At Twins Daily, we have been handing out our postseason awards for various categories. On Tuesday Seth wrote about our choice for Most Improved Twins Player, and today we turn our attention to an impressive rookie class. Make sure to check in on Thursday and Friday for Best Pitcher and MVP.
Across baseball, 2015 was The Year of the Rookie. A majority of the game's highest rated prospects debuted this season, and in most cases they made that transition with notable success.
The Twins were a microcosm of this trend, graduating several of the best young players in their system and receiving numerous highly impactful rookie performances.
But while there were a few different names deserving of consideration, the choice here was pretty easy.
1. Miguel Sano: 24 points
2. Eddie Rosario: 13.5 points
3. Tyler Duffey: 6 points
4. Trevor May: 4.5 points
There were eight voters and points were awarded on a three-point scale, meaning that Sano received first-place votes from every participant (Seth Stohs, Cody Christie, Jeremy Nygaard, Steve Lein, Eric Pleiss, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman and myself).
I mean, what choice did we really have? Sano's season was not only head-and-shoulders above the rest of this year's class, it was also one of the best rookie campaigns in franchise history. Playing in 80 games following his early-July promotion from Double-A, Sano hit .269/.385/.530 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI. He became an intimidating force at the cleanup spot and completely changed the complexion of the Twins lineup during the second half of the season.
Among Twins players to make 300 or more plate appearances as a rookie, Sano's .916 OPS ties him with Tony Oliva (1964) for best all-time, beating Bobby Kielty (.890 in 2002) and Justin Morneau (.875 in 2004). He has the most home runs, walks and RBI for any Twin through 80 games.
In his first taste of the majors, Sano struck out at an exorbitant rate of 35.5 percent; the leader among qualified MLB hitters was Baltimore's Chris Davis at 31 percent. However, the young Dominican slugger made up for the whiffs by drawing tons of walks and batting .468 with a .925 slugging percentage in at-bats where he didn't strike out. The huge numbers on balls in play were driven by an AL-leading hard-hit percentage of 43.2 percent. Only Miami's Giancarlo Stanton had a higher rate, at 49.7 percent.
Sano's ability to absolute smash the baseball every time he made contact was certainly impressive, but what might have been most encouraging was the consistent quality of his at-bats as a 22-year-old getting his initial exposure to the big leagues. He ran the count full in 28 percent of his plate appearances and batted .240/.581/.700 when he did so.
That mature and advanced plate approach set Sano apart from the No. 2 finisher on this list, Eddie Rosario, whose advantages over Sano included providing substantial defensive value where Sano provided none, and playing in about three-quarters of the team's games where Sano played only half.
Rosario was a solid hitter in his own right, piling up 46 extra-base hits in 474 plate appearances, including a league-leading 15 triples. His plate discipline issues proved problematic, leading to an ugly 118-to-15 K/BB ratio and .289 on-base percentage, and ultimately his .748 OPS was only a shade above the MLB average for a left fielder (.736).