OK, so, many will moan that Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka isn’t really a rookie because the 25-year-old pitched seven brilliant seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
But he’s a rookie in America, and that’s what will count when voters decide who wins the American League Rookie of the Year.What else counts? The fact that Tanaka has been almost as dominant as he was in his home country.He’s been so dominant, in fact, that ESPN’s Jim Bowden — a former general manager for the Reds and the Nationals — has him in the lead in his Rookie of the Year rankings.
Bowden ranks Tanaka ahead of No. 2 Jose Abreu of the White Sox, No. 3 George Springer of the Astros, No. 4 Dellin Betances of the Yankees and No. 5 Yordano Ventura of the Royals.Here’s what Bowden had to say about Tanaka in his subscription-only piece for ESPN:If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level.
Tanaka has been brilliant — his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.When we talk about the three best free-agent values from last offseason, you must start with Tanaka, then Tim Hudson and Nelson Cruz. It’s amazing so many teams had Tanaka valued as a No. 2 starter instead of the ace that he clearly is.