Top 20 NL Rookie of the Year candidates
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To be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award, a player must have less than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched and less than 45 days on the active roster. This means guys like Brandon Belt, Anthony Rizzo and Paul Goldschmidt are not eligible for the award. Here are 20 guys who could contend for the award, broken down in four categories.
Julio Teheran, Braves, RHP, 22 (age)
The Braves continue to churn out pitchers, and Teheran may end up being one of their best. He dominated triple-A all season long, going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 122 K/48 BB over 144.2 innings in 2011. He was up with the Braves a couple of times over the year, posting a 5.03 ERA with 10 strikeouts and eight walks over 19.2 innings. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with movement and his change-up is a plus pitch that has drawn comparisons to Johan Santana’s. He also has the mound presence of a veteran, which should help his case further in grabbing a starting spot out of spring training.
Drew Pomeranz, Rockies, LHP, 23
Pomeranz was the fifth-overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Indians, who then traded their top prospect to the Rockies for starter Ubaldo Jimenez. The 6’-5”, 240 lb power lefty can dial his fastball up to the high-90s with late life. His curveball is also a plus pitch, considered one of the best in the minors last season. Across three levels last season, he had a 1.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP with 119 K/38 BB over 101 innings. The southpaw showed great command of all his pitches and held opponents to a .189 average against. Over his four starts with the Rockies, he went 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 13 K/5 BB over 18.1 innings. He will get a starting spot out of spring and should be a top-of-the-rotation starter very soon.
Bryce Harper, Nationals, OF, 19
Even if Harper doesn’t make the team out of spring training, he should get enough at-bats to be a top contender for this award. His impressive showing at the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .414 with six doubles, six home runs and 25 RBI over his final 19 games, put to ease some doubts about his struggles at double-A where he hit .256 with three home runs, 12 RBI and a .724 OPS over 37 games. Make no mistake about it, this kid is for real. His talents are off the charts, as well as his feel for the game and flair for the dramatic.
Tyler Pastornicky, Braves, SS, 22
Pastornicky will beat out Jack Wilson for the starting shortstop position. That much I know. I also know that he will hit for a good average, mostly because of his advanced plate recognition. Over 512 plate appearances in the minors last season, he struck out only 45 times. Over those 117 games, split between double-A/triple-A, he hit .314 with seven home runs, 45 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He is a prototypical leadoff hitter, but will most likely hit eighth in the order with Michael Bourn and Martin Prado hitting at the top. He committed 26 errors last year, so the defense needs some work, but still, Jack Wilson? Pastornicky should get 500 at-bats this year.
Devin Mesoraco, Reds, C, 23
When the Reds traded Yasmani Grandel to the Padres as part of the Mat Latos trade, it took away any doubt that Mesoraco is their future catcher. Over 120 games at triple-A Louisville last season, he hit .289 with 15 home runs, 71 RBI and an .855 OPS. He also had 36 doubles, showing gap-to-gap power. His 83 K/52 BB show a good approach at the plate, and he is also a solid defensive catcher with a canon arm. Ryan Hanigan will pose no threat, and Mesoraco should get the bulk of the load this season.
Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks, RHP, 21
With Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter already locked in, the Diamondbacks already boast one of the best rotations in baseball. With a slew of future aces in their system, their rotation is going to be scary very soon, and if Saunders or Collmenter struggle, one of them could be called upon. Bauer is the most ready to contribute and is also one of the most entertaining pitchers to watch. With his unorthodox delivery, similar to Tim Lincecum, and filthy repertoire, he has baffled hitters at every level to date. He struck out 43 over 25.2 innings (15.1 K/9) across two levels last season. His fastball has many variations, with his four-seam touching the upper 90s. He also has a plus 12-6 hammer curve, as well as a plus slider with late fade. His change-up is above average, and he will throw all of his pitches at any time in any at-bat. He will most likely start the season in the minors, but should get enough major-league innings to be a real candidate.
Brett Jackson, Cubs, OF, 23
Cubs fans have been waiting to see what Jackson can do since he was their first-round draft pick in 2009 out of the University of California. Jackson’s numbers were a little down last season, due mostly to a broken finger he suffered in May. Over 115 games across two levels, he hit .274 with 20 home runs, 58 RBI, 20 stolen bases and an .869 OPS. While he strikes out a bit too much (138 last year), he also takes a lot of walks (73). With his blazing speed, power to all fields and gold glove caliber defense at all three outfield spots, he should be hitting at the top of the Cubs lineup at some point this season. With the team going through a serious makeover, his time looks to be finally here.
Wilin Rosario, Rockies, C, 22
Rosario battled knee injuries in 2011 and his numbers took a hit because of it. Over 102 games at double-A, he hit .249 with 21 home runs, 48 RBI and a .741 OPS. His 2010 season, in which he hit .285 with 19 home runs, 52 RBI and an .894 OPS over 73 games, are a better reflection of the type of hitter he is. He needs to work on his plate discipline, but the power is legit and always welcomed at Coors Field. He will platoon with Ramon Hernandez but should get enough at-bats to smack 20 home runs in 2012.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies, 3B, 20
Arenado has a chance to make the team out of spring training, which is impressive for a 20-year-old. After leading the minors in RBI last season with 122, he finished second at the Arizona Fall League with 33 over 29 games. He is a high-average hitter with tremendous plate discipline. Over his 583 plate appearances last season, he only struck out 53 times while drawing 47 walks. Casey Blake stands in his way at third base, but if he wins the starting job on opening day, he could be a top contender for this award.
Randall Delgado, Braves, RHP, 22
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