On a National Level, the National League Rookie of the Year is a two-way race. The two contenders that are being discussed are Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. Both guys are very deserving and have had outstanding years, but the Cardinals have a sleeper candidate that should be getting more attention, and his name is Harrison Bader.
Bader has been with the Cards since April 3 of this season. However, he didn’t make his way into the starting lineup on a regular basis until the end of July, thanks to injuries and trades. Since then, he’s been a spark plug for the Redbirds and has possibly been the best rookie in the league.
Harrison Bader’s defense has been as good as any centerfielder’s in baseball. Bader’s speed and instincts allow him to make four and five-star catches on a regular basis. He leads all Major League outfielders in DRS with 22 in just 704.2 innings.
According to Statcast he also leads the league in outs above average with 19 and 5-star catches, or catches where a player has less than a 25 percent chance to make a play, with seven. He also has a 93 percent catch percentage despite his 88 percent expected catch percentage.
Acuna Jr has a respectable 8 DRS and Soto has a -3, both are also outfielders. Neither of them comes close to Bader in any of the Statcast categories either. Harrison isn’t just the best fielding rookie in the league, but he could conceivably win a Gold Glove this season.
Offensively is where Acuna and Soto have an edge on Bader. However, he’s far from an easy out at the plate. He’s hit .276 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI over 301 at bats.
Bader is also well known for his speed. He leads the three players in stolen bases with 12 and triples with two. He doesn’t have the power that the other guys have, but his defense is more than enough to make up for it.
Other Advanced Stats
A really attractive statistic in baseball today is WAR. According to Baseball Reference Harrison Bader leads Soto and is tied with Acuna with a WAR of 4.0. However, he has sole possession of the WAR lead according to Fangraphs, which has him ahead of Soto’s 3.1 and Acuna’s 3.2, at 3.3.
Also according to Fangraphs, Bader’s Def blows the other two guys’ out of the water. Both Soto and Acuna have Def rankings in the negatives, while Bader’s is 10.0.
Fangraphs also give the BsR edge to Bader. BsR stands for base running and is a measure of a players wins above average based on their ability on the base paths. Bader’s BsR is 6.2, while Acuna’s is 2.3 and Soto’s sits at 1.4.
Harrison also has the advantage over Soto in hard-hit percentage, though Acuna’s is much higher than both players’. Bader’s is at 38.6 percent while Soto’s is 35.1.
Rookie of the Year
At this point, with a month left in the season, it’s safe to say Soto and Acuna are frontrunners for the RoY award in the National League. They’ve had more attention all year and both players are superior to Bader offensively, and generally speaking, these awards go to the best offensive players.
However, Harrison Bader should still receive his fair share of votes. He has an outside chance at the award, thanks to his tremendous defense and value to the Cardinals team and what they accomplished in the second half of the season.
If Soto and Acuna come up short in September, Bader might be able to sneak in and win. Even if they don’t, though, and Harrison continues this level of play, he needs to at least be given credit for his performance with a decent percentage of votes.
Featured Image by Jeff Curry — USA Today Sports
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