The American League Rookie of the Year, to be announced Monday, will be a shortstop, as it should, and will probably be Carlos Correa, though it shouldn’t.
It’s one of the two awards to be handed out this week that will be contentious, the NL Cy Young being the other.
Correa has already won the Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year award, and by more than a 3-1 margin, which shows it was a vote based more on headlines and less on what happened between the baselines.
Correa is 21, the first pick for the Astros of the 2012 draft, and he had an impressive first season. Lindor, if arguably and less noticed, had a better one.
It’s close, but Lindor hit 34 points higher (.313-.279), stole bases more efficiently (12-14 against 14-18) and fielded more effectively (10 errors to Correa’s 13, 1.7 defensive WAR to Correa’s 0.6).
The defensive metrics may not be perfect, but we do know that if Correa was a better fielder, the Astros might not have blown a four-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 4 in the ALDS (and if Correa wasn’t as good a hitter, the Astros might not have had a four-run lead to blow).
The third finalist, Miguel Sano, will hit a lot of home runs the next few years but the Twins have more of an idea where he’ll bat in the lineup than play in the field. He’ll finish third, as he should.
Lindor did all that despite hitting just .223 in his first 103 at-bats. He batted .345 in the second half of the season, including .370 in September when he walked nine times against 19 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances after walking nine times against 30 strikeouts in his 175 plate appearances.
Lindor deserves no extra credit for a strong finish, but neither should Correa win the award because he looked as if he should in August.
Correa had more power than Lindor — 22 homers to 12 and a .512 slugging percentage to .482 — and that shouldn’t be ignored. But the latter was no Ozzie Guillen, either, in the longball department.
The extra power is a big part of the reason Correa is likely to have a better career, but the Rookie of the Year isn’t a projection but a reflection. It isn’t a vote on who’d you prefer to have in 2016, but one of who played better in 2015.
Correa is the more celebrated of the two, and he should be, his skills often compared to Alex Rodriguez. The difference between those two might be that Correa was selected by high school classmates to be valedictorian; A-Rod was probably selected by classmates as Most Likely to Appear on Montel 10 years hence.
Correa reportedly graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA, so he’s probably smart enough to know a vote for Lindor is not a vote against Correa.
Whoever wins, it’s a remarkable day for the island of Puerto Rico, where both shortstops are from (Lindor from Caguas, Correa from Ponce; they were once traded for each other in the winter league there). The island of approximately 3.6 million people has produced the two best AL rookies, both shortstops, of 2015.