MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Rookies of the AL West
As the season continues to take shape, the rookies are settling in and some are finding grooves and taking advantage of their opposition. The West is strong with rookie talent, most of which comes from one team.
Mike Trout and Dustin Ackley are the top prospects in the division, with Martin Perez and Chris Carter also looming on the horizon as potential game-changers as the Rookie of the Year ballot develops.
The AL West has been incredibly successful in pumping out great rookies, and this year could very well have a third consecutive winner to come out of this powerful division.
Here are the last three players from the AL West to win the Rookie of the Year award:
Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers, 2010
Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics, 2009
Huston Street, Oakland Athletics, 2005
Now for the top five rookies in the AL West for 2011, so far.
5. Tyler Chatwood, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Chatwood came into 2011 ranked ninth among the Angels top prospects in Baseball Prospectus. Scott Kazmir's injury allowed Chatwood to step in and he has been fairly successful in Kazmir's stead.
Tyler's main problem is control. He's walked multiple batters in all seven of his starts and has seven more walks than strikeouts. Despite the inconsistency in the strike zone, he has found success, going 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA.
The numbers are very strong for the young starter, but he is likely in need of more minor league seasoning to work on locating his pitches. Kazmir is close to coming back, so Chatwood may be back in Salt Lake soon.
4. Hank Conger, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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The Angels took a big risk when they traded Mike Napoli because they were counting on Jeff Mathis to take over behind the plate. Mathis has been terrible offensively, which has led to Conger getting an opportunity to share time, and he has taken advantage.
Conger is hitting .279 in 20 games behind the plate. In those games, he has hit three home runs and driven in 11. His contributions have helped propel the Angels offense that is missing production from Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter.
Conger has established himself as a part of the future for the Angels at the catcher position and has lived up to his hype.
3. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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Mark Trumbo just got the best/worst news he could ever receive. Originally a fill-in for the injured Kendrys Morales, Trumbo got off to a great start and was starting at first base.
Mark probably wishes that Morales was part of the lineup right now, but the news that he will be out for the rest of the season means that Trumbo will keep the job for the rest of the year.
Trumbo has done great things to get the Angels offense going. He's hitting .263 with six home runs and 17 RBI so far. His eye at the plate is suspect at times because he has struck out a lot and only drew six walks, but his power has been extremely helpful.
He fits very well as a replacement to Kendrys Morales.
2. Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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When Jordan Walden was named closer early in the season, after Fernando Rodney was relieved of the duties, the bullpen seemed like a mess. It was hard to believe that a team could just insert a rookie into the closer spot and get success.
That's why Walden has been such a blessing. The year began spectacularly for the hard-throwing right-hander, going over 10 innings before allowing his first run. He converted his first five save opportunities.
Recently, Walden has struggled. He's blown two out of his last three saves and his ERA has gone up to 3.12. He'll need to do a lot better to catch up to the next AL West rookie.
1. Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners
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Michael Pineda has been stellar for the Mariners and seems to have emerged as a terrific partner in a future 1-2 pitching combo with Felix Hernandez.
Pineda is a huge guy at 6'7", and uses the height to drive his pitches at great angles to deceive hitters. His high '90s fastball flies past opposing hitters.
Pineda started off the year with a string of fantastic starts, including a couple of one-run outings against Kansas City and Toronto. Even when he's struggled, he has managed to keep a little control. His career high in runs allowed is just four. His ERA is a very low 2.84.
The best asset Pineda has in the race is his strikeout total. He has struck out 45 hitters in 44.1 innings, which is incredible for any pitcher, rookie or not.
Pineda has emerged as a frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award. Zach Britton seems to be his only competition right now, but Eric Hosmer could soon make a push. For right now, Pineda is in line for the AL West's next Rookie of the Year award.