Update: For a more recent breakdown of A.L. Rookie of the Year Candidates, you can read my August 17th post titled 2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Position Players Still in Contention
Trying to narrow down my list of 2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year candidates, I sat down and typed up a chart for all of the hitting stats of each Rookie of the Year winner since 1990. Here's what I came up with, with the overall average stat line at the bottom.
So, if we're going to come up with a reasonable list of (position player) R.O.Y. candidates, we really should only consider the players that have 2009 projections along the lines of that average stat line at the bottom. After reviewing Bill James' projections for a dozen or so players, and then adjusting those stats that I felt were a bit radical, I've come up with the following list of hitters that, under ideal circumstances could match or exceed the R.O.Y. average stat line.
As previously stated, these are ideal stat lines (meaning that these are ideally what each player is capable of accomplishing at their age based off of past performance and historical comparable players) under ideal circumstances (meaning they are given a starting position on their team early, and play often without injury, freak accidents, poor managerial utilization, etc.). The above stats are simply basic projections, and are subject to wide variation and speculation, but I'm comfortable with them and don't feel that any of them are exceedingly radical to any degree.
Anyways, based off of those projections, I think Snider and Brignac can be axed early on. Nothing against them, they just don't seem to be on the same level as the other players. Either one of them could have incredible years, but I don't think it's very likely since Brignac isn't really in consideration for a starting position, and Snider will face a huge learning curve. Next up on the chopping block is probably Chris Carter. I'd love to see what he's capable of doing in a full season, but I don't think Boston is going to give him the chance to play everyday, and his stats will suffer as a consequence. That's leaves us with just Wieters, LaPorta, Teagarden, and Cunningham, all of which may or may not start at some point for their respective teams in 2009. LaPorta will most likely have to prove himself at AAA ball before the Indians take a chance on him, and Cunningham will have to compete with various outfielders for a spot on the A's roster. I think that Teagarden has the best chance at snagging a starting position out of Spring Training, but the Orioles have also made it clear that Wieters is their catcher of the future and will probably hand over the starting job as early as May.
So, it looks like it comes down to Wieters (no surprise there) or Teagarden, and which one will see more playing time. Most fans and astute minor league aficianados would argue that Teagarden is a risky pick due to his high strikeout rates, and that Wieters is too good to fail. While I agree with those assessments, Teagarden will be surrounded by a very potent offense and will have little pressure on him to perform, while Wieters will be expected to carry an entire team the moment he steps on the field. It's a tough call to make, and I feel like both of them could very easily be in contention for Rookie of the Year come September (of course we'll have to consider rookie pitchers as well, but we'll get to that later this week). I'm going to wait it out a few more months and see who nails down their team's starting position before I make my pick, but I wish them both the best of luck and can't wait to see what they do when their opportunity comes.