BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI
For the Sun-Times
A by-the-numbers look two weeks ago at Kris Bryant’s rookie season prompted a couple of emails from White Sox fans.
Bryant’s 5.2 fWAR through Sunday is the best by a Cub in the Rookie of the Year era that started with the first voting in 1947. Have the Sox had someone even better? One fan suggested first baseman Jose Abreu when he won the award last year, and another suggested legendary outfielder Minnie Minoso, who didn’t win the award but had an outstanding 1951 season.
Bryant is one-tenth of a win behind Abreu’s 5.3 fWAR last year and closing in on Minoso’s 5.5 — 5.2 with the Sox in a rookie season that started with the Indians.
But there have been six South Side Rookies of the Year, and two exceeded Bryant’s pace. He’d need a superstar September to catch center fielder Tommie Agee’s 6.4 fWAR in 1966. And the 7.5 by pitcher Gary Peters in 1963 seems out of reach.
Joining Abreu, Agee and Peters in winning the award were shortstop Luis Aparicio (1.5 fWAR) in 1956, outfielder Ron Kittle (2.0) in 1983 and shortstop Ozzie Guillen (1.6) in 1985.
Here are the Sox’ top five rookie seasons — six, including a tie for fifth:
Third baseman Pete Ward (4.6, 1963): For two seasons, Ward was a star. He had a .295 batting average, .835 OPS and 22 home runs in his rookie season followed by .282, .821, 23 and a 6.1 fWAR. Injuries limited the rest of his nine-year career.
Outfielder Chris Singleton (4.6, 1999): His rookie season with a .300 BA and .917 OPS was by far his best, with a next-best fWAR of 2.3 in 2001.
Minoso (5.5, 1951). Exciting to watch on the bases and in the field, as well as at bat, Minoso is near Hall of Fame level with a 50.8 career fWAR. In the Sox portion of his rookie season, he hit .324 with a .917 OPS and 5.2 fWAR.
Abreu (5.3, 2014). With a .317 BA, .964 OPS and 36 homers, Abreu was all the Sox could hope for as a rookie and is solid with a 2.9 fWAR so far in 2015.
Agee (6.5, 1966). With a .273 BA, .773 OPS and 22 homers as a rookie, Agee also contributed stellar defense with a Gold Glove in center. His rookie season was his best, but Agee had star-level seasons with the Mets with fWARs of 5.4 in 1969 and 5.2 in 1970.
Peters (7.5, 1963). A left-hander, Peters not only had a 6.5 fWAR as a pitcher with a 19-8 record, 2.33 ERA and 2.34 FIP in his start toward a 124-103, 3.25 career record, he also compiled a 1.0 fWAR as a hitter that season, with a .259 BA, .731 OPS and three home runs. He homered 19 times in his career, including four in 75 appearances as a pinch hitter. The pitch-hit combo gives Peters a leg up as the top-ranking rookie in Chicago history.
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