In 1995, the future Sportswriters’ Hall of Fame member Dave Kindred (elected in 2007) wrote a famous article, “He’s Got the Good Face – and More” in which he detailed compelling reasons why Atlanta Braves’ then-rookie Chipper Jones should win the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. The voters didn’t listen; they gave the award to the Dodgers’ rookie pitcher, Hideo Nomo. Nomo went on to a decent career that basically ended in 2005, bouncing around several teams, while Jones has since won the NL’s MVP award (1999), been a six-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger winner, and has anchored the Braves on an illustrious, historic career arc that will no doubt end with him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It just goes to show that winning the Rookie of the Year award doesn’t guarantee an eventual spot in the Hall of Fame, or even a particularly distinguished career.
“The Good Face” is a term in constant use by baseball scouts. You may have heard of the “Five Tools” scouts seek: an ability to hit, hit with power, run, throw and catch the ball. That’s the Quinella of baseball talent. Even more than those tools, savvy scouts are on the lookout for “The Good Face”. I am not talking about Hollywood looks here; I am talking about demeanor, gravity of mien, seriousness of purpose. A player who possesses such in the estimation of scouts will get noticed, move faster through a team’s system, arrive at The Show sooner. “The Good Face” is most famously discussed in Kevin Kerrane’s fine book on baseball scouting, “Dollar Sign on the Muscle”, first published in the early 1980’s and since updated. If you want to find out how scouting works, this is your primary source material.
Why am I talking about rookies and “The Good Face”? This is because 2010 is noteworthy for a great number of outstanding rookies, especially in the National League. Some of these rookies have arrived with great fanfare, like the Washington Nationals’ phenom pitcher, Steven Strasburg; some have sprung full-blown on the scene without recourse to the minor leagues, like the Cincinnati Reds’ Mike Leake; some have worked their way up and are now asserting themselves. It is literally a bumper crop, and almost all positions are represented. People in and around baseball can’t remember such a fecund season for new arrivals. The 2010 NL All-Rookie Team that will be chosen at season’s end promises to be an illustrious gathering, with many players who will make their marks for seasons to come, some well into the 2020’s. It’s really exciting!
Let’s note a few, outfielders like Jason Heyward of the Braves, Mike Stanton of the Florida Marlins, Jose Tabata of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tyler Colvin of the Chicago Cubs, Roger Bernadina of the Nationals and newly arrived Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies. We have outstanding young first basemen like Ike Davis of the New York Mets and Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins, second baseman Neil Walker of the Pirates, shortstops Starlin Castro of the Cubs, Alcides Escobar of the Milwaukee Brewers and Ian Desmond of the Nationals, third basemen Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals and catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
Among the pitchers along with those already mentioned, starters Jonathan Niese of the Mets and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals have become integral parts of their teams’ rotations. Relievers like closer John Axford of the Brewers, and setup men (likely future closers themselves) Johnny Venters of the Braves and Drew Storen of the Nationals. We are also likely to see the debut of heralded Cuban émigré Aroldis Chapman before the season ends, as well. Next time we’ll look at some of the American League’s shining young stars.