MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the AL Central

Corey HanleyContributor IIIApril 30, 2011

MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the AL Central

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    SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals field a ground ball during a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    The rookie crop in the American League Central Division is a little weak in rookies right now. The strongest prospects in the division are Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lonnie Chisenhall, but they are still maturing in the minors.

    Of the rookies that have been playing in the majors, most are struggling. None of the current players have made much of an impact on the Rookie of the Year race.

    Here are the last four Rookie of the Year winners out of the AL Central:

    Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers - 2006

    Angel Berroa, Kansas City Royals—2003

    Carlos Beltran, Kansas City Royals—1999

    Marty Cordova, Minnesota Twins—1995

    Here are the ranks for the current players vying for the award.

5. Brent Morel, Chicago White Sox

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    GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 02:  Brent Morel #22 of the Chicago White Sox gets ready to make a play against the Cincinnati Reds during a spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark on March 2, 2011 in Goodyear, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Brent Morel was supposed to take over third base and become a solid starter for the White Sox, but has struggled a little in the early part of the season.

    Morel has struggled to drive the ball hard, with just four extra base hits, all doubles. His average is .203, but more concerning is the fact that he hasn't drawn a walk yet in 20 games. He has been losing starts to Mark Teahan over the past few days and needs to play better to avoid a demotion.

    Morel has the talent to take over, but looks over-matched right now. More time will improve his numbers, but he hasn't made much of a case yet for any awards.

4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 29: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox prepares to pitch against the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field on August 29, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Chris Sale was spectacular in 2010. After being drafted 13th overall in June, he shot through the minors to join the big league team in August. In 21 appearances, he pitched to a 1.93 ERA with 32 strikeouts and even picked up four saves as Bobby Jenks struggled to close.

    Sale entered 2011 with high expectations. His mid 90s fastball was great in his first stint with the club, so he projected to be a solid arm that could back up Matt Thornton for some saves. Unfortunately, things haven't worked out.

    Sale has been inconsistent so far, allowing runs in four of his 10 appearances. He looked pretty bad in his appearance against the Orioles on Friday, when he allowed a run on two hits and two walks.

    He has definitely shown potential, but needs to work on consistency to stay great. Sale could easily push his way back into good graces with a few strong outings in a row.

3. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Minnesota Twins

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    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 05:  Tsuyoshi Nishioka #1 of the Minnesota Twins against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 5, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Nishioka's professional career in America hasn't gone too well. He was playing alright in the first few games of the season. His average was low, but he seemed to be adjusting to the league and had the potential to turn it around with a little time.

    That's why it was so hard to see him go down with a broken leg after Nick Swisher slid hard into his leg.

    Nishioka will be back and should provide some spark for the struggling Twins. With more time, he'll impact the award races.

2. Jeremy Jeffress, Kansas City Royals

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    ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 24:  Pitcher Jeremy Jeffress #41 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Jeremy Jeffress was a key piece in the Zack Greinke trade last winter due to his incredible stuff and high upside and has not disappointed so far in Kansas City.

    Jeffress has been pitching well out of the bullpen and has been a strong part of the Royals' current success.

    The knock on Jeremy comes off the field. He has tested positive three times for drug abuse and has served 150 games total in suspensions. One more positive test will expel him from baseball for good.

    That said, his performance on the field is strong and can contribute to the rise of the Royals in the Central. If he can stay clean, he has high potential.

1. Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 06:  Aaron Crow #43 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during a Spring Training game against the Texas Rangers on March 6, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Aaron Crow has been lights out so far this year and probably is the only AL Central player currently in the majors with a shot at Rookie of the Year.

    The Royals must be pinching themselves that the hard-throwing righty didn't sign with the Nationals in 2008 and fell to them in 2009.

    Crow has a plus fastball and has used it to dominate hitters out of the bullpen. He has not allowed a run (earned or unearned) in 10 appearances and has pitched to a WHIP of only .95.

    Crow should be starting, but could learn a lot in the bullpen before getting the chance to start later in his career.

    While Crow will get some consideration for Rookie of the Year if he keeps up the good work, it probably won't go to him. In fact, it seems unlikely that anyone in this division will get it at this point. That could all change with some call-ups, so look out for some other Royals and a young Indians third baseman named Lonnie Chisenhall to be at the top of the AL Central rookie rankings by the end of the year.