Earlier today, we took at look at the American League Rookie of the Year, as voted on by our staff here at the Outside Corner. Right now, it’s time to look at the National League version of the award. At the midseason voting, four players received a first place vote, including three members of the Atlanta Braves. Things were a little different this time around.
Midseason winner: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
1) Craig Kimbrel, Braves. 39 points (seven first place votes)
2) Danny Espinosa, Nationals. 23 points (one first place vote)
3) Wilson Ramos, Nationals. 22 points
4) Brandon Beachy, Braves. 17 points
5) Vance Worley, Phillies. 14 points (one first place vote)
6) Freddie Freeman, Braves. 11 points
7) Allen Craig, Cardinals. 3 points
8) Darwin Barney, Cubs. 3 points
9) Dillon Gee, Mets. 2 points
10) Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks. 1 point
Things were drastically flipped from the voting back in July, with Craig Kimbrel of the Braves getting a commanding percentage of the votes. He was left off one ballot (ironically, the same ballot that left Michael Pineda off in the AL). Kimbrel wasn’t just the best rookie in the NL this year, he was also the best reliever. In the 77 inningis Kimbrel threw in 2011, he struck out 127, walked 32, and saved a rookie record 46 games.The 3.2 fWAR he racked up led baseball among all relievers, and those 46 saves were tied for the National League lead with John Axford of the Brewers. His 127 strikeouts were far and away the highest total of all relievers (the next closest was Tyler Clippard of the Nationals with 104), and his 1.52 FIP and 1.94 xFIP were both the best marks in baseball. If not for a rough patch down the stretch in September, his 2.10 ERA would probably also be in the top five or ten in the league. Regardless of that, he was still the best relieverin the league this year. As a rookie. That’s hard to do.
A pair of thee fWAR Nationals were the next two in the standings. Danny Espinosa won the award at midseason, but faded as the season wore on, and he ended up finishing with a .737 OPS. His 21 homerrs were tied for the NL rookie lead with Freddie Freeman, and his 66 RBI were second to Freeman. He also stole 17 bases, second to Dee Gordon among NL rookies. Wilson Ramos was acquired by the Nationals from the Twins last year for Matt Capps, as is looking like the backstop of the future for Washington. With Ivan Rodriguez hobbled by injuries for a good portion of 2011, Ramos got the majority of playing time behind the plate in DC. He had a .779 OPS on the season, and homered 15 times. His overall numbers were very similar to Espinosa’s (minus the steals), but because Ramos posted his in over 200 fewer plate appearances, he suffered in the voting as a result. But he’s already a top young catcher in baseball.
Braves teammates Brandon Beachy and Freddie Freeman were both given slots on the 2011 team due to strong perfomances in the minors in 2010. Both come from different backgrounds, with Beachy being signed as an undrafted free agent, while Freeman was a second round pick in the draft. Due to an oblique strain, Beachy only started 25 games and threw 141 2/3 innings, but he was one of the Braves best starters during the season. Beachy’s 169 strikeouts led all National League rookies (as well as his entire veteran team in Atlanta), and his 3.68 ERA wasn’t bad either. As for Freeman, he hit pretty well during the season, with a .794 OPS and 21 homers, but horrendous defense (according to UZR, at least) at first base shattered his overall value. The fact that he’s a first baseman didn’t help him too much, as you expect some stronger offensive productive. What casts him in a different light from players like Espinosa and Ramos is that they’re playing positions that aren’t neccessarily known for great offense. You expect more offense out of a first baseman than you do a second baseman or a catcher, and when Freeman’s numbers are comparable to those two, he looks worse in comparison.
Vance Worley of the Phillies got a rotation spot after injuries to Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt, and he didn’t let it go until the playoffs came around. Worley provided a younger compliment to the Phillies’ three aces, with a 3.01 ERA and 11-3 record in 21 starts this year for the NL East champions. He struck out fewer hitters than Beachy though, and at the end of the day, that was the major difference between the two pitchers. Worley would make a five man rookie rotation this year, but he wouldn’t be the ace of the staff. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course.
In the “others receiving votes” category, Allen Craig was an absolute monster for the Cardinals, with a .917 OPS for the season, albeit in just 219 plate appearances. Craig also had a fantastic postseason for St Louis. Unfortunately, the numbers game looks like it’ll get to him if Albert Pujols re-signs, as Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday have the corner positions locked up. If Pujols signs somewhere else, though, then the door is open for Craig to take over at either first base or right field, with Berkman moving to first. Darwin Barney of the Cubs was one of those pesky little scrappy players, who seem to take up permanent residence in the midwest. He only OPSed .666, but played good defense and was great on the basepaths (despite a low stolen base total). He’s nowhere near the same league as his double play partner, Starlin Castro. Dillon Gee was just kind of there this year for the Mets. He had a great 13-6 record, but had a 4.43 ERA with middling strikeout, walk and homer totals. He just seems like a back-end starter to me. And finally, we have Josh Collmenter of the NL West champion Diamondbacks, who offset a low strikeout total with pinpoint control and helped stabilize the back-end of the rotation that had been filled with guys like Armando Galarraga and Zach Duke for the first third of the season.