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MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the NL East

Corey HanleyContributor IIIApril 23, 2011

MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the NL East

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Atlanta Braves prepares to throw a pitch during their opening day game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on April 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Last week, I ranked the rookie pitchers of the AL East, featuring arms like Zach Britton, Kyle Drabek and Ivan Nova.

    This week, I've decided to take on the NL counterpart and expand my rankings to include the rookie hitters as well.

    The NL East is unique in my eyes because I think the top contenders for the Rookie of the Year are right in the NL East. The division currently sports the best rookie in the NL, but we'll get to that later.

    Now take a look at the power rankings of the top five on the NL East rookie ladder.

5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves during their opening day game against the Philadephia Phillies at Turner Field on April 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Freddie Freeman has been pretty good for the Braves so far. He is hitting .274 with three home runs, as well as playing spectacular defense.

    Freeman came in uncontested as the starting first baseman after Derrek Lee signed with the Orioles. It was pretty clear that the job was his after 2010 though.

    Freeman, who is a close friend of right fielder Jason Heyward, is continuing to develop into a star. He is big at 6'5" but still has the ability to field better than most first basemen. Freeman, along with Heyward, seems to be a big part of the Braves' future.

4. Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: Wilson Ramos #3 of the Washington Nationals leads off against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on April 12, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Wilson Ramos was a top prospect for the future at catcher for the Twins but was blocked by Joe Mauer, so he became expendable. Now with Mauer experiencing injuries that could end his catching career, they probably wish they had Ramos back—especially because he's really stepped up for the Nationals.

    Ramos is hitting the ball very well right now while sharing time behind the plate with Ivan Rodriguez. He's in a great position right now because he can learn from one of the all-time greatest catchers and make a name for himself at the position.

    Ramos has an incredible slash line of .364/.447/.424, which is spectacular for any player, especially one so young. At 23, Ramos has a long way to go but has been very impressive so far and could be great as he develops a little more.

3. Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Brandon Beachy #37 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 19, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Brandon Beachy has gone from relative obscurity to incredible success in a very short time as a part of the Braves organization. Originally an undrafted free agent, Beachy beat former seventh overall pick Mike Minor for the fifth spot in the Braves rotation and has not looked back.

    Beachy has pretty average stuff but doesn't walk many and strikes out a lot of hitters. He has used that to rack up 24 strikeouts in 23-and-a-third innings and has a pretty solid 3.86 ERA.

    It's pretty incredible to see how far Beachy has come. He has defied the odds to make a big impact and still has a lot of room to grow at age 25.

2. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31:  Reliever Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Atlanta Braves (L) and catcher Brian McCann #16 react after the Braves defeated the Washington Nationals against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on March 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Craig Kimbrel took over as closer from retired lefty Billy Wagner and has been just as good, if not better.

    Kimbrel has a hard fastball and uses it well to overpower hitters. He has struck out 14 in nine innings and walked just two. He has also just allowed one earned run.

    Kimbrel has blown just one save this year in six chances but has been incredibly good otherwise. He showed great resiliency by coming back the day after the blown save to throw a perfect ninth to close the very next game.

    Kimbrel has a bright future at closer and has silenced anybody that has suggested that he share the closer job with Johnny Venters.

1. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14:  Danny Espinosa #18 of the Washington Nationals on base against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on April 14, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Danny Espinosa is playing great baseball for the Nationals and is a clear front-runner for the Rookie of the Year race.

    Espinosa impressed in 2010 with incredible power but struggled to keep a good average. He has come back to have alright power again but with a significantly better average. He has also been able to drive in a lot of runs, leading the team with 15. After Ian Desmond struggled in the leadoff spot, Espinosa has jumped in and filled it well.

    Espinosa has played great second base as well. His defense has been a major upgrade over the weak second baseman the Nationals trotted out in 2010.

    Espinosa has the makings of a great second baseman. He is currently the third-best in the division and will likely stay there for a long time, but he will bridge the gap between himself and Dan Uggla as he develops.

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