson, AL Rookie of the Year

When compared to the incredibly strong year by NL rookies, the 2010 AL rookie class seems to be a pale imitation. Nonetheless, there were a few worthy candidates.

This year's winner was one Austin Jackson, a 23 year-old outfielder who prior to the 2010 season was traded from the New York Yankees to the Detroit Tigers as part of the megadeal that landed the Yankees Curtis Granderson. Jackson had been seen as a prized prospect for years by the Yankees, but they used him as a trade chip to acquire yet another star player (because they can). Jackson did his best to make the Yankees regret the trade:


Austin Jackson

#14 / Center Field / Detroit Tigers

6-1

185

R

R

Feb 01, 1987

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Austin Jackson 151 618 103 181 34 10 4 41 47 170 27 6 .293 .345 .400

The rookie started off the season with a bang, scalding the ball to the tune of a .364/.422/.495 line (.410 wOBA and 160 wRC+) in March/April. Jackson cooled down from that line somewhat (.295/.345/.400, .333 wOBA, 108 wRC+), meaning that he was a slightly above league average hitter. Combined with his slick CF defense (5.4 UZR), Jackson compiled 3.7 WAR over 675 PAs -- more than any other AL rookie and 0.1 more than Granderson managed to produce.

Are there signs for concern going forward? Sure there are. Jackson enjoyed the benefits of a historically high .396 BABIP (league average is around .300). This means that even if Jackson's speed and high line drive % equate to a higher naturalized BABIP, he's still probably going to regress closer to league average in that department in the future. Jackson's 27.5% K rate (and 7% BB rate) is worrisome as well going forward, but for this one season it all came together for him to produce a ROY-caliber season.

Continue for the rest of the PR AL ROY ballot

Second Place: Neftali Feliz

Feliz, a fireballing righthander for the Texas Rangers, was a top starting pitching prospect for the Braves until he was traded in 2007 as part of the package for Mark Teixeira. Now, he's striking out Teixeira and the Yankees as the 22 year-old closer of the Rangers during the ALCS.


Neftali Feliz

#30 / Pitcher / Texas Rangers

6-3

215

R

R

May 02, 1988

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Neftali Feliz 4-3 69 0 0 0 40 3 69.1 43 21 21 5 18 71 2.73 .88


Feliz can hit triple digits on the radar gun but he also showcases a plus curveball that helped him achieve a 9.22 K/9 ratio and decent control (3.94 K/BB ratio) in his 69.1 IP this year. His 2.96 FIP and 3.68 xFIP suggest that he was a little lucky (.234 BABIP against), but the fact that opponents hit only .180 off of him is enough to convince me that he'll be a success going forward in this role. In addition, Feliz's 40 saves set the AL rookie record, which more than most things is going to sway voters his way.

Despite his dominance, Feliz's low usage meant that he only compiled 1.8 WAR, less than half of Jackson's total. Yes, Feliz compiled 3.89 WPA this year, but much of that simply comes with the territory of being the closer (very high leverage situations). I maintain that Feliz would be more of an asset to the Rangers if they stretch him out next year and let him start unleashing his fire on helpless opponents six innings at a time instead of measuring the dosages into one inning stints.

Letting your stud starting prospects get their feet wet in the bullpen is a formula that has proven to work very well (David Price is a prime example), but I think that Feliz is ready to be a starter for this team. Texas moved CJ Wilson from their bullpen to the rotation this year; in 2011 they should do the same with Feliz.

Third Place: Brian Matusz

My ROY pick coming in to the year, Matusz, a 23 year-old LHP for the Baltimore Orioles, made the best of a bad situation in 2010.


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Brian Matusz 10-12 32 32 0 0 0 0 175.2 173 88 84 19 63 143 4.30 1.34

While his 4.30 ERA and 1.34 WHIP sure didn't help my CBS league fantasy team, Matusz held his own in the toughest division in baseball with a bad team playing behind him. The southpaw's 4.05 FIP indicates that he pitched a little better than his ERA, but then again, his 4.51 xFIP thinks he was a little worse. Part of this is because Matusz is an extreme flyball pitcher (45% FB, 18.8% LD), so high HR rates are expected. His 2.27 K/BB ratio, attained with the help of three plus pitches, was respectable. On the whole, Matusz was an above average pitcher in 2010, posting 2.7 WAR.

Also Receiving Votes


Danny Valencia -- The Twins' 26 year old third baseman came out of nowhere but was arguably the most impressive AL offensive rookie on a rate stats basis (.311/.351/.448, .351 wOBA, 122 wRC+), accumulating 2.7 WAR in only 85 games (322 PAs). He also provided plus defense (5.9 UZR) in a small sample. Because he came out of nowhere and because he only played half the season, Valencia's fine campaign seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Brennan Boesch -- The Tigers' 25 year old outfielder is here likely because of his hot start (163 wRC+ in May, 180 wRC+ in June), but his cold finish (monthly wRC+s of 61, 40, and 38) dropped him to a 101 wRC+ season.

Voting Results

It was a close vote, but the PR staff rewarded Jackson for his day-in, day-out production over Feliz's moments of brilliance.

Russ Jeff Fish Mart Bryan Silverblood Wolf
Jackson Jackson Feliz Feliz Jackson Jackson Feliz
Matusz Valencia Matusz Jackson Feliz Feliz Jackson
Valencia Feliz Jackson Matusz Valencia Matusz Boesch

Points Breakdown:

Player Points
Jackson 17
Feliz 14
Matusz 6
Valencia 4
Boesch 1
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