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NL Rookie of the Year Watch: Here comes Harper

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer
Frazier and Miley have company, in the form of 19-year-old phenom Harper. (Getty Images)

Let us continue our biweekly look at the races for individual awards. It's time for the National League Rookie of the Year, which is being hotly contested.

The past few times we've gone through this, it was a two-horse race. Well, now there's a third man legitimately in the mix, joining Wade Miley and Todd Frazier.

Before we dive in, a reminder: These are not necessarily my picks. This is a list based upon historical voting standards. We can't do more than speculate because voters aren't allowed to discuss their votes until the awards are handed out in November.

Frontrunner

Wade Miley, Diamondbacks: Getting to 15 wins as a rookie will garner a lot of support with veteran voters. Miley is 15-9 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 170 innings pitched. He's only walked 33 hitters. His edge over Frazier and Harper is tenuous, though, so Miley probably needs to get to 17 or even 18 wins to nail this thing down.

Stock Rising

Bryce Harper, Nationals: And here he comes again. Since Aug. 28, Harper is hitting .389/.468/.815 with six homers, 12 RBI and 15 runs. Overall, he is hitting .265/.337/.458 with 18 homers, 49 RBI and 82 runs. He also has 21 doubles, seven triples and 13 stolen bases and plays great defense in two different spots. Something to watch? The record for home runs by a player under 20 years old is 24. If Harper sets that record, which is certainly doable, expect a noticable bump in his chance to win this award. In fact, that would probably cement it.

Norichika Aoki, Brewers: Yes, there is a big three here of Miley, Harper and Frazier, but Aoki has firmly established himself as No. 4 in the pecking order and has a shot to move up, should he continue to play like he has the past several weeks. Since Aug. 19, he is hitting .313/.375/.530 with 10 doubles, 12 RBI and 16 runs. He's walked seven times against only three strikeouts in that time, spanning 96 plate appearances, too. Overall, Aoki is hitting .285/.352/.426 with 30 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 41 runs, 66 RBI and 24 steals. Plus, the Brewers have evened their record at .500 and are lurking for a potential late playoff surge.

Status Quo

Yonder Alonso, Padres: Yes, Petco Park zaps power, but Alonso's rate-stat splits are very similar, in fact, his OPS on the road is lower than his home OPS. Simply: He just hasn't shown enough power to keep up with the likes of Harper and Frazier.

Zack Cozart, Reds: Still a good rookie season, still behind a teammate in terms of performance.

Mike Fiers, Brewers: Ditto what I said about Cozart.

Wilin Rosario, Rockies: He leads all NL rookies in home runs, but his on-base percentage is below .300 and he plays for a bad team. He might get some votes, but he's badly overshadowed by at least five guys here.

Stock Falling

Todd Frazier, Reds: A few weeks ago, it looked like Frazier would cruise to winning this award, and he still might. The problem is that he's struggled in September thus far and is losing playing time with both Joey Votto and Scott Rolen back from injury. If Miley falters and this comes down to a position player, the battle between Harper and Frazier might come down to old school vs. new school stats, considering both players are going to be on playoff teams. On extra-base hits, they're very similar. Frazier has a better batting average and a decent amount more RBI. Harper has a higher WAR (on both baseball-reference.com and Fangraphs.com), many more runs scored, is a better baserunner and rates out much higher on nearly all defensive metrics.

If I had to guess -- again, all we can do is speculate since voters aren't allowed to discuss their votes -- Harper and Frazier and are locked in a dead heat and closely trail Miley while Aoki also has a shot.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

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