There’s a chance the 2015 American League rookie of the year played in Target Field this past week. He’s a talented hitter who was called up during the season and has been vital to his team hanging around in the wild-card race.
Fans of Twins slugger Miguel Sano, don’t get too excited just yet.
Fans of Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, don’t feel ignored.
While Sano and Correa should be among the top three vote-getters, Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor — that guy who hit .471 in nine games against the Twins this season — is also making a case to win the award.
It’s the year of the rookie in major league baseball, and the AL race should come down to these three players.
Sano will have his work cut out for him. He entered the weekend having smashed 17 homers in 70 games, an excellent rate for any power hitter. Only Correa (19) had hit more homers among rookies. And Sano led rookies with a .955 on base-plus-slugging percentage, with Correa second. Sano strikes out a ton, but his power tool is some kind of tool.
Sano will likely be hurt by playing about 20 fewer games than both Correa and Lindor, who debuted within a week of each other in June. He’ll probably be hurt more by playing almost exclusively as a designated hitter while the others have played one of the most demanding positions on the field. And excelling two ways is generally noticed by voters.
Correa has had a fantastic rookie season, providing power from a premium position and fueling one of the surprise teams in baseball this season. By the way, Correa worked out at Target Field before the 2012 draft and dropped jaws before Houston made him the No. 1 overall pick. The Twins settled for Byron Buxton with the next pick.
Correa seemed to have the award locked up a couple of months ago, but Lindor has turned it on, batting .393 over his previous 45 games entering the weekend, with a 1.036 OPS. He’s also turned heads with strong defensive play that has settled Cleveland’s infield. Lindor has an ultimate zone rating of 7.2, tied for second in the AL among shortstops who have played at least 700 innings — and well ahead of Correa’s minus-3.9.
Entering the weekend, Lindor’s 3.9 WAR (wins above replacement) — a stat used to determine a player’s total contribution to his team — led Correa (3.5) and Sano (2.2).
Several rookies have made promising debuts in the American League this season. Athletics outfielder Billy Burns, Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario and Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna will receive some rookie of the year votes. But Sano, Correa and Lindor should finish as the top three vote-getters for rookie of the year, with the order to be determined.
Kendrys Morales is finishing up quite a bounceback season after batting .216 in stints with the Twins and Mariners last season. Last Sunday, Morales hit three home runs against the Tigers, the first time in 24 years a Royals player had hit three in a game. It was the first three-homer game of his career. He had 21 homers and 105 RBI going into the weekend; four more RBI will set a career best.
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In a shocking move, the Tigers sent struggling closer Bruce Rondon home because of his “effort level,” according to manager Brad Ausmus.
Rondon, who can throw a fastball 100 miles per hour, was struggling to hone his craft. During a series at Target Field this month, Rondon threw 28 consecutive fastballs over two games, causing the Tigers to ask him if his arm was sore.
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White Sox lefthander Chris Sale struck out Chris Young on Thursday for his 1,000th career strikeout. The big number to focus on for Sale is 267 — the number of strikeouts he has this season.
That’s only two away from tying Ed Walsh for the White Sox single-season record. A pretty big deal, considering that Walsh set the record in 1908.
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It’s time to add Indians first baseman Carlos Santana to the list of Twins tormentors. His three-run home run off Kyle Gibson on Thursday was his 18th homer against the Twins, his most against any team. He has hit 11 home runs at Target Field, tying Jose Bautista for the most by an opponent at the park.
Three observations …
• Royals closer Greg Holland has been shut down with a torn elbow ligament. It’s a blow to their bullpen, but the Royals have enough depth to make up for his absence.
• Loved all the Yogi Berra tributes this week. The man will be missed, but his Yogi-isms will last forever.
• The Cardinals are a threat to make a long postseason run, but there’s no way they do it without catcher Yadier Molina. His thumb injury has to be a major concern.
… and two predictions
• Joe Maddon should be a lock to win NL manager of the year. The Cubs were going to be better, but who expected a 90-win season?
• The Twins will go 4-3 during the final week of the regular season — and just miss out on a wild-card spot.