Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we will be voting over the coming weeks on our award winners for the regular season. Last week I posted my votes for the AL and NL Connie Mack awards, given to our managers of the year, and I wrote yesterday about my choice for the AL award. I’ll be continuing on today with my choice for the National League’s top rookie, the Willie Mays award recipient.
I wrote about the overall rookie of the class over the weekend, and it is simply amazing just how good the National League’s rookie class is this season . These are in order from east to west (approximately), and I will have my final vote at the bottom.
Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
Strasburg was easily the most hyped prospect to come up all season, and probably would have won this award had he not gotten injured during the season. He finished the season with a 5-3 record with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. Unfortunately, he missed the last 6 weeks of the season due to an elbow injury, and ended up having Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2011 season.
Jason Heyward (ATL)
Jason Heyward was widely viewed as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award at the beginning of the season, and was indeed who I had selected during the preseason. All he did was perform to the level that was anticipated out of him and more, posting a .277/.393/.456 line with 18 home runs, 72 runs batted in, 83 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases. He was even voted in as an All-Star starter, but didn’t play due to injury.
Mike Stanton (FLA)
Mike Stanton was a surprise call up in June, and although he had never played above AA, still provided solid production in the 3 months he was up. He hit .259/.326/.507 with 22 home runs, 59 runs batted in, and 5 stolen bases.
Mike Leake (CIN)
Leake was a real surprise candidate, not just to be in this race but also to be on the roster since he had not actually pitched in the minor leagues. Leake started the season well, but ended up the season with an 8-4 record and a 4.23 ERA in 22 starts.
John Axford (MIL)
Axford established himself as the closer for the Brewers after Trevor Hoffman struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, and never really gave the job back. He finished the year with 24 saves and an 8-2 record to go with 76 strikeouts in just 58 innings pitched.
Starlin Castro (CHC)
Castro was another surprise call up, jumping from AA to the Majors in early May to help give the Cubs’ lineup a boost. He provided a .300 batting average with 10 stolen bases despite being just 20 years old. His fielding will need to improve, but that will definitely come with time.
Jaime Garcia (STL)
Garcia was a bit of an afterthought in the Cardinals’ rotation, and evolved into their 3rd most consistent starter behind aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Garcia went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA in his 28 starts this season.
Buster Posey (SF)
Posey was most definitely the firestarter for the Giants upon his call to the Show in May. All he did from there was hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs and 67 runs batted in. He is now the cleanup hitter for a team that was in desperate need of a big bat throughout the season.
It’s actually pretty scary to me just how many rookies should have been up for consideration that were left off of this list. Players like Neil Walker and Jose Tabata of the Pirates, Travis Wood of the Reds and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants all had significant rookie seasons, and would probably have won the award in many other seasons. But this class is definitely something special, and Buster Posey to me is the clear cut winner of this award. Despite playing in 50+ games less than Heyward, he put up comparable or better numbers in nearly every offensive category, and did so at a premium defensive position. There’s no doubt in my mind that the best rookie in the National League this season was Buster Posey.