Inside the Dodgers: This crop of rookie hitters is historically good

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Editor’s note: This is the Monday, July 23 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To get the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.The Dodgers have famously produced 18 rookies of the year, more than any other franchise. Jackie Robinson was the first Dodger to win the award in 1947. Cody Bellinger was the last, in 2017.In 2019, there is no individual rookie on the Dodgers’ roster who should be favored to win the Rookie of the Year award. Alex Verdugo is making the strongest case, but Pete Alonso and Fernando Tatis Jr. are very much in his way. Nonetheless, the pound-for-pound caliber of every ROY-eligible hitter on the Dodgers’ roster has seemed quite high. I wanted to use this newsletter to figure out just how good this crop is in comparison to past seasons.The answer, in short: they’re one of the Dodgers’ best crops ever. For purposes of comparison, I’m using 1947 as the cutoff year for the data hyperlinked below. That was the first season the Rookie of the Year award was distributed. Using 1947 as the cutoff also removes baseball’s pre-integration years, when rookies could not come from anywhere. Mike Piazza had an all-time great rookie season in 1993. Bellinger broke Frank Robinson’s record for the most home runs by a National League rookie in 2017. Naturally, 1993 and 2017 rank 1-2 on a list of the best seasons by Dodgers rookies, whether you measure hitting prowess by either park-adjusted and era-adjusted metric: weighted runs created plus (WRC+) or weighted on-base average (wOBA).As an aside, it’s a little too easy to forget how much promise Austin Barnes showed as a hitter in 2017. His WRC+ was actually higher than Bellinger’s. Andrew Toles and Kyle Farmer made strong contributions as rookies that year, too.Behind the 2017 and 1993 seasons sits 2007, which ranked higher than I expected. Only one Dodger garnered Rookie of the Year award votes that year: James Loney, who batted a stout .331 and slugged .538 in 375 plate appearances. Tony Abreu and Andy LaRoche showed mild promise as well. Like 2019, 2007 was a group effort. It was headlined by one very good season by a rookie with a gift for making contact and hitting for a high average. Ultimately, Loney’s calling card was his glove. His power output never quite reached its projected ceiling. One wonders today if the same will prove true for Verdugo.In 2013, Dodgers rookies collectively hit for a 114 WRC+, which is presently tied with the 2019 group. The standouts that year were Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke. But Puig and Van Slyke were the only hitters who finished that season with a WRC+ greater than 100. This season, Verdugo (120), Will Smith (148), Edwin Rios (140) and Matt Beaty (119) are all above average. It’s truly an ensemble performance.We’ve seen that before – quite recently, in fact. The Dodgers’ heralded rookie class of 2006 included Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin. By counting stats (home runs, RBIs, etc.), that crop was more prolific than this year’s. Looking at rate stats, the 2019 group is better in terms of batting average (.288 to .279), slugging percentage (.490 to .452) and only a shade worse in on-base percentage (.335 to .345).center_img What about 2015? That group featured Joc Pederson, Alex Guerrero, and a dominant September from Corey Seager. Even they combined for a lower average, OBP and slugging percentage than the 2019 group. Same goes for 2016 (featuring Trayce Thompson, Toles and Seager, who won the Rookie of the Year award). Honorable mention goes to the 1970 Dodger rookie class of Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner and the surprising Billy Grabarkewitz. Still, the 2019 group has hit better as a whole.In short: the Dodgers are measurably better than any team in baseball history at identifying and developing young players. Yet only three Dodger seasons post-integration have yielded a better crop of rookie hitters than this one. Enjoy it while they’re here.-J.P.Thank you for reading the Monday, July 23 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To get the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Read moreDeadline buyers – The quantity of the Dodgers’ July trades since 1988 have vastly outpaced the quality of their returns.Can’t stop a man from trying – Andrew Friedman is trying to pry a relief pitcher out of a stubborn sellers’ market.Down on the farm – Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser broke down the Dodgers’ farm system one prospect at a time.Jeter Downs! Josiah Gray! – BA also updated its midseason Top 30 ranking of the Dodgers’ system.Deluxe packaging – Gavin Lux was chosen PCL Player of the Week.But his birth certificate – Hawaiian-born pitcher Charlie Hough shares an interesting connection with the Dodgers’ most recent opponent.Belli, belli good – Cody Bellinger has been exactly as valuable to the Dodgers as his WAR says he is.Can’t stop, won’t stop – Rich Hill, 39, wants to keep pitching, and keep pitching in Los Angeles, beyond this season. last_img

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