When Shohei Ohtani was selected as the American League Rookie of the Year, there was an uproar among Yankee fans who believed Miguel Andujar deserved the award. The crux of the argument was Andujar was the better and more impactful rookie as he played in more games, and he had more doubles, homers, and RBI than Ohtani.
Of course, the argument ignored a number of factors. Using advanced metrics like wRC+ or OPS+, Ohtani was the better hitter. More than that, Ohtani pitched, and Andujar didn’t. This is partially why Ohtani’s 3.9 WAR was higher than Andujar’s 2.2 WAR. More than that, the main issue with any argument why Andujar being deserving of the AL Rookie of the Year Award was Andujar wasn’t even the best rookie on his team.
That honor goes to Gleyber Torres.
Despite playing in 26 fewer games, Torres actually had a higher WAR than Andujar. The reasons for the difference was Torres was simply a better baseball player than Andujar.
While Andujar was a fine hitter with a 128 wRC+, he was dreadful in the field with a -25 DRS and -16.0 UZR. That made him not just the worst defensive third baseman in the game, it made him the worst infielder in all of baseball. His DRS ranked second to last among all MLB fielders, and his UZR was the worst in all of baseball.
Now, Torres’ 120 wRC+ was not as good as Andujar. However, his fielding was significantly better. While Torres was not lighting the world on fire with a -1 DRS and -7.7 UZR at second base, he was much more competent in the field. When taking into context how Torres was playing out of position and learning a new position at the Major League level on the fly, they are far more defensible than Andujar’s numbers.
If you do not believe the numbers, look at the Yankees actions. In the Wild Card Game, the Yankees pulled Andujar for Adeiny Hechavarria in the top of the sixth in what was then a 2-0 game. In Game 4 of the ALDS, a do-or-die game for the Yankees, the team believed they were better off having Neil Walker, a man who is a career .086/.158/.114 postseason hitter, start at third base over Andujar.
Conversely, Torres would play every inning of every postseason game the Yankees played this year. Likely, the Yankees did this because they know Torres is the better player, and he is the one they believed in more.
While you may want to debate it, it is fairly clear Torres was the best rookie on the Yankees last year, and as a result, he should have finished ahead of Andujar in the Rookie of the Year voting. Maybe, just maybe, Torres should have won the award over Ohtani, but that is a discussion for another day.Rea