Heyward out in front of National League's deep rookie pack
Every week I will rank the top five candidates in each league for one of baseball's three major awards. Having looked at the MVP and Cy Young races the last two weeks, I turn my attention to the Rookie of the Year award this week.
A reminder, players lose their rookie status upon having 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors or having spent 45 days on the active roster prior to rosters expanding on September 1. That last is significant this year as it eliminates Yankee catcher
Davis has been the worst of the Rays' five starters thus far this year, which says more about the Tampa Bay rotation than it does about Davis. The 24-year-old former third-round pick has the frame and the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but his walks and home runs have been up and his strikeouts down this year relative his minor league track record and solid six-start debut in September of 2009. Still, he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his four May starts and has gone at least five innings in all eight of his starts this season. With room to improve, he could stick around on this list.
Bulky, 6-foot-4 outfielder Boesch went 2 for 4 with a double in his first major league game on April 23 and has done nothing but hit since, becoming a regular in the Tigers' lineup and ranking among the productive hitters in the team's stars 'n' scrubs lineup. That said, the 25-year-old former third-round pick has drawn just two unintentional walks in 99 plate appearances and drew an UIBB just once every 19 PAs in the minors, which is evidence of a poor plate approach that is likely to become exposed as the league becomes more familiar with him. Even if Boesch continues to hit for power on contact (half of his major league hits have gone for extra bases thus far), when his batting average dips below .300, so will his on-base percentage, and that will go a long way to undermine his value.
Acquired in the three-team deal that sent
Drafted 27th overall out of a California high school by the Diamondbacks in 2002, Santos spent seven years with three organizations as a minor league infielder before the White Sox stuck him on the mound last year. After working just 28 2/3 minor league innings in the regular season and posting an ERA of 8.16, the hard-throwing 26-year-old impressed in the Arizona Fall League and made the White Sox bullpen out of camp this spring. Santos has since made 17 big league appearances and has allowed just one run while stranding all eight runners he has inherited. With White Sox manager
The depth of the rookie pool in the National League is head and shoulders above that in the Junior Circuit. The fifth place candidate in the NL would probably be first in the AL, and
Garcia, a 22nd round pick in 2005, underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2008 and made just eight minor league starts after returning to action last year, only half of them above Single A. Despite that, the 23-year-old lefty won the last spot in the Cardinals rotation coming out of camp and has been nothing but impressive in his first major league action since 2008, only once allowing more than two runs in a game (those extra runs were unearned), and only once lasting fewer than six innings, going a mere five in his last start despite not allowing any runs at all. Currently second in the NL in ERA, he is not just a Rookie of the Year candidate, he's a Cy Young candidate.
The eighth overall pick in last year's draft, Leake went straight from Arizona State to the Reds' rotation with only a layover in the Arizona Fall League to prep him for the job. Leake posted a 1.37 ERA in the hitting-friendly AFL, and has been a huge part of the Reds' surge to the top of the NL Central standings. Ignore that lousy overall K/BB ratio. Leake walked 12 men in his first two starts and has walked just nine in his last six. He has gone at least six innings in all eight starts and only once allowed more than three runs, giving him seven quality starts in eight tries. Most impressively, Reds manager
The Mets resisted the temptation to open the season with the 23-year-old Davis, who had never played above Double-A, as their first baseman, but it took just 11 games of
A ninth-round pick by the Padres in 2006, Freese was dealt to the Cardinals after the 2007 season for what turned out to be a miserable month from