The best Rookie of the Year candidate on the Mets in 2023

Dec 19, 2022; NY, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Kodai Senga speaks to the media during a press
Dec 19, 2022; NY, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Kodai Senga speaks to the media during a press / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rookie of the Year Award and the New York Mets have gotten together a few times. Most recently, it was Pete Alonso in 2019 who won the award. He was already on everyone’s radar for the award from the year prior when he put on a minor league power display which carried into the majors during his first big league campaign.

The Mets definitely have a couple of candidates within the organization who could win the award. Fans have high aspirations for Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty. However, it’s not them who are the best candidates to win Rookie of the Year. Neither will probably have a starting role for the Mets on Opening Day.

Our best chance of seeing a Rookie of the Year in Flushing is not from the minor leagues, pipeline, or farm. It’s Kodai Senga, the international free agent addition to the roster who has the greatest opportunity.

Kodai Senga is the best Mets candidate to win the 2023 Rookie of the Year

The qualifications for an MLB rookie are imperfect yet clear. It takes fewer than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days on the active roster. Senga has never played in Major League Baseball before. Despite his extensive history in Japan, he qualifies.

This has been an ongoing debate but only rarely visited. Hideo Nomo’s win in 1995 first sparked it. Several others from Japan have been winners with some coming up short by earning votes of their own. The most recent victor was Shohei Ohtani in 2018. He qualified as a rookie for the Los Angeles Angels even though he may have already been the best baseball player on the planet with major league experience—just not in North America.

It’s never easy to know which candidates will break out or not to become a favorite for the award. With many only playing a partial season, they won’t get as many opportunities as Senga will to show off what he can do.

Winning the honor as a pitcher isn’t easy either. Devin Williams won it in 2020 as a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers. The shortened season helped. We need to go back to 2014 when Jacob deGrom won it to find the last starting pitcher in the National League. Prior to that, there was Dontrelle Willis in 2003

The American League has been oddly kinder to starting pitchers in the Rookie of the Year voting. Aside from Ohtani in 2018, there is Michael Fulmer (2016), Jeremy Hellickson (2011), and Justin Verlander (2006). This doesn’t include relievers Neftali Feliz (2010) or Andrew Bailey (2009). What’s strange is that in the league with a DH, pitchers were able to stand out.

Senga will have rookies up from the minor leagues and some bias against him for having a career at the highest level in Japan. On the Mets roster, with an Opening Day spot secured, he’s their best player to take home the award.

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