Be Careful Overvaluing ROY Winners

Before I begin, please allow me to congratulate both Craig Kimbrel and Jeremy Hellickson for winning their respective league’s 2011 Rookie of the Year awards.  It was the first time since 1981 when Dave Righetti (NYY- AL) and Fernando Valenzuela (LAD- NL) won that each league’s award went to a pitcher in the same season.  Both seemed deserving of such esteemed honors, although one brings on a greater debate than the other.  Kimbrel, with a record 46 saves by a rookie, finished with a 2.10 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and an eye-popping 127 strikeouts in 77 innings of work.  Hellickson, starter of 29 games and winner of 13, finished the season with a 2.95 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and notched 117 Ks in a rookie-leading 189 innings.  I could talk about peripherals and who was more deserving and what not, but that’s neither here nor there right now.  What is important is how winning this award affects the value of each player in 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.   All too often, players are drafted based on name and hype and winning the Rookie of the Year award certainly helps build both.  So before you go breaking the bank to acquire this year’s crop, allow me to point out that you should probably keep your expectations low.

Here’s a look at Rookie of the Year winners from 2000 – 2010 with their award winning season’s stats followed by the totals from their sophomore campaign.

Rookie Season
Batters Year AVG R HR RBI SB
Rafael Furcal 2000 .295 87 4 37 40
Ichiro Suzuki 2001 .348 127 8 69 56
Albert Pujols 2001 .329 112 37 130 1
Eric Hinske 2002 .279 99 24 84 13
Angel Berroa 2003 .288 92 17 73 21
Bobby Crosby 2004 .239 70 22 64 7
Jason Bay 2004 .282 61 26 82 4
Ryan Howard 2005 .289 52 22 63 0
Hanley Ramirez 2006 .292 119 17 59 51
Ryan Braun 2007 .324 91 34 97 15
Dustin Pedroia 2007 .317 86 8 50 7
Evan Longoria 2008 .272 67 27 85 7
Geovany Soto 2008 .285 66 23 86 0
Chris Coghlan 2009 .321 84 9 47 8
Buster Posey 2010 .305 58 18 67 0
Pitchers W S K ERA WHIP
Kazuhiro Sasaki 2000 2 37 78 3.16 1.16
Jason Jennings 2002 16 0 127 4.52 1.46
Dontrelle Willis 2003 14 0 142 3.31 1.29
Huston Street 2005 5 23 72 1.73 1.01
Justin Verlander 2006 17 0 124 3.63 1.33
Andrew Bailey 2009 6 26 91 1.84 0.88
Neftali Feliz 2010 4 40 71 2.73 0.88
Follow-Up Season
Batters Year AVG R HR RBI SB
Rafael Furcal** 2001 .275 39 4 30 22
Ichiro Suzuki 2002 .322 111 8 51 31
Albert Pujols 2002 .314 118 34 127 2
Eric Hinske** 2003 .243 74 12 63 12
Angel Berroa 2004 .262 72 8 43 14
Bobby Crosby** 2005 .276 66 9 38 0
Jason Bay 2005 .305 110 32 101 21
Ryan Howard 2006 .313 104 58 149 0
Hanley Ramirez 2007 .332 125 29 81 51
Ryan Braun 2008 .285 92 37 106 14
Dustin Pedroia 2008 .326 118 17 83 20
Evan Longoria 2009 .281 100 33 113 9
Geovany Soto** 2009 .218 27 11 47 1
Chris Coghlan** 2010 .268 60 5 28 10
Buster Posey** 2011 .284 17 4 21 3
Pitchers W S K ERA WHIP
Kazuhiro Sasaki 2001 0 45 62 3.24 0.86
Jason Jennings 2003 12 0 119 5.12 1.66
Dontrelle Willis 2004 10 0 139 4.02 1.38
Huston Street 2006 4 37 67 3.33 1.10
Justin Verlander 2007 18 0 183 3.67 1.23
Andrew Bailey** 2010 1 25 42 1.47 0.96
Neftali Feliz 2011 2 32 54 2.74 1.16
**injured

If for some reason color coding needs to be explained, then allow me to tell you that red indicates a regression, green is an increase in overall production and blue is, statistically, a lateral move. 

While there are definitely some seriously talented players listed here, you can’t deny the fact that regression in the second year is much more common than improvement.  Yes, even the great Pujols regressed during his sophomore season, although anyone would be lucky to own his regressed stats, right?  But for whatever reason it may be — Coghlan’s unsustainable .365 BABIP, Jennings’ high HR/FB in Coors Field, Crosby’s high K% and low AVG — several of the winners had flaws in their game that indicated a downturn was coming.  Perhaps the adrenaline from playing their first full year helped mask some of the negatives, but if you sifted through the data enough, there were plenty to be found.

Now obviously there are no tangible predictors for injury.  Sometimes, as in the case with Posey, you never see them coming and it’s always too late when you do.  However, when you’re talking about hamstrings or broken fingers from aggressive slides, knee tweaks, whatever, sometimes it’s the hard-nosed, gritty play that does a guy in.  The pressure the following year that stems from winning an award like this is usually pretty high for a young player.  You want to come into camp strong the following year.  You’ve already set the bar high and now you’re putting pressure on yourself to do even better.  You push yourself more, you might play through a hammy tweak you shouldn’t play through, you play a harder edged game and  all of that opens yourself up to getting hurt more easily.  Such was the case of several listed above.

Yes, that run of players from ’05 through ’09 was pretty special.  Players like Longoria, Ramirez and Howard were on a level far beyond most of their peers even coming into their first season.  Greatness was already expected and the award just confirmed what we already knew.  But so many of the others didn’t so much come from nowhere, but the expectations of them were not nearly as high as those who were rated at the top by Baseball America and other scouting publications.  When you watch a player come up through the system, you can tell who’s got it and who doesn’t.  Longoria had it.  Hinske did not.

So when you’re deciding where to draft Kimbrel and Hellickson this year, you have to ask yourself whether or not they “have it” as well.  Kimbrel’s basic and peripheral stats look incredibly consistent from his time in the minors, even with a higher than usual BABIP.  However, one can’t help but think about Feliz’ declining K% in his sophomore year and wonder if Kimbrel might go the same route.  And Hellickson, well, you’ve heard the debates and have looked at his stats.  If he truly had the edge because of innings pitched, then the low K% and nasty FIP can’t be ignored for next season.  I’m not saying to necessarily avoid these guys next year.  Just don’t overpay because “award winning” comes attached to their name.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

7 Responses to “Be Careful Overvaluing ROY Winners”

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  1. Blue says:

    Angel Berroa. Bob Hamelin.

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  2. Fletcher says:

    I didn’t realize Pujols had only 12 RBI in 2002…

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  3. Matt says:

    “Players like Longoria, Ramirez and Howard were on a level far beyond most of their peers even coming into their first season. Greatness was already expected and the award just confirmed what we already knew.”

    False. Greatness was not expected from Ramirez – his minor stats were underwhelming and he was considered an under acheiver with a ton of talent but questionable ethic and drive. He exceeded all expectations and adds fuel to the argument that “some players just need to be challenged” being used to justify grown men acting entitled and not earning their way like everyone else (Montero anyone?).

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      which montero? do you mean jesus montero? because he has had no issues to speak of. he sucked in spring training because he was pushing himself too hard, and he had a rough start to the year… as he has had every year. some guys just are slow starters and montero seems to be one. during his eye popping 2010, he also started slow and ended strong, just as he did in 2011, but this time in the majors.

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      • melbredsox says:

        People suggested all year last year that Montero was sick of languishing in AAA and not trying very hard anymore. Sure he raked when he finally got his cup of coffee but he was having a pretty ordinary year in the minors up until then…

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