At no point this season has the contrast between the depth of the rookie fields in the American and National Leagues been as strong as it is right now. The challenge in ranking the top five candidates in the AL is finding a fifth rookie worth including. The challenge in ranking the top five candidates in the NL is paring down a list of 12 while keeping an eye on more than another dozen top prospects and hot performers. Consider that among those who didn't make my NL list this week are the major league rookie home run leader
Other NL candidates have come and gone, slumped and surged, but Garcia has been steady all year. After 20 starts, he has allowed more than three earned runs in a game just once. In fact, here's his breakdown of earned runs allowed:
0 ER: 5 starts
1 ER: 5 starts
2 ER: 7 starts
3 ER: 2 starts
5 ER: 1 start
The net result of those performances is the fourth-best ERA in the NL in a great year for pitching. The three men ahead of Garcia are
The wrist injury that threw Heyward into a vicious slump in June (.181/.287/.245 on the month) and ultimately forced him to the disabled list for the two weeks prior to the All-Star break delivered a mighty blow to his candidacy, but his .349/.453/.460 performance since returning after the break provides hope that he just might recapture his pre-injury form down the stretch. Heyward's all-around talent is undeniable, but the one thing missing from his current comeback is power. His last home run was June 17, and that batting line since the break gives him an isolated slugging (slugging minus batting average) of just .110 against a major league average of .147 and his own .287 mark prior to his June swoon. That seems to confirm the reports that Heyward's wrist won't be able to completely heal until he can give it extended rest over the offseason, but given just how devastating an offensive performer he can be when hot, it's foolish to count Heyward out just yet.
Castro isn't going to put up the kind of eye-popping numbers Heyward and Posey are capable of, but taken in context, his performance has been plenty impressive in its own right. The average major league shortstop has hit .263/.321/.370 this season, and Castro, who turned 20 just a week before Opening Day, has done much better, including .365/.398/.557 with 13 doubles since June 26. That would be pretty eye-popping coming from a 27-year-old at just about any position on the field, never mind a 20-year-old shortstop. Castro's a solid defender but not especially fast or quick afield. His career minor league line of .310/.362/.421 looks a lot like his season stats above. From a scouting perspective, he's not projected to be a star, but players who can hit like All-Stars in the majors at the age of 20 are few and far between, and their futures look a lot brighter as a result. One name that springs to mind is
There's a lot to dream about when it comes to the futures of Heyward, Posey, and Castro, but the 27-year-old Sanchez likely is what he is already, which is an average major league first baseman. The standard at that position is higher than at any other, and the average major league first-sacker has hit .270/.355/.459 this season, roughly what Sanchez has done, and he doesn't add anything special in the field or on the bases. What gives Sanchez the slight edge over rookie pitchers like
While Boesch has endured the first extended slump of his major league career (he was hitting .345/.390/.605 at the time of my last Rookie of the Year column), Feliz remains on pace to save a rookie record 45 ballgames, easily outdistancing the mark of 37 set by 2000 AL Rookie of the Year
Jackson hit just .253/.299/.325 from May 10 through July 5, the date of my last Rookie of the Year column, but his red-hot start (.371/.420/.508 through May 9) and the lack of other serious contenders in the Junior Circuit kept him on this list, and since then, he's rediscovered his stroke. His strikeout and walk rates are still a major concern; his 107 K's are second in the American League, and he only walks once every 16.4 plate appearances. But his basestealing has occurred at an efficient 80 percent success rate, and while his defense in center seems to be average at best, simply holding his own at a key defensive position boosts his candidacy.
Santana has cooled off since his blazing start (.345/.458/.707 with four homers and nine doubles in his first 72 major league plate appearances), but he continues to walk more often than he strikes out, which not only has propped up his value at the plate via a stellar on-base percentage, but is incredibly impressive for a switch-hitting rookie who always seems to swing from his heels. Santana has also impressed behind the plate, where he has thrown out 35 percent of attempting basestealers, comfortably above the league average of 28 percent. Santana's biggest problem since arriving in the majors has been his performance from the right side of the plate, where he has batted just .149/.317/.277 (note the still-stellar batting eye), a stark contrast to his career .317/.421/.539 line from the right side in the minors. A blue-chip prospect who has won minor league MVP awards each of the last two seasons, Santana is a clear future star, but his late (June 1) debut and July struggles have likely put this award out of reach.
Santos has a great backstory. He is a former infielder and first-round pick of the Diamondbacks who spent seven years bouncing around the minors for three organizations before the White Sox got a hold of him last year. They made him a pitcher, and there was a genuinely touching moment in the premier episode of the MLB Network's