I could run down some of the other candidates for the Fantasy Rookie of the Year Award, but there really is little point to it. I feel like we all know that the final two are going to be Evan Longoria and Geovanny Soto, so why bother wasting time. Let’s just discuss these two and come to an ultimate decision.
Evan Longoria – He started the season in the minor leagues, though he did make his major league debut on April 12. Still, a late season injury caused him to have just 448 AB yet he managed to slug 27 HR and drive in 85 RBI hitting primarily in the #3 or 4 hole in the young Rays line-up. Couple those numbers with a .272 average, 67 runs scored and 7 SB and there really is little not to like about the 23-year old (he actually turned 23 this past Sunday).
While that isn’t quite Ryan Braun-like production (.324, 34 HR, 97 RBI, 91 R, 15 SB in 451 AB), it really isn’t that far off and is more then fantasy owners could have hoped for heading into the season. He led all rookies in HR, was second in RBI and sixth in R. The fact that he helped lead the Rays to the AL East Title and into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, though unimportant to fantasy owners, certainly makes his resume look that much more impressive.
Geovanny Soto – It was no secret that Soto would open the season as the Cubs starting catcher, given his performance at the tail end of the ’07 season, but many still doubted how well he would produce. They pointed to his ’07 success as a fluke, more a product of his familiarity of Triple A as opposed to a player maturing and finally realizing his potential.
Well, after leading all rookies in RBI with 86 and finishing third in HR with 23, all while playing the most demanding position in the sport, he should certainly have proven all of those skeptics wrong. To further his case, he hit .285 with 66 R over 494 AB. Those numbers actually place him in a tie for most HR among catchers (with Brian McCann) and third in RBI (Bengie Molina had 95 and McCann had 87).
So, who comes home with the award? I have to give it to Soto, because of the advantage he gave his owners at his position. While Longoria’s numbers were incredibly impressive, he plays a position where you can find similar numbers from someone like Adrian Beltre (.266 with 25 HR, 77 RBI, 74 R and 8 SB in 556 AB). I would expect him to grow into one of the elite 3B in the game in upcoming seasons, but that clearly is not the case here.
As for Soto, he has quickly emerged as one of the elite offensive catchers in all of baseball. That certainly has to mean something, especially to fantasy owners who got him late in their drafts. He can safely be mentioned in the same breath as guys like McCann and Russell Martin. When someone can move into those ranks in their rookie season, they certainly deserve to be given this award.