Let’s start with the obvious: In 2023, the NL Rookie of the Year is Corbin Carroll’s to lose.
For the first half of the season, he was a legitimate contender for NL Most Valuable Player, but after struggling a bit in July and August (“struggle” here is a relative term given that he was still very good, just not off-the-charts good), he’s settled in as the NL ROY front runner.
But who are the other National League rookies who deserve our attention?
Last week, Jon Morosi posited that Nolan Jones is one of them:
Morosi makes an interesting point, but let’s not leave rookie Ezequiel Tovar out of the conversation. After a grim April in terms of offense, Tovar has become a solid part of the Rockies’ roster.
Consider, then, the possibilities: How do Nolan Jones and Ezequiel Tovar compare with other top NL rookies?
Who are the NL ROY contenders?
These are the clearest candidates as ranked by fWAR with a focus on the top 15. (All numbers are as of Monday morning, September 11.)
Consider, too, rookie pitchers, again as ranked by FanGraphs.
Since Carroll is having a rookie season to rival that of Mike Trout in some categories, he is the clear leader. It’s also not difficult to make a case for Kodai Senga though, again, Carroll is having the better overall season.
But notice how two Rockies rookies stack up, sixth and ninth respectively.
(Also, Baseball Reference points out that Bird exceeded his rookie status in 2022, so it is unclear as to why he is listed in this search.)
What’s the case for Nolan Jones?
Fans are well aware of what Jones has brought to the Rockies. Currently, he has the highest fWAR on the team (2.0) followed by Tovar (1.5) and Ryan McMahon (1.3). He has distinguished himself at the plate with 15 home runs and 13 stolen bases. Consider, too, his 120 wRC+, .517 SLG, and .361 OBP.
Case in point — in San Francisco at night, no less:
As a reminder, Jones has accumulated these numbers in just 86 games/335 plate appearances.
The defense remains a work in progress as he learns the outfield. That said, he’s studying the position under the watch of a master in Brenton Doyle (who should win the NL Gold Glove in center field). Jones’ arm, however, is not in doubt.
Sarah Langs quantifies just how good the Rockies outfielders are
fastest-tracked OF assists, 2023:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 9, 2023
9/2 Brenton Doyle: 100.9 mph
7/23 Oscar Colás 100.9 mph
Today Nolan Jones: 100.7 mph
8/29 Brenton Doyle: 100.4 mph
8/1 Matt Wallner: 100.4 mph https://t.co/ZnHo8LgKHg
After having a miserable Spring Training, Nolan Jones has found a place for himself in Colorado, and he continues to improve.
What’s the case for Ezequiel Tovar?
Tovar’s excellent 2023 comes as no surprise to Rockies fans, and if he hadn’t had such a miserable April, we might be having a very different conversation. But the bat has come around since then. He currently leads the Rockies in doubles with 31.
Tovar and Jones are tied in terms of home runs though Jones has stolen more bases than Tovar has.
It is the defense, though, when Tovar sparkles. His highlight reel is extensive, but here’s one that stands out:
Tovar has 10 DRS. He is tied for third in terms of Fielding Run Value with a score of 12. His 15 Outs Above Average tie him with Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner. The Rockies expected elite defense from Tovar, and they have not been disappointed.
But Corbin Carroll still wins NL Rookie of the Year, right?
Whether Nolan Jones and Ezequiel Tovar will receive any votes remains to be seen, and it’s probably easier to make a case for Jones than it is for Tovar given that offense is more heavily weighted than defense. That said, we should be making the argument for Tovar as a Gold Glove finalist because he’s been that good.
In what been another grim year for Colorado Rockies fans, players like Jones and Tovar give hope that better days are not just coming but already on the horizon.
Todd Helton and RIP Medical, a nonprofit charity, have are have agreed on a plan that will erase $10 million in medical debt for some Colorado residents. “Obviously, medical expenses are sky high these days,” Helton said. “For just a regular family to be able to afford it is almost preposterous. We found a way we can help, and I said count me in.”
This is about a month old, but it’s worth your time. In it, Drew Goodman talks with Nolan Arenado about a number of topics, including the atmosphere in St. Louis, his time as a Rockie, and his approach to the end of his career. I found this to be an insightful conversation with one of the great all-time Rockies. As I’ve written before, no one gets better interviews with Rockies players than Goodman does, and this one is outstanding.
Turns out, when a player gets regular playing time, they often improve. Such has been the case for Elehuris Montero in the second half of 2023. (Have you noticed his improved walk rate?) “I’m going up there, feeling comfortable and seeing pitches, laying off the bad stuff,” Montero said in Spanish through interpreter Aaron Muñoz. “I’m basically letting the pitcher come to me. I’m getting the pitches that I want, and I’m swinging at the pitches that I need to swing at.” Let the kids play, indeed.
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