One of the few bright spots in this Cubs season has been the unexpected emergence of rookie third baseman Patrick Wisdom.
Wisdom got his first shot at the big leagues in 2018 when the 26-year-old played 30 games for the St. Louis Cardinals before he was traded to the Rangers for Drew Robinson. Wisdom saw even more limited playing time with the Rangers. He played nine games with the Rangers as an injury replacement before being designated for assignment and outrighted to Nashville. At the end of 2019 he became a free agent, signed a one-year MLB contract with the Mariners and was designated for assignment without ever appearing in a game for Seattle after spring training 2020. The Cubs signed him to a minor-league deal in August of 2020.
I bring all of this up because the rookie who turns 30 today (Happy Birthday!) when the Cubs open a series with the White Sox is probably the least likely person you’d imagine to find in the Rookie of the Year conversation. But it’s been a very weird season and today I wanted to take a closer look at Patrick Wisdom’s Rookie of the Year case.
The argument for Wisdom’s candidacy is simple — he’s hit a lot of home runs. In fact, he leads all National League rookies in home runs with 21. Let’s take a look at the rookie home run leaderboard below:
Rookie HR Leaderboard
I’ve included American League guys here as well because it is worth noting that Wisdom does not lead all rookies in home runs, standing third behind Adolis García and Ryan Mountcastle. However, Wisdom has substantially less playing time than either of those players and a quick calculation of HR/PA shows him with a stunning home run in 7.89 percent of his plate appearances so far. The next two closest players are Detroit’s Eric Haase and Cleveland’s Bobby Bradley, neither of whom topped seven percent.
The problem for Wisdom is that while the home run rate is prodigious, that is pretty much the story of Wisdom’s entire case for Rookie of the Year. Below you can see the NL Rookie leaderboards and select stats by fWAR, first up hitters:
NL Rookie Batting Leaderboard
Next up, pitchers:
NL Rookie Pitching Leaderboard
You’ll forgive me for including more hitters than pitchers on these leaderboards. Frankly, there are more interesting candidates lower on the hitter leaderboard than the pitching one. Last week I looked at the Rookie of the Year races for FanGraphs and noted that this is basically a two-person race with a big question-mark regarding who voters will put third on their ballots. I think that is still true with India and Trevor Rogers headlining this ballot in some order and a battle for third where voters could make interesting cases for a number of players, including Wisdom, Ian Anderson, Dylan Carlson, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Tyler Stephenson.
The fact that Wisdom is unlikely to win the Rookie of the Year award doesn’t make his candidacy less interesting. I mean, this is a player the Cubs signed to a minor league deal in 2020 who has a very real shot to eclipse Kris Bryant’s team rookie home run record from 2015. Bryant hit 26 home runs over 650 plate appearances. FanGraphs’ rest of season projections show Wisdom hitting six more home runs in 118 plate appearances, which would not only set a new franchise mark at 27 dingers, but would do it over only 384 plate appearances. That is impressive whether Wisdom wins NL league-wide honors or not [VIDEO].
Where will Patrick Wisdom finish in 2021 NL Rookie of the Year voting?
This poll is closed
He’ll win the award
Below third place, but still with at least one vote
He won’t get any RoY votes