MLB Power Rankings: Each League's Top 3 Candidates for Rookie of the Year

Drew Laing@@drewrlaingAnalyst IJune 8, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: Each League's Top 3 Candidates for Rookie of the Year

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    ST PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 17:  Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the game at Tropicana Field on April 17, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    With Major League Baseball entering its third month of the 2011 season, many rookies are making their mark on their respective teams.

    Teams like the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks have surprised the leagues with solid performances from Asdrubal Cabrera and outstanding play from Justin Upton and Stephen Drew.

    However, the rookies in 2011 are stealing the show so far.

    Great seasons from Michael Pineda, Jeremy Hellickson and Danny Espinosa are just a few examples of how the Major League rookies are impressing teams and fans.

    With so much rookie excellence, the competition for Rookie of the Year in both leagues will be tightly contested.

    So here is my opinion on which three rookies from each league are leading the way to claiming the Rookie of the Year distinction so far in 2011.

3. 1B Freddie Freeman: Atlanta Braves

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 18:  Infielder Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves fields a ground ball out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on May 18, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Get
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    For several years, the Braves have continued to search for a long-term solution at first base.

    And so far, Freddie Freeman has lived up to the responsibility.

    In his first season in the bigs, Freeman has posted a solid .277 batting average in 58 games.

    He's only hit five home runs so far and 21 RBIs, but Freeman has been a steady bat in the bottom portion of the Braves lineup.

    A look at the production from other Braves players and one could argue that Freeman has been Atlanta's second best hitter in 2011.

    One of the more impressive stats about Freeman is his success against left-handed pitchers. Although it is only 58 games, Freeman has been hitting .293 against left-handers and three of his five home runs have come while facing southpaws.

    Arguably Freeman's best asset, however, is his outstanding fielding ability.

    He holds a fielding percentage of .995 and has only committed three errors. He has been excellent in saving errors at first base from other teammates, and Freeman has great reaction when it comes to scooping balls out of the dirt.

    So far in 2011 Freeman has impressed many of his teammates and fans around the league. Look for him to continue his success due to his high confidence that he can get the job done in Atlanta with his timely hitting and great fielding.

2. 2B Danny Espinosa: Washington Nationals

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    PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 05:  Infielder Danny Espinosa #18 of the Washington Nationals throws over the sliding Willie Bloomquist #18 of the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete a double play during the thrid inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field o
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Perhaps one of the more surprising rookies in 2011 has been Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa.

    He has provided some stability at the middle infield position for the Nationals, who have gone through several second baseman since the franchise was resurrected in 2005.

    Even better, Espinosa has been hot at the plate this season with 10 home runs, placing fourth among the league's second basemen.

    One low light in his season, however, is his low batting average at .218.

    But clearly Espinosa has shown some pop in his bat and as long as he continues to hit home runs, the Nationals will not complain.

    If his home runs and average continue to dip, he'll most likely drop in the lineup which will limit his run-producing opportunities.

1. SP Dillon Gee: New York Mets

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    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Dillon Gee #35 of the New York Mets throws a pitch in the top of the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on June 4, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher P
    Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

    Dillon Gee has become one of the most reliable pitchers for a New York Mets rotation that does not have the star power fans have become accustomed to in the last decade.

    He has yet to lose a game with a record of 6-0 and an ERA of which is the best for a rookie pitcher in the National League.

    More importantly, Gee has performed well against division opponents. 

    In his last two starts against other NL East teams, Gee is 2-0 and going at least seven innings in each while allowing no earned runs.

    He is also posting a 2:1 strikeouts to walk ratio in his eight starts over 54 innings pitched.

    While it remains unknown whether Gee can continue to put up these great numbers as the Mets continue to face division opponents like the Phillies and Marlins, he is certainly worthy of National League Rookie of the Year consideration.

    Gee is arguably the best rookie in the NL so far in 2011.

3. 1B Mark Trumbo: Los Angeles Angels

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 29: Mark Trumbo #44 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of their game on May 29, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Angels defeated the Twins 6-5.
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Mark Trumbo sure has made his mark on the Los Angeles Angels roster.

    He has shown that he has a lot of power in his bat and can hit consistently.

    He leads all rookies in the Majors with 11 home runs and is second in the AL among rookies with a .263 batting average.

    Trumbo also has an excellent glove in the field, committing only four errors all season at first base.

    He has also shown a knack for some good base running aggressiveness by already stealing six bases in 2011.

    Since Trumbo has been swinging the bat very well, he has secured himself within the middle of the Angels' lineup.

    Trumbo continues to impress and has not shown any signs of letting up.  He currently has an eight-game hitting streak heading into his June 7 game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    He can easily put up 30 or more home runs this season and that would make a strong case for Trumbo to be Rookie of the Year.

    But for now, Trumbo is the third best rookie in the American League.

2. SP Jeremy Hellickson: Tampa Bay Rays

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    SEATTLE - JUNE 04:  Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 4, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Jeremy Hellickson, also known as "Hellboy", has lived up to the hype in his first full season in the Majors.

    He is 7-3 with a 2.64 ERA and already a complete game shutout for his career.

    His seven wins are tops among all rookie pitchers throughout both leagues while his 2.64 ERA ranks him second among rookie pitchers.

    Perhaps Hellickson's most impressive statistic is his success away from home.  

    He is 5-1 away from home with an opposing team batting average of .210.

    Hellickson's strength lies in how he can throw different pitches with the same kind of release.  Batters are constantly fooled by his excellent fastball and change-up combination.

    Even though he is only a rookie, Hellickson has become one of the Rays' most reliable pitchers, and he holds the team's best record in 2011.

    The duo of him and David Price could be one of the best as Hellickson continues to progress very quickly.

    Barring any setback, Hellickson very well could win American League Rookie of the Year honors for his outstanding pitching in 2011.

1. SP Michael Pineda: Seattle Mariners

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    SEATTLE - MAY 04:  Starting pitcher Michael Pineda #36 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on May 4, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    In a pitching staff that consists of Felix Hernandez, it may be tough for a rookie pitcher to gain any spotlight behind one of the best pitchers in the Majors.

    But not for Michael Pineda.

    He has risen quickly to be a solid No. 2 starter for the Seattle Mariners in his rookie season.

    He is tops among rookies with a 2.33 ERA and has also earned six wins in 12 appearances.

    Pineda can throw a fastball in the high 90s and also throws a quality change-up and cut slider.

    Another stat that could be more impressive than his ERA is his 76/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 77 innings pitched

    He is showing that he can make batters miss while maintaining control of his pitches and keeping runners off base.

    Pineda has established himself has a potentially elite pitcher in the Majors and is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year for the American League.