MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the NL Central

Corey HanleyContributor IIIMay 2, 2011

MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the NL Central

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 24: Reliever Aroldis Chapman #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 24, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    There's a good crop of rookies this year in the NL Central. Some are accompanied by spectacular hype, while others are exceeding expectations.

    This year's crop is weaker than the last few. Players like Yonder Alonso, Devin Mesoraco and Jordan Lyles are all on the horizon.

    One of the division's best young pitchers, Andrew Cashner, just barely missed the cut as a rookie and it's a shame because he just recently got the opportunity that he deserved.

    Other than Cashner, there are some great players already making their mark like those before them.

    Here are the last three Rookie of the Year winners to come out of the NL Central:

    Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs - 2008

    Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers - 2007

    Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates - 2004

    Now for the ranking of the top five from the division in the 2011 Rookie of the Year race.

5. Sam LeCure, Cincinnati Reds

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    CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 07:  Sam LeCure #63 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the game against the Houston Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 7, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    LeCure has been up and down so far in 2011. After a brief taste of the majors in 2010, LeCure has once again been given a chance to start for the Reds, while Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto recover from injuries.

    LeCure has been a solid fill-in this year. He's shown flashes of being pretty good, with three earned runs over 11 innings in his first two starts, but has struggled in the next two appearances.

    Sam will likely be shifted to the bullpen or sent down soon because Cueto is nearing his return. He needs to show that he can last longer and be more efficient with his pitches to take the next step.

4. Eduardo Sanchez, St. Louis Cardinals

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 22: Reliever Eduardo Sanchez #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on April 22, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Eduardo Sanchez has been groomed well by the Cardinals and earned his major league debut in mid-April. Sanchez has been incredibly impressive with a mid to high 90s fastball and a slider to go with it.

    Sanchez's debut was incredible, striking out five and only allowing a hit in six outs. He has been very good at keeping people off the bases with just two walks and a WHIP of .70.

    Sanchez also has benefited from the demise of Ryan Franklin, as he has stepped up in Tony La Russa's closer-by-committee method to pick up his first major league save. He allowed the only two runs of his season in the save, but managed to close out the Brew Crew anyway.

    Sanchez could take over the closer job because he has the best stuff of the bullpen and could really impact games if he gets the chances. The move would also boost his push for the Rookie of the Year award.

3. Marco Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers

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    MARYVALE, AZ - MARCH 01:  Marco Estrada #74 poses for a portrait during the Milwaukee Brewers Photo Day at the Maryvale  Baseball Park on March 1, 2010 in Maryvale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Marco Estrada began 2010 in a tough place. He had fallen out of favor with the Nationals enough to get designated for assignment, but the Milwaukee Brewers decided to give him a shot and snatched him off of waivers.

    Since then, Estrada has worked hard to make the majors and may have earned his spot for good with a strong start to 2011.

    In three starts and two relief outings, Estrada has a 3.00 ERA with a WHIP of 1.00. These numbers are pretty strong for a guy that really only got the opportunity due to Zack Greinke's silly injury. But Estrada is making the decision for the Brewers more difficult when they decide to call up Greinke to start Wednesday.

    Estrada has been better statistically than Chris Narveson, but Narveson has had twice as many starts. I think Estrada deserves a chance to keep starting because he has put in some of the best rookie pitching in the NL so far.

2. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs

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    DENVER, CO - APRIL 17:  Second baseman Darwin Barney #15 of the Chicago Cubs plays defense against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Barney has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the entire division. His strong spring earned him the second base job for the Cubs and he has carried that success through the first month of the season.

    Barney was not considered a top prospect on anyone's charts. He wasn't really even considered as part of the top 20 in the organization. That's why his early performance is so spectacular for the Cubs.

    Darwin is tearing apart National League pitching with a .333 average and has played pretty good defense in the process. He and Starlin Castro combined are the best hitting middle infield in the majors.

    It's unclear whether Darwin Barney will continue his great start to the season in May, but its been fun to see him play so far. He has definitely made a case for the NL rookie honors.

1. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 10:  Relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Reds 10-8
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Chapman has been electric for his entire career. His fastball has been his calling card and is the biggest reason that he was such a sought after free agent when he hit the market in 2009.

    Aroldis has plenty of upside as the future closer for the Reds organization. His fastball is consistently clocked in the triple digits when he pitches out of the bullpen. His signature outing in 2011 was when he fired a 106 mph fastball inside at Andrew McCutchen. While it is up in the air whether or not that was accurate, he does hold the verified fastest clocked pitch in history at 105.1 mph.

    Chapman's fastball would not be so good if it didn't translate into success and it definitely has in 2011. He has only allowed five hits in 12.2 innings, but needs to work on his control. His wildness in his last outing led to three walks and the first two earned runs of his season.

    Other than that one incident, Chapman has separated himself from the rest of the division as the clear favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. He is lightning in a bottle for Dusty Baker and should contribute heavily to solidifying the back end of Reds' games.