Rookie of the Year? Delino is making his case

As the season winds down, individual player awards start to make their way into everyday discussions. Most Valuable Players, Cy Youngs and everything in between are suddenly ripe for debate. However, in order to truly appreciate a player’s year-long achievements, it is often helpful to reflect back on years and players of past seasons.

In 1991, a young middle infielder burst onto the MLB scene with Minnesota Twins. The fiery, sometimes cocky, and on occasion defensively suspect, youngster provided the eventual World Series Champions with a new, exciting, offensive weapon at the top of the order. Chuck Knoblauch was the unquestionable spark plug – and lead-off hitter – for four World Series champions. He was also a four-time all-star, two-time winner of the MLB’s Silver Slugger award, and, despite a developed case of the “yips” in 1999, a Golden Glove winner.

In an almost unanimous vote, 26 of the 28 voting Baseball Writers of America agreed to name the Twins new second baseman the American League’s Rookie of the Year.

Most of those same baseball writers voted Delino DeShields into a second place finish in the same category just one-year prior, but hold onto that thought for later.

Michael Rand of the Star Tribune recently ranked all of Minnesota’s Rookie of the Year winners over the past 25 years – Knoblauch checked in at No. 6.

“His career – and later his life – took a downturn, but let’s not forget that as a rookie Knoblauch was a key to the 1991 World Series title and in-his-prime Chuck was a sight to behold,” Rand said. “In 1996, for example, he hit .341 with 140 runs scored, 62 extra-base hits, a .448 OBP and a .965 OPS — one of the top seasons at the plate for any Twins hitter in the past 20 years.”

Adrian Peterson topped Rand’s list, followed by Maya Moore, Randy Moss, Andrew Wiggins, and Seimone Augustus.

This is a Rangers’ blog though, so who the hell really cares about Chuck Knoblauch? He donned pinstripes for his entire career – yes, the Twins often wear the same horrid stripes as those damn Yankees – and he allegedly frequented the performance-enhancing drug market in the waning days of his career.

However, this is where it becomes important to reflect, assess, and appreciate. As a kid fresh out of the minors, he had an offensive game built around speed, contact, and table setting. In other words, Chuck Knoblauch was to the Twins in 1991, exactly what Delino DeShields Jr has shown he is to the Texas Rangers in 2015.

Delino was born in 1992, Knobs’ second year in the bigs and first year as an all-star. After both players were drafted in the first round as middle infielders – Knoblauch No. 25 by the Twins, and DeShields No. 8 by the Astros – they followed almost the same exact path to the MLB. Knoblauch debuted at 22 years and 276 days old, and DeShields at 22 years, 235 days young. Although Knoblauch kept his position at second base for the majority of his playing career, he did begin to make spot starts in the outfield during his third season, and moved permanently to the outfield in 2001 with the Yankees. Oh, and they are both listed as standing a towering 5-foot-9-inches.

DeShields did not take over the everyday center fielder role until the second month of the season, so come season’s end, his numbers will obviously be slightly lower than Knoblauch’s 151-game, 665 plate appearance rookie campaign. However, if you double his games to get him to 160 games and 530 AB, the two players stat-out nicely.

Player A: 159 hits, 78 runs, 24 doubles, six triples, one home run, 50 RBI, 25 stolen bases, .281 BA, .350 SLG, .701 OPS.

Player B: 142 hits, 108 runs, 30 doubles, 14 triples, two home runs, 50 RBI, 42 stolen bases, .268 BA, .389 SLG, .754 OPS.

Remember “daddy” DeShields and his second place finish in RoY voting? During that campaign he collected 144 hits, 69 runs scored and 42 stolen bases in 129 games. Pops stole 463 bases over his 13-year career, had a .268 career batting average, and is listed as one of the 10 players most like Knoblauch on Baseball Reference. You literally can’t make-up like this.

In case the two home runs did not give it away, DeShields, player B, has proven himself worthy of being in the discussion, and this former Rule 5 draft pick is vital to the Rangers’ success now, and hopefully for years to come.

Speaking of Rule 5 draft picks, Josh Hamilton – a 2006 Rule 5 pick – was fairly important to the Rangers 2010 and 2011 World Series runs. Kudos, Jon Daniels. (Editor’s note: Hamilton was a Rule 5 pick by the Reds and later traded to Texas)

As much as Rangers’ fans have come to love and admire the game of Delino DeShields, the kid – not pops, there is a real, big roadblock to his RoY award playing down south in Houston. Fox Sports’ Outside Pitch currently has Delino’s chances of winning RoY at 25/1, however, Carlos Correa is the clear front-runner at 4/5 odds to take home the hardware. Sadly, I agree. That kid is a freak.

My prediction: barring an injury and several failed drug test by Correa, Delino DeShields will finish second in Rookie of the Year voting for a second time in 25 years.

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Travis M. Smith
Travis has been a baseball fanatic since birth, and, according to his parents and multiple other reports, at the sophisticated age of three had the near-superheroic ability to regurgitate the statistics of every member of the 1992-93 Texas Rangers. The 2015 Tarleton State graduate dabbled in baseball at the collegiate level before falling into journalism. He works full-time as the managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light while moonlighting as an "expert" in the fields of coffee, tacos and big-kid beverages.


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