When discussing who should be the leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year, Houston Astros outfielder George Springer should be the only name that comes to mind. Currently at the All-Star break, Springer has 19 home runs and 50 RBIs. If he continues the season at this pace, he will hit over 30 home runs and around 90 or more RBIs. That alone is good enough to hand him the award regardless of what two other “rookies” are doing this year.
There is a problem looming when it comes to the qualifications for the Rookie of the Year in MLB. Every year there are bigger contracts given out to more players coming over from other leagues in other countries from around the world. Certain players from this type of situation should not be eligible for Rookie of the Year because it devalues what it means to be a rookie. In my opinion, any position player who does not have at least 150 plate appearances and any pitcher without a minimum of either 30 innings pitched or 30 appearances in games during their the minor league careers should not be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.
Players like Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in 2012, or more recently, this year, New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and Chicago White Sox first baseman/DH Jose Abreu have all come over from other countries and spent little to no time in the minor league system of their clubs. This should eliminate them from ROY status. They are not rookies in the sense that they have already established themselves as professional-caliber players. Once they are brought over to the United States after signing a multiyear contract worth millions of dollars, they are thrown into the starting lineup of a major league level team because they don’t need time to fine tune their game to be properly prepared.
Letting players who have come over from other countries and are already prepared for MLB devalues the ROY award, because they are not actual rookies to a professional or equal level of baseball. It devalues what other players, who have spent years in the minor leagues, have accomplished by establishing themselves as major-league ready. The biggest obstacle for a player to be successful in the major leagues is getting to the major leagues. Many careers of projected great players are over before they even begin due to injury or just fizzling out in the minors.
The players who do make it to the majors after proving themselves over and over again in the minor league system should be the ones rewarded with eligibility for the ROY. There should be a set standard on how to judge if a player is considered for rookie status once he reaches the major league level. The easiest way to clarify what constitutes a player as a rookie should be determined by how much time he has spent in the minors. This is where the stipulations come into play.
The minimums stated earlier, 150 plate appearances for a hitter and 30 innings pitched or 30 games appeared-in, are very reasonable when it comes to defining a player as a rookie. This amount of time served in the minors is basically one-third of a season. It is not too demanding of a feat to accomplish this amount of playing time for determining the minimum amount a player has to have in the minor leagues before becoming a “rookie” at the major league level. This would allow you to include anyone who was drafted or brought over from another country and signed as a free agent without making them stay in the minors longer than necessary while still being eligible for the ROY.