Race to Rookie of the Year Decided?

(GAME DATE – Sep. 23, 2019) — It is safe to say this year’s Rookie of the Year races for both leagues will focus once again on premier talent at the plate. And, not necessarily even young talent.

California’s powerful Hiroki Omiya is the front runner for the Metro League ROTY after clobbering 45 home runs in his debut season. The 33-year-old rookie was an international free agent signing from Japan last November, and inked a 7-year, $161 million deal with the Tidals on the strength of extremely positive scouting reports.

And he has not disappointed. Though California missed the cut for the post-season this year, they have a strong power bat at first base to build around, a more than adequate replacement for trading away Jim Lahey to Nevada last June.

Omiya hasn’t quite matched Lahey in homers (the veteran has 62 for the Speeders so far this year, with a week left to play), he has come up big compared to other rookies in the Metro League, none of whom can hold a candle to his power.

Calgary’s Omar Little, a much younger (he’s 22) right fielder, has certainly put up respectable numbers at the plate as well, leading ML rookies in batting with a .328 average and 22 homers of his own, Omiya has the younger Little edged in WAR (5.7 to 3.7), slugging, OBP, ISO and extra base hits.

Omiya’s big drawback is that he is 10 years older than Omar Little, and so may spend less time as an elite power hitter in the Bull League. Little’s upper ceiling may be lower than Omiya’s but he can anticipate a much longer career in this league, and is still developing, and so may get better with age.

SIEW SEWS UP LL ROTY RACE

In the Lake League, it is another case similar to the Omiya saga. Taiwanese phenom Lan-quing Siew, a second baseman for the Minneapolis Ravens, is head and shoulder above the rest of the rookies in that league. He has hit well for contact, batting .320, and also notched 30 home runs and 10 steals in his debut year.

Another 33-year-old international free agent, Siew made the All-Star team, was named LL Rookie of the Month 3 times (so far), Batter of the Month twice, and Player of the Week twice. He ran a 4-game home run streak back in May, which came in the middle of a 7-game RBI streak.

And while he hasn’t blasted away as many homers as Omiya, Siew has produced a 7.3 WAR for far less money, signing his 7-year deal for “only” $106 million. And, Siew will be going to the playoffs, after the Ravens clinched first place, unlike Omiya.

Honorable mentions for the LL rookie award go to Ohio’s speedy shortstop Ricky Marte, who has stolen 43 bases to lead LL rookies (a total that puts him 6th in the league overall), and the bunt happy 2017 Heifer League (AA-level) Platinum Stick winner has also picked up 7 sac hits to take the top spot in that category.

The other mention goes to Detroit slugger Payton Bint, former Western Mustangs first baseman, drafted 6th overall in 2018. Bint has steadily clobbered his way through the minors, finally making his Bull League debut on May 18th against Milwaukee. Though it would be a few days before he tagged his first long ball, he has accumulated a respectable 34 so far this season leading the Lake League rookies. His isolated power also tops the leader board at .251, nearly ten points ahead of Siew.  Bint is only a small margin behind Siew on most of the other leader boards, including hitting (.297), and RBI (87 compared to 100).

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