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Making the cases for 2018 NL Rookie of the Year

Who has done the best job in his first season in the majors?

MLB: Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 season is over, and that means the debates for some of Major League Baseball’s prestigious regular-season awards — the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year, the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger, and the Manager of the Year — are happening right now.

In this series, we are going to make cases for those players and managers who are in the running for these awards to come away with the hardware in their respective leagues. We will continue our series by examining the candidates for the National League Rookie of the Year.

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves — A big part to the Braves’ resurgence as a top team in the NL this season, Acuna Jr. has made a big case as to being the top rookie in the NL. In only 487 plate appearances across 111 games, the 20-year-old outfielder either led or tied for first among all NL rookies in homers (26), slugging percentage (.552) and WAR (3.7). He also posted a .293 batting average, a .917 OPS and 64 RBI, and joined Mike Trout as the only rookies in MLB history to hit 25 home runs and steal 15 bases. Acuna also did well in the field, as he led all MLB rookies in defensive runs saved at plus-4, according to Fangraphs.com. Acura will try to become the eighth Braves player to win Rookie of the Year honors and the first one since reliever Craig Kimbrel won in 2011.
  2. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals — Despite starting the season in Single-A Hagerstown, Soto made a strong statement to be named the best rookie in the NL. The 19-year-old phenom outfielder led all NL rookies qualifying in on-base percentage (.406), OPS (.923) and WAR (3.7). He also belted 22 homers with 70 RBI while posting a .292 average and a .923 OPS. Though Soto did not stand out in the field as well as Acuna did, Soto did lead MLB rookies in win probability added (3.46) and context neutral wins (3.06), according to Fangraphs.com. Soto will try to join Carl Morton (1970), Andre Dawson (1977) and Bryce Harper (2012) as the only Nationals/Expos players to win the Rookie of the Year.
  3. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers — The Dodgers saw another rookie step up for them, this time it was Buehler. The 24-year-old right-hander posted an 8-5 record with a 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 137 13 innings pitched 24 appearances, including 23 starts. He also posted a 3.3 WAR, which led all MLB rookie pitchers. Bueller will try to become the third consecutive Dodger to be selected rookie of the year after Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and the 18th Dodger overall.