By C. Trent Rosecrans
During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Today: the AL Rookie of the Year.
Last year at this time it appeared a Brave was a shoe-in for the Rookie of the Year, but this time we mean it. The Braves will have the Rookie of the Year. Probably. The question is, which Brave will it be -- and will either avoid the sophomore slump that has plagued Jason Heyward a year after finishing second in the voting for the NL's top rookie?
The ballot asks for voters to vote for three rookies, but what's the fun in that? Here's three --plus one more in the race for the National League's best newcomer.
Danny Espinosa, Nationals: The Nationals second baseman was a leading candidate in the first half of the season, hitting 16 homers, driving in 52 and stealing 12 bases. In the second half he's hit just .206/.285/.311 with three homers and eight RBI in 47 games. Overall he's hitting .229/.316/.407. So while he's still under consideration, his drop off has been so drastic that he won't win the award, and may even struggle to get votes, because of the next htree guys...
Freddie Freeman, Braves: While Espinosa has sputtered in the second half, Freeman's just gotten better.
his home run rate has dropped, but his other stats are better since the All-Star break. The first baseman is hitting .295/.355/.462 with 18 homers and 67 RBI to go along with 30 doubles. Freeman will turn 22 next week, but already looks like a polished big leaguer, not just at the plate, but also in the field at first base.
Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Last year the American League's top rookie was a closer that took his team to the World Series -- the Braves hope it's their turn for that this season. Kimbrel leads the majors with 43 saves and hasn't allowed a run in his last 38 games, dating back to June 11. The power right-hander has struck out 115 batters in just 69 2/3 innings, walking just 26. As good as Neftali Feliz was last season, Kimbrel's already been better this year. Feliz recorded 40 saves and struck out 71 in 69 1/3 innings with a 2.73 ERA. Kimbrel bests him in all those categories, with an ERA (1.55) more than a run lower than Feliz had in his Rookie of the Year campaign.
Vance Worley, Phillies: On most teams it's not saying much to say a rookie has solidified himself as the team's No. 4 starter -- but this is the Phillies of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, three of the game's best. Worley's looked every bit like he belongs with that group. The 23-year-old right-hander is 11-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts and two relief appearances. He also has 96 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings. If anyone is going to challenge the two Braves, it's the Phillie -- which is only fitting.
So who do you have? Let us know in the comments your pick for the NL's top rookie.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.