With roughly a month left for baseball’s regular season, the postseason awards are starting to take some shape. The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year is for all intents and purposes a two horse race, but the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year race is looking to be a photo-finish down the homestretch with a handful of rookies still in contention. And with Stephen Strasburg done for this year and likely next year, it only means the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award is as open as available as ever – although I doubt Strasburg would have had a shot at the award solely based on his stats.
Who does that leave for the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year then? Strasburg’s debut and injury seem to have stolen a bit of the spotlight from some other National League rookies – one other pitcher immediately comes to mind – as well as a couple of position players on some National League teams.
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
I mention Jason Heyward first for a few reasons, but please before I get started don’t take what I’m saying out of context. Jason Heyward has done a fantastic job for the Atlanta Braves, and has played at or near the level of hype he received. But I don’t think he’s the best Rookie of the Year candidate, and I still think the fact that he got to start for the NL All-Star team while Joey Votto (a very legitimate Triple Crown candidate) had to be voted in as the final player. But all in all, that’s not Heyward’s fault; that just shows the flows in the system. Heyward’s become a staple in the Braves outfield, and his stats (.285 BA, 16 HR, and 65 RBI) have certainly been a substantial contribution to a future playoff team. What’s really eye-popping is his .392 OBP as a rookie. That stat isn’t something that will win him the Rookie of the Year award, but a rookie with that kind of talent and plate discipline is something the Braves have to be happy with.
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
As I’m writing this, I’m struggling to choke back the tears, because both Jason Heyward and Starlin Castro are only a few months older than I. They’re not only MLB stars, but they’re Rookie of the Year contenders. Me? Well, I’m just writing an article about them. Anywho, before personal emotions get the best of me, let’s take a look at why Starlin Castro has a truly legitimate shot at the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award. Castro was called up on May 7th, and immediately he set the bar high. In fact, he set it as high as anyone has in their debut. He went off against the Cincinnati Reds for a rookie debut record of 6 RBI. He’s definitely slowed down some (at a pace of 6 RBI per game for 106 games, he’d currently be at 636 RBI), but he’s still performed beyond expectations. Hitting at a clip of .317/3/40 and an OPS of .798, he’s made his case for winning the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award.
Jaime Garcia, P, St. Louis Cardinals
Remember earlier when I said that Strasburg has stolen some thunder away from all the other candidates, and I had one particular pitcher in mind? That pitcher happens to be Jaime Garcia. Jaime Garcia has been a very pleasant surprise for the St. Louis Cardinals, as he’s added another wonderful pitcher to an already stacked rotation with Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Jaime Garcia’s 2.35 ERA is among the best in the NL (behind some perennial stars like Mat Latos, Adam Wainwright, and Josh Johnson), and his 170 aren’t bad for a rookie either. Garcia’s Cardinals may have suffered a devastating slide over the past month or so, but Jaime Garcia has managed to rack up a stellar 13 wins compared to just 6 losses.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
Exit Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers and enter Buster Posey, blue-chip prospect playing the first half of the season at AAA Fresno. On June 30th the San Francisco Giants swapped Bengie Molina for Texas Rangers RP Chris Ray which meant the catching position was left vacant and ready for Buster Posey to take over. Since then, Buster Posey has been the featured catcher for the San Francisco Giants, catching 86 games and hitting at a nearly preposterous .350 BA, 3 HR, 31 RBI along with an OPS of .878. Albeit one of the weakest positions this year as far as talent is concerned, Buster Posey is still probably one of the three best catchers in the National League. With the Padres currently in a free fall of epic proportions, Posey may get to also see the playoffs in his first season.
You may be infuriated and asking, “Where’s Mat Latos?!” Don’t worry, I asked the same question was pretty shocked when I realized what the deal is. Apparently, some staff members for the Padres decided to go ahead and squeeze out an extra .2 innings out of Latos last season. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but what it boils down to this year is he isn’t qualified as a rookie – a rookie pitcher no longer a rookie after 50 IP – which means he’s not eligible for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
With Latos out of the race due to a small infraction, my vote goes to (and in a very, very narrow margin) Jaime Garcia. It’s still hard for me to say that because I feel Buster Posey deserves the award just as much as Garcia, but I still have to award the honor to Garcia, based on the fact that Garcia has played at a high level all season and has been in the majors for a little while longer compared to Posey’s half-season.
Honorable mentions: Mike Leake, Gaby Sanchez, Ike Davis, and Chris Johnson (not the NFL fantasy GM’s dream player of the same name).
Be sure to check out the AL Rookie of the Year Race article found here.
Special thanks to: