MLB 2011: Top 5 AL Rookie of the Year Candidates

Isaiah ClarkCorrespondent IAugust 30, 2011

MLB 2011: Top 5 AL Rookie of the Year Candidates

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    There is nothing quite like seeing who wins the most coveted awards in baseball. Whether it's the MVP, CY Young, Home Run crown or Rookie of the Year, the race to the finish is always fun to watch.

    This season has been quite the battle between the rookies. Some shining early, some staying consistent and other shining at the right moment.

    Being a rookie is never easy.  All the adjustments needed to receive playing time, not to mention dealing with the emotions, spotlight, criticism and more importantly the best of the best on a daily basis.

    The race looks to be one that could go down to the final game of the season, if the top three contenders continue to impress down the stretch.

    So here are my rankings for the top 5 candidates for Rookie of the Year in the American League.

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer (1B): Kansas City Royals

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    Hosmer is the youngest of all AL rookies at 21.  Thus far he has had a pretty solid rookie season, even with a sluggish start to his career after being called up earlier this season.

    He has assumed the role as the everyday first baseman for the Royals and hasn't disappointed defensively either. Given his talent and age, I definitely see him becoming a star-studded name across baseball in the next couple of years. 

    But like I stated earlier, this is the year of the pitcher in the ROY category. So I had to keep him off of my top 5 list even though he is on the cusp of making it.

    If he has a strong finish to the season, while other rookies falter, he could find himself finishing in the top 3.

    Key Stats

    AB: 409 

    AVG: .274

    HR: 12

    RBI: 57

    R: 43

    SB: 7

5. Jordan Walden (RHP): Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Here is a guy that is just as important to the Angels as Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

    He has a lights-out fastball, but has a problem of relying on it too often.  In fact, he relies on it eighty percent of the time. It makes things a little easier for a hitter when they can sit back and know a fastball is coming.

    When he started the season he was one of the hottest closers/pitchers in the game. His control has fallen off to some extent, which has troubled him in his 9 blown saves.

    Some of you may be thinking there is no way this guy is ahead of Hosmer or maybe even a few other rookies, but let me tell you why he deserves to be.  He plays for a team that provides little to no run support a lot of the time and they rely on their pitching more than anything. He has appeared in fifty-two games this season, meaning seventeen of his appearances were in non-save situations. That just goes to show how heavily they rely on their pitching to win ballgames.

    So not only do his overall numbers have him in my top 5, but they also demonstrate just how important he is to this team and making the postseason.

    Key Stats

    IP: 50.0

    W-L: 4-3

    SV: 26

    SVO: 35

    ERA: 2.70

    Ks: 55

    BB: 21

4. Michael Pineda (RHP): Seattle Mariners

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    Pineda is another one of those guys that doesn't get much run support. His offense ranks towards the bottom in the AL in almost every statistical category.

    Yet, he has still managed 9 wins in his rookie season thus far.

    Earlier in the season, some believed he was the clear front runner for the AL ROY, but since then he has lost some of his control and velocity.  He also hasn't been challenging the opposition like he did in the early part of the season.

    His most recent start was a solid outing, but his offense couldn't give him any support as he got the loss against the White Sox 3-0.

    He is 1-2 in his last 7 starts, which is why he isn't at the top of this list.  However, his strong first half has kept him in the race, but with his innings more than likely being reduced since the postseason is out of the picture, it's very unlikely he will win AL ROY.

    Key Stats

    IP: 153.0

    W-L: 9-8

    ERA: 3.71

    Ks: 156

    BB: 50

3. Jeremy Hellickson (RHP): Tampa Bay Rays

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    After showcasing some of his talent last season, most analysts predicted him the clear favorite to win the AL ROY before the season ever got underway. 

    He has solid mechanics to go along with some great off-speed. His changeup is by far the best pitch in his arsenal. More often than not that is also the pitch he finishes the opposition with for a strike out.

    He has the best ERA among AL rookie starters, but has a few more losses than I would like to see out of a Rookie of the Year winner.

    In his last seven starts he is 3-2 with wins against the Yankees and Mariners (2).

    Let's not forget that he won the Minor League Player of the Year award last season. There is no doubt this kid can pitch and will be a solid pitcher throughout his career, but he just isn't my AL ROY.

    Key Stats

    IP: 149.1

    W-L: 11-9

    ERA: 3.01

    Ks: 102

    BB: 52

2. Mark Trumbo (1B): Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Talk about a player with pure power and you have to throw in Trumbo's name.  This kid can straight mash the ball. His 24 homers are good enough for a ninth place tie in the AL.

    It almost seemed as if he saved their season when he hit a walk-off homer against the Rangers' Mike Adams that pulled them within 3 games of the division lead instead of falling to 5 back.

    He needs some improving in his defensive skills, but he is still young and will continue to get the opportunity to prove himself. However, when Kendry Morales comes back I have a feeling you may see him in the outfield.

    The Angels are going to need his offense down the stretch to help carry a team that relies heavily on pitching. I can only imagine how poorly this offense would be performing if it weren't for Trumbo this season.

    Though his power numbers are up there, he still isn't my leader as of now for AL ROY.  

    That spot goes to........

    Key Stats

    AB: 446

    AVG: .258

    HR: 24

    RBI: 73

    R: 73

    SB: 8

1. Ivan Nova (RHP): New York Yankees

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    Talk about a season savior for the New York Yankees.  

    Going into spring training he was battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. Girardi gave him a chance, while putting Colon down in the pen.

    With Hughes going on the DL early, Nova needed to step up. Not only to help the cause of his team, but to try and ensure him a spot in the rotation for when Hughes returned.

    Unfortunately, when Hughes returned from the DL, Nova found himself back in Triple-A. But soon after being down there and recovering from an injury he was right back up thanks to the lack of pitching from Burnett and Hughes.

    He is 6-0 since returning from Triple-A. He has also won ten straight decisions, which is absolutely outstanding and just what the doctor ordered to help save the Yankees rotation. In fact he has been the hottest pitcher on the staff of late, not CC Sabathia (even though he is their clear cut ace).

    Getting hot at the right time is what they all talk about when it comes to winning awards and that's exactly what Nova has been doing.  He is fifth in wins for the AL with 14. That's more than the likes of Josh Beckett, Dan Haren, David Price, Felix Hernandez and the list goes on.

    Though he won't blow you away with his fastball, he knows how to pitch to contact and get outs. His numbers may not be as flashy as others, but given the fact that he has helped salvage a struggling rotation in New York and won 14 games speaks for itself.

    That's why he is my leader for the AL ROY.

    Key Stats

    IP: 131.2

    W-L: 14-4

    ERA: 3.96

    Ks: 81

    BB: 45