|Above you see a collage of every serious candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. (Getty Images)|
The choice for AL Rookie of the Year can best be described as "agonizingly obvious." Nonetheless, let's run down not only the haloed favorite but also those others who would be in serious contention in a world in which the haloed favorite did not exist or chose to do something else with his time, like vanquishing evil or being there for those with nowhere left to turn.
Again, please note that these are predictions on how the voting would play out if the season ended today and not declarations of who deserves what (although there's some overlap, of course) ...
It is rare that an award fray allows for no debate whatsoever. However, the AL Rookie-of-the-Year race for 2012 is one of those rare exceptions. You can, if you strain logic, argue that Mike Trout isn't the AL MVP. You cannot, however, argue with any semblance of functional sanity that he isn't AL Rookie of the Year.
Trout could retire from baseball at this very moment (that would suck) and still be a unanimous choice. Such is his Mr. Trout's rookie might. At this writing, Trout leads the AL in batting and OPS+ and leads the majors in steals (37 of them against just three caught). The question isn't whether he's having the greatest rookie season of 2012. The question is whether he's having the greatest rookie season in the entire sprawl of baseball history.
ALSO IN THE MIX
No one. Given the depth and breadth of Trout's accomplishments, you are hereby forbidden to refer to anyone else as being "in the mix." You may, if you insist, opt not to forget about a few names here and there. And with that in mind …
DON'T FORGET ABOUT
2.Yoenis Cespedes, A's
In a world without Mike Trout, Cespedes would be a fine RotY candidate. He's hitting a robust .302/.363/.502 and averaging an extra-base hit roughly every 10 ABs. Cespedes also runs the bases well and is a plus defender when not in center. Cespedes boast an OPS of better than 1.000 in the second half and has obviously been critical to Oakland's surprise run at contention.
Superficially, the numbers might not look terribly impressive, but the contexts are important. Safeco is an outrageously tough environment for right-handed hitters, but Montero has managed an overall batting line of .266/.309/.404, which is above-average on a park-adjusted basis and also solid by the standards of primary catchers. Also worth noting: Montero this season is hitting a nifty .323/.357/.480 on the road.
4. Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
Middlebrooks is out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist, so obviously he's going to slide down this list in the coming weeks. For now, though, he merits a lofty spot in the "players who are not Mike Trout" sub-sub-sub-division. Middlebrooks's rookie campaign will end with a slash line of .288/.325/.509 and 15 homers in 267 at-bats.
In 121.1 innings this season, Diamond has a sub-3.00 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 3.78. He also boasts the lowest walk rate of any AL qualifier. Ding him a bit for a high rate of unearned runs (yes, pitchers bear some responsibility for unearned runs), but overall it's been an impressive season for the 25-year-old lefty.
6. Jose Quintana, White Sox
It's not often you see a player who's on his third organization merit RotY mention, but such is the case with Quintana. Across 14 starts and two relief outings this season, Quintana boasts a 2.77 ERA. No, the peripherals don't quite justify that ERA, but at a certain level results are results. He's gone at least 7.0 frames in six of his 14 starts.
While some of the shine has come off Ross's season in the second half, the overall body of work remains impressive: 54.2 IP, 1.81 ERA. Perhaps most impressive is that, despite pitching the majority of his innings in Arlington, he's given up just three homers on the season. Ross's splits also suggest he's more than just a lefty specialist.