Don’t Count Wyatt Langford Out of the Rookie of the Year Race Just Yet

After a rough April and May, which included an IL stint, Wyatt Langford is starting to heat up. That is great for baseball, as well as his AL ROY chances.

Wyatt Langford #36 of the Texas Rangers waits for a pitch during the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Field.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - APRIL 09: Wyatt Langford #36 of the Texas Rangers waits for a pitch during the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Field on April 09, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Wyatt Langford’s start to his MLB career was lackluster. But after missing most of the month of May with a strained hamstring, he has returned to the Texas Rangers with a renewed focus and swagger.

After coming into the regular season as one of the favorites to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, his slow start pushed him down the list. However, with the way that he is swinging it in June, look out for the 22-year-old to be in the mix come September.

The difference in confidence, and ultimately production, since Langford has returned to the Rangers is exciting. Especially since in his first 31 games he slashed a measly .224/.295/.293, hit three doubles, one triple, one home run (an inside-the-park-er), scored 13 runs, and drove in 11.

With a Spring Training that forced the Rangers hand to start the youngster on the big-league club, the expectations were sky high. And yet the robust stats that Langford put up in the Cactus League guaranteed nothing once the regular season began.

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Hitting is tough, and that has been the case for the talented Langford. But great young hitters mature, relax, and get better as they grow in the game. That is what we are seeing with Langford at this point. He is putting together solid at-bats, and some results are happening, but I expect great ones to soon follow.

Langford’s Hot Hitting Fueling the Rangers

The defending World Series champions have struggled as a team this year as well. But as Langford has started hitting the ball, the Rangers are showing some signs of life. There is a ton more work to do as Texas looks to pull themselves out of a big hole in the standings, but the chances of them doing so is much greater with the current Langford production.

Through Tuesday, June 25 Langford played in 24 games since returning from the IL. In that period he slashed .281/.319/.449, hit five doubles, two triples, two home runs (one was a grand slam), scored eight runs, and has 20 RBI. He’s not necessarily “on fire”, but Langford is starting to heat up.

Across those 94 plate appearances, Langford only walked four times but also only struck out 16 times. He stole six bags since his return and has not been caught stealing in the same time frame.

Luis Gil Mid-Season AL ROY Favorite

Despite the resurgence from Langford, he still remains well down the list of AL Rookie of the Year favorites. But the overwhelming favorite that everyone is chasing at the moment is New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Gil.

Gil has a few factors working in his favor and a couple against him. First off, as mentioned above, Gil is the overwhelming favorite at the moment. With the lead that he has built up on the competition, he has some serious wiggle room to navigate.

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Being a member of the Yankees is also a plus for Gil. With the added media attention of pitching for New York comes more notoriety and overall coverage.

The numbers that Gil has put up so far this season are impressive. In 16 starts across 85.2 innings, he has a 9-3 record, 3.15 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.121 WHIP, has struck out 99, and walked 45. The Yankees are leading the AL East and Gil has been a huge reason why.

Is Gil Faltering?

But as good as Gil has been, he has struggled as of late. In his last two starts, he gave up seven runs on eight hits against the Orioles, then five runs on four hits against the Mets.

Despite the overall great numbers for the season, if you look at his last three starts, there is a different picture being painted. Those three games include a rock-solid performance in which got the win against the Red Sox, then a pair of duds against Baltimore and New York.

Even the great start out of those three contained a bit of a red flag, as Gil threw 104 pitches and was only able to make it through five innings. In those last three starts he has an 10.97 ERA, 7.56 FIP, and a slash line against of .340/.483/.575.

After having Tommy John surgery in 2022 this year is the most work that Gil has seen. The Yankees have given no indication that they will limit his innings, but if the results continue to wane, they might not have a choice.

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As a pitcher, a few bad outings can really hurt the overall numbers where a position player like Langford can have multiple 0-fer games and not have the same glaring negative result. Because they have so many more at-bats than starts for a pitcher, the numbers react differently.

Recency Bias Could Help Langford

We only have to go back to last season to have an example of a top prospect that struggled out of the gate only to go on and win the AL ROY award. Gunnar Henderson was rough for the first two months of the 2023 season.

For the final four months, he was one of the best baseball players in the league. That is the kind of guy that Langford can be too. He is hitting better in June, and yet there is so much more potential for him to unlock and unleash.

Just checkout this fun fact below that Rangers broadcaster Jared Sandler shared a few days ago. That is some strong company for Langford.

If Langford can tap into his Spring Training self and keep that newfound confidence at a high level over the next three months, it might be hard for voters to not pick him for AL ROY. By putting up some robust numbers throughout the second half of the season, voters are going to be a buzz.

The Rangers are just a few games from the halfway point of their 2024 season. It will take a strong push from Langford, but the Rookie of the Year award is still in play.

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Wyatt Langford is going to be a marquee player for the Rangers for many years. We will just have to see how the rest of the season plays out to know if he will take the ROY title and add a draft pick for the team at next year’s draft.

He is no longer the favorite to win the award, but anyone that has seen this kid knows that he is capable of some outrageous things on a baseball field. If he can use his 97-percentile Baseball Savant sprint speed to chase down the competition, it will be fun to witness.