Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hellickson, Kimbreal top list of rookie players

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced and the others that will be announced in the coming days:
Willie Mays Award for Top Rookie
American League
1. Jeremy Hellickson-RHP-Tampa Bay Rays
(13-10), 2.95 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, 117 K, 4.2 WAR, 29 games

The Rays needed every win they could accumulate during the season and one player that helped them to claim the AL Wild Card was Hellickson. The win-loss record that Hellickson accumulated does not tell the full tale of how great of a year that he had in 2011. Over the course of the season, he never gave up more than five runs in an outing and this gave his team a chance to win every time he took the mound. The month of May made Hellickson look unstoppable and by the end of the month, he finished with a 4-1 record with a 1.36 ERA. When Hellickson was given run support, he went out and won the game. His record when his team scored two runs or less was 0-9. In comparison, he was 13-1 when his team scratched out three runs or more. The Tampa Bay farm system continues to be a model for all of baseball at producing young talent.

2. Eric Hosmer-1B-Kansas City Royals
.293/.334/.465, 19 HR, 75 RBI, 1.3 WAR, 128 games

While only playing two-thirds of the season, Hosmer showed he belonged at the major league level. He is a monster in the batters box and became an instant run producer in the middle of the line-up for the up-and-coming Royals. His ability to combine power and batting average will make him a player to watch for the Royals in years to come. His is well on his way to being a perennial All-Star and he could make his first All-Star appearance in Kansas City's ballpark next year. The Royals could be tough team in the future and Hosmer could be the heart and soul of the franchise.

3. Mark Trumbo-1B-Los Angeles Angels
.254/.291/.477, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 2.1 WAR, 149 games

There were many deserving candidates in the American League this year and Trumbo deserves to be recognized as one of the top tier rookies. He showed the ability to mash the ball out of the park but some of his other offensive numbers deterred from his candidacy as the top rookie. His OBP of only .291 was pretty weak and his defense wasn't something to write home about. The Angels will be lucky to have two young studs like Trumbo and Mike Trout in the middle of their line-up for next year.

National League
1. Craig Kimbrel-RHP-Atlanta Braves
(4-3), 2.10 ERA, 46 saves, 1.039 WHIP, 127 K, 3.0 WAR, 79 games

Saves can be a fickle statistic but Kimbrel was able to pile up a ton of them for the Braves this year. He was the National League leader in saves and games finished in 2011. The Braves wilted down the stretch but their bullpen had been a strength all season. After only pitching 20 innings in '10, Kimbrel provided stability at the back end of the bullpen. He was named to the All-Star team in July after posting 28 saves and an ERA of 2.35 in the first half of the season. The second half saw Kimbrel pitch even stronger as he posted 1.74 ERA and he lowered his WHIP while increasing his strikeouts per nine innings pitched. This included Kimbrel setting the all-time record by compiling a stretch of 38 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. The Braves look like they have their closer for the foreseeable future and the team hopes he can help them make another playoff push in 2012.

2. Freddie Freeman-1B-Atlanta Braves
.282/.346/.448, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 1.7 WAR, 157 games

A franchise knows they are doing something right when two of the top Rookie of the Year candidates are members of their squad. Freeman got a taste of the big leagues last season and the Braves turned over the first base to their young star in '11. His batting average needs to improve but his OBP was very good for a young player. His nearly struck out once per game this year and that is another area of improvement for this left-handed slugger. If Jason Heyward can figure out some of his batting problems, the Braves have a young core of power hitters that could be poised to make some noise in the future.

3. Wilson Ramos-C-Washington Nationals
.267/.334/.445, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 2.5 WAR, 113 games

Ramos emerged as the power hitting catcher he had shown when the Nationals got him from the Twins last season. Many Twins fans are questioning that trade because of Joe Mauer's health situation this past year. As a 23-year old catcher, Ramos put himself into elite company in 2011. As Aaron Gleeman pointed out on his site, Ramos is only the sixth 23-year old catcher to post an adjusted OPS of 100 or higher in the last 25 year with 400 plate appearances. The others on the list are Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Jason Kendall, Craig Biggio, and Russell Martin. That's some impressive company to be in for young Mr. Ramos.

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