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Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Rookie of the Year

May the court come to order: Here we will seek to determine the rightful Twins 2021 top rookie. Many worthy contenders will be considered but only one shall be crowned.

Let us begin the proceedings.

JUDGE: It is my understanding that six different parties would like to have their petitions heard before us. Is that correct? 


JUDGE [fidgeting with reading glasses]: Okay, first name I have here is ... Ryan Jeffers, catcher.


JEFFERS REP: Ahem. Your Honor. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Good evening. My client Ryan Jeffers might have won this award last year, but dang it folks he deserves it once again. He still technically qualified as a rookie and he was a very reliable one, starting nearly half the team's games at catcher and putting up some very strong defensive metrics! Jeffers was also an offensive force, launching 13 home runs ...

OPPOSING COUNCIL: Objection, Your Honor! [Glances at data sheet] Jeffers batted .199 with a .270 on-base percentage, negating much of the value from his power. 

JEFFERS REP: Ah, be that as it may ...

OPPOSING COUNCIL [heightening intensity]: Furthermore, Your Honor, Jeffers struck out at the highest rate on the team and his OPS+ of 83 shows he was in fact substantially below-average as an offensive producer. 

JUDGE [banging gavel]: I've heard enough! Thank you Mr. Jeffers, but you've had your day in this spotlight, you may move along. Who's next?


LARNACH REP: Production speaks for itself folks. And my client, Trevor Larnach, is a producer, despite his lack of experience. He came up far earlier than expected and proved he's a major-league player. In his first 50 games with the Twins, Mr. Larnach batted .261 with a .361 on-base percentage and .445 slugging. By this time his advanced and mature approach at the plate was earning him regular appearances at the No. 3 spot in the batting order. A remarkable rookie effort without question, and as such, I rest my case.

JUDGE [peering skeptically]: Mm-hm. And as for the period following this 50-game sample?

LARNACH REP: Come again, Your Honor?

JUDGE: Your case seemed to conspicuously exclude any results beyond July the 7th, when your client hit his last home run. I'm just wondering what happened afterward.

LARNACH REP: ... Afterward? Well [chuckles nervously]

OPPOSING COUNCIL: If I may, Your Honor, I have the numbers here. [Starts reading] Following the date of July 7th: 29 games, a .156 batting average and .188 slugging percentage, with 47 strikeouts and 11 walks. This stretch lowered Mr. Larnach's overall OPS to a decidedly sub par .672, prompting a demotion to Triple-A in mid-August. 

JUDGE [considers briefly]: Mmm, yes. A promising showing in some regards but not the stuff Rookies of the Year are made of. Thank you, Mr. Larnach, you may depart. [Glances at agenda] It sounds as if a Mr. Ryan would like to be heard?


JUDGE [gazes around room, looks back at list]: A Mister ... Joe Ryan?


JUDGE [taps finger impatiently]: Well, if Mr. Ryan's case is not ready ...


RYAN REP: Your Honor! Fine people of the jury! How are you all doing. Listen, I know I'm a little late, and that's true of my client as well. Let's get down to brass tacks. Was Joe Ryan a member of the Twins organization in March? No he wasn't. Was he here in June? He was not folks! Was Mr. Ryan in the big leagues in August, even? [Locks eyes with random elderly woman in jury] Was he Doris? Was he??


RYAN REP: He wasn't! My client did not receive an opportunity in the majors until the month of September! But that's only because he was busy representing our wonderful country in the world's greatest international competition, the Olympics. And you know what? He kicked some ass. For America! Do you love America or don't you, Doris??


RYAN REP: Then all he did was come back, acclimate instantly to a new organization, debut with amazing poise, flirt with a perfect game in his second MLB start, strike out seven straight men in his fourth, and altogether rack up six times as many walks as strikeouts. That fastball is something, ain't it!


JUDGE [bangs gavel]: Order, ORDER! You said your client made how many major-league starts this year?

RYAN REP: I didn't, Your Honor, but thanks for inquiring!

OPPOSING COUNCIL: Five starts, Your Honor. Twenty-six total innings. 

JUDGE: Too little volume for legitimate consideration I'm afraid, Mr. Ryan. But please, try again next year. Who do we have next?


GORDON REP: What is a Rookie of the Year, really? Is it the player who has the best stats? The guy with the gaudy heralded status who brings all the buzz? Is this award made for the silver spoon prospect who's been on cruise control through the minors and into majors? Or are we trying to recognize the underdog who overcame the odds and silenced the doubters? The kid who went through hell and was written off, only to re-emerge as a legitimate factor in the team's plans. My client, Nick Gordon, did everything that was asked of him, even learning entirely new positions on the fly. He sat silently while less deserving players got opportunities. He fought and clawed his way to at-bats and increasingly made the most of them, posting a .752 OPS in September while earning the team's confidence at shortstop. He brought speed and athleticism to a team that was sorely lacking in both, stealing 10 bases on 11 tries. If that's not a Rookie of the Year, well I don't know what is.

JUDGE [leans back in chair pensively]: You make a good argument, and recent trends work in your favor. The young man certainly looked more impressive as time passed. However, it is this court's duty to look at the full body of evidence and so we cannot ignore that a .647 overall OPS is rather lackluster. And while Mr. Gordon's versatility is noted, it doesn't seem clear to me that he truly excelled at any of these positions. I'm afraid that this worthy candidate cannot be our choice. Thus it comes down to the final two. 


KIRILLOFF REP: May I ask you a question, Your Honor?

JUDGE [impatiently]: You may not. On with it, please.

KIRILLOFF REP: Oh. Fine then. Well if I WERE to ask you a question I'd inquire about how well you could bang your little gavel there with a torn tendon in your wrist, and I bet the answer would be, not very well! My client, Alex Kirilloff, carried enormous expectations as the team's No. 1 prospect and he was sure making good on them before this whole wrist thing came along and threw a wrench. Prior to that he was launching missiles all over the field and lighting up the Statcast charts. Mr. Kirilloff slugged .500 in his first 18 MLB games and that's WITH an 0-for-14 start to his career! He looked good in left, and like an absolute natural at first base. Even while hampered by the wrist injury, he posted an OPS+ of 99 overall, meaning he was basically a league-average MLB hitter at age 23 despite no real experience at Triple-A. Pretty good, right?

JUDGE: Pretty good indeed. There's a lot to like here. I just wonder about the lack of total volume combined with numbers that can only be described as ordinary. Fifty-nine games and an average OPS? What's special about this season? I'd like to hear the final case.


OBER REP: Good day Your Honor. And to all of you in the jury as well. What we have here is really an open-and-shut case. While many of the previous candidates we've heard from showed positive signs and offered heartwarming stories this year, could any of their seasons really be described as 'good'? Let's be honest with ourselves. The data is clear on this matter.


OBER REP: As we can see, according to the website FanGraphs.com, my client Bailey Ober was worth one full win above a replacement player this year, a mark that no other rookie came close to matching. After stepping into a needy rotation in early June, he took the ball every fifth day, becoming a stable and steadfast presence in a unit that otherwise lacked for one entirely. Mr. Ober's 5.05 K/BB ratio was one of the best in major-league history for a first-year starter. All this from a former 12th-round pick who wasn't on the prospect radar prior to this season. Whether you want to talk about situational impact, inspirational narrative, long-term implications, or simply pure performance, my client is the obvious choice for best Twins rookie. Thank you.

JUDGE [deliberates briefly]: I don't think we're even going to need to send this one to the jury. I agree with the ultimately conclusion that Mr. Ober is a clear choice for this award. Congratulations sir on this well deserved honor. This court is now adjourned ... We'll see you all tomorrow when we convene to settle upon a Most Improved Twin of 2021.

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This is the logical choice.  Not much of a contest, in my view.  The team needed a pitcher to step up and Ober did just that.  One of the few positive developments on the pitching front this season.

I hope he continues to build on this season and continues to develop.

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Fantastic writing, Nick, loved it. 

As for the choice, slam dunk.  Kirilloff ias going to be great if he can get past his wrist problems.  But Ober flat out pitched so much better than anyone could have expected.  My only question is I would think he was better than 1 win above replacement...but I don’t really understand that.

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To save glunn (or any other lawyer at this site) the embarrassment of being "that guy", may I point out that a "council" is a group of people, whereas "counsel" is the word I think you intended to mean a lawyer or similar representative who gives advice?

You're so very, very welcome. :)

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1 hour ago, ashbury said:

To save glunn (or any other lawyer at this site) the embarrassment of being "that guy", may I point out that a "council" is a group of people, whereas "counsel" is the word I think you intended to mean a lawyer or similar representative who gives advice?

You're so very, very welcome. :)

It was a, uh, council of counsels. Yea, let’s go with that 

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I would have loved to have a real debate between a healthy Kirilloff and Ober for RoY. shame about that wrist injury and I really hope it doesn't chase him throughout his career, because he can really hit. but Ober is the easy choice and looks like he's got a nice future starting games for the twins.

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14 hours ago, ashbury said:

To save glunn (or any other lawyer at this site) the embarrassment of being "that guy", may I point out that a "council" is a group of people, whereas "counsel" is the word I think you intended to mean a lawyer or similar representative who gives advice?

You're so very, very welcome. :)

And a "Counsell" is the manager of the Milwaukie Brewers.

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Outstanding Nick! That was fun! Well written!

Of course Ober is the slam dunk winner. How he re-built his delivery in 2020 for increased velocity and smoother mechanics for greater durability is a great story. Further, he and Johnson continued to tweak his approach and delivery during his rookie season as well. I'm really impressed with the kid. How good can he be? Time will tell. But I think he's very possibly headed for a nice career as a #3-4 SP.

I was also very impressed with Kirilloff rebounding after his poor ST. He just needs to be healthy. Guy is going to be a good one.

Larnach was rushed, like a few others, and really flashed initially. Should we be surprised? I don't think so. Nor should we be surprised that he then struggled. I still have a lot of hope and confidence going forward. But will he be ready to start day one in 2022? Mmmm...I hope so but wouldn't be surprised to see him begin the year over in St Paul.

The "arguement" for Gordon says it all. Very Happy for the young man! He has overcome a LOT. Now he just needs to gain 10-15lbs before next season and continue what he's been doing.

I was wary of Jeffers repeating what he did in 2020. I've seen enough at this point to be pretty optimistic about his future.

I don't think there is anything to add in regard to Ryan.

Can I toss out a couple honorable mentions or "at a boys"?

Celestino and Rortvedt were never supposed to play at the ML level this year. But I think watching them you can see talent and potential. Celestino took what he learned to St Paul and finished strong. Rortvedt not so much, but you saw glimpses of ability and potential.

And finally, while others will disagree with me, and that's fine, Jax had moments and games where he actually showed potential. He also was not supposed to be in ML ball this year. The FB is OK and the slider shows some nice stuff. I have no idea what his future holds, probably in the pen, but there is enough there to keep him around and see.


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