In my third look at the Rookie of the Year races, the June call-ups make their first appearance and a pitcher takes over the National League lead, though not the one you're thinking of.
The last rookie to lead his league in saves was the Cardinals'
If Feliz for any reason falls short of Sasaki's record, it will open the door for Boesch, who has slipped by the injured
At this point, Jackson is a vestigial candidate, lingering on this list thanks to his hot start and a shallow pool of challengers. Since May 10, he has hit just .250/.298/.313, though since returning from a week lost to back spasms on June 26, he has shown some signs of life, putting together an eight-game hitting streak during which he has hit .333/.389/.364. That line is mostly batting average, which doesn't speak well for its sustainability, but a rookie center fielder who can hit for average and steal some bases is a valuable commodity. Still, the value gap between Jackson and his teammate Boesch is huge.
Jaso outranks fellow catcher
Santana is the American League's answer to
Three weeks ago I expressed some concern over Garcia's walk rate and resultant inability to reach the seventh inning. In his four starts then, he has walked just five men (for a tidy 2.05 BB/9) and twice completed seven innings. His lone bad start of the year, a two-inning disaster against the Royals of all teams, pushed his season ERA above 2.00 for the first time this season, but he followed that up with his second-best start of the season, seven shutout innings against the Brewers in which he allowed just five baserunners (two singles, a double, and two walks) while striking out seven. With that outing in Kansas City as the exception, Garcia has completed a minimum of five innings and allowed a maximum of three earned runs in all but one of his sixteen starts on the year. After
"Barring injury." It's a common caveat, but a necessary one. Five weeks ago, Heyward was hitting .301/.421/.596 and leading the NL in slugging, prompting me to write in this space that, "Heyward already has the NL Rookie of the Year award sewn up (barring injury, of course)." Little did anyone realize then that Heyward had already suffered the injury that would derail his season. Heyward jammed his left thumb sliding head-first into third base on May 14. Though he failed to get a hit the next two days, he played through the pain and hit .353/.450/.667 over his next 13 games before the thumb finally began to take its toll as May turned to June. From May 31 through June 25, Heyward hit just .172/.274/.232 before finally seeing a hand specialist and being placed on the disabled list with what an MRI revealed to be a deep bone bruise and strained ligament. Heyward doesn't need surgery, but the thumb won't heal completely until he's able to rest it over the offseason, which means we can't be sure what to expect from him upon his anticipated return immediately after the All-Star break. For now, his production from the season's first two months is keeping him on this list.
Were the voting held today, the question for voters would be how to weigh Strasburg's performance against his hype and potential. But after his first six starts, the combination of hype (five of his first six starts were broadcast on national television and the president showed up for one of them) and performance (just look at his peripherals above, which lead all rookies with a minimum of 35 innings pitched) would no doubt garner him enough votes to land in the top five. Strasburg is as much a victim as a benefactor of that hype, as three of his starts, including his last two, have felt fairly ordinary, though they have resulted in a 3.24 ERA and 10.8 K/9. In those three, Strasburg has averaged less than 5 2/3 innings per start, allowed seven runs (six earned), and walked 10 (albeit against 20 strikeouts) in 16 2/3 innings while taking two no decisions and a loss. In his other three starts, including his first two, he has averaged 6 2/3 innings, allowed four runs, and walked none against 33 strikeouts in 20 innings while going 2-1. You can't blame Strasburg for his record. In his his last four starts, the Nationals haven't scored a single run while he was still in the game. You can't really blame him for his shorter outings, either, as the organization appears to be capping his pitch counts at 95. Strasburg may be on this list a bit early, but I'm confident he'll still be here three weeks from now.