This year's race of the National League rookie of the year is good. Ronald Acuna Jr., the hot outfielder of the Atlanta Braves, and Juan Soto, the 19-year-old phenomenon of the Washington Nationals, are expected to dominate almost every ballot.
Acuna, who hit .293 with 26 homers and a .917 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), set fire to it after manager Brian Snitker got him into the lead spot after the All-Star Game in July. He scored 0328 with 1,042 OPS from the top, and his eight home races are a franchise record. Acuna joined Mike Trout as the only players to have scored at least 25 home runs and stolen 15 bases in the rookie season. Overall, his sensational campaign was 3.7 wins above what a substitute-level player would offer.
Soto led all NL rookies to qualify for the batting title in percent (.406), OPS (0.923) and walkrate (16 percent), although the season began with the Class A Hagerstown. He joined Mel Mel (1928) and Tony Conigliaro (1964) as the only teen who had a bad percentage of over 500, and Soto is the only one who ever has a base share of 400 or more. He too was 3.7 times better as a replacement.
Their totals were not only the same, Slash lines were almost identical, with Acuna showing more power and Soto having better disc discipline.
|Ronald Acuna, Braves||487||.293||.366||.552||.917||3.7|
|Juan Soto, relatives||494||.292||.406||.517||.923||3.7|
According to the latest MLB.com survey of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Acuna appears to be the winner with 34 out of 36 first places, probably due to two factors: defense and team success.
With FanGraphs, Acuna saved four runs with his glove, good enough to finish 14th in the NL outfield this season. In comparison, Soto cost the Nationals five runs because of his fielding. Acuna showed the NL East winner a glove and helped send his team into the playoffs, while Soto patrolled the left field for a disappointing non-playoff team.
It could still be argued that Soto helped his team more than Acuna. A metric known as winning odds added that Tom Tango's Profit Expectations charts were used to gauge how much a player contributed to his team's odds of winning. Soto (3.1 WPA) was significantly more valuable than Acuna (1.7) 2018. If we adjust this for leverage, which is a measure of how important a game situation is, the gap will be smaller, but it will keep Soto a decisive one Head Start.
If you wish, you can take advanced metrics, but last year's winners, Cody Bellinger in NL and Aaron Judge in AL, led all rookies in their respective leagues to context-neutral wins. The same goes for Corey Seager and Michael Fullmer in 2016, and Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa in 2015. These include pitcher Jose Fernandez in 2013 and the later NL rookie of the year, who led the league with context-neutral wins since 2012, with the exception a single, Jacob deGrom in 2014, who finished second behind Ken Giles this season.
Will this be enough to convince other voters to put their support behind Soto instead of Acuna? Probably not, but in such a race, the tie should go to the one who helped his team the most, whether that team was in a pennant or not.
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