Baseball predictions are hard, especially with spring training just starting. With a wide field of potentials, there are numerous contenders for NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2019. Does a possible top rookie award necessarily lead to a great career?
For the Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, it did. The 2015 Rookie of the Year went on to be NL MVP just one year later. Bryant is one of 25 major league players to have ever done so, and he’s one of the best players in the game. And, of course, it is something most notable in Cal Ripken Jr.’s career having earned MVP twice. That isn’t to say many other ROY haven’t gone on to successful careers. And earning the title is a great way to start!
Here are five potentials to watch for as possible 2019 NL Rookie of the Year.
Duane Underwood Jr., RHP, Chicago Cubs
Sticking with the Cubs theme, it isn’t clear yet with Duane Underwood Jr. will end up in the starting rotation, or as a reliever. Of course, the Cubs have Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester along with Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana as potential starters, if they are all healthy and consistent.
But, the 24-year-old has a chance garnering much chatter with a 92-97 mph fastball and a promising curveball. Underwood’s overall minor league ERA was 3.88 for a total of seven years. He did make it to the majors last year. He lost his debut, with the Cubs falling to the Dodgers 2-1.
Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers’ have seen two Rookies of the Year in the past three years – Cody Bellinger in 2017 and Corey Seager in 2016. Will outfielder Verdugo make the top in 2019? It depends, in part, on how much he gets to play. But it is time he is afforded the opportunity.
The Dodgers have a recent history of having an abundance of quality outfielders. This year, there may be less competition for a spot, but with the return of Jock Pederson and Andrew Toles, and the recent signing of All-Star, Gold Glove winner A.J. Pollock, time will tell how much the young lefthander gets in there.
Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets
Pete Alonso can hit. He’s a home run machine, tying at the top of home-run hitters in the minors last year. And, he started with a bang this year, hitting a two-run homer during his first at-bat of spring training. In the minors, the 24-year-old also took the RBI title, which is a good sign for this potential NL Rookie of the Year candidate.
The Mets haven’t seen a stable first baseman since Keith Hernandez back in the 1980s. Alonso hopes to nab that spot. Left-hander Dominic Smith could stand in the way of that.
Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals
Suffering elbow surgery last year, Victor Robles was out of much of the season. Fans have been waiting to see the now 21-year-old right-hander on a regular basis since 2017. He did see very limited activity in the majors last year with a total of 59 at-bats earning a .288 average with 10 RBIs.
Whether or not free agent Bryce Harper returns to Washington, Robles, is expected to start in center field on opening day and be an NL Rookie of the Year contender.
Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have high expectations for 22-year-old Keston Hiura. A first-round pick by the Brewers in 2017, Hiura played at the rookie level that year. He moved up to Advanced-A and AA in 2018 which serve as his only introduction to the Big Leagues. His bat has a history of being hot. With 485 at-bats last year he hit 13 home runs and earned 43 RBIs.
Playing in the Arizona Fall League, Hiura earned a league-leading 30 RBIs in 20 games. In order to compete for NL Rookie of the Year, the Brewers will have to make room for him on the roster with lefthander Cory Spangenberg and right-hander Herman Perez already penciled in.
Of course, each of the 30 MLB teams could have at least one player vying for ROY. With half of those teams in the National League, the going is tough. We’ve shared five of our picks. We reserve the right to change our predictions as the season progresses.