There was no shortage of quality rookies in the AL this year. I'm only ranking the top five overall here, but first a few honorable mentions (in no particular order): Jesse Crain, Minnesota (RP); Chris Young, Texas (SP); Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay (SP); Nick Swisher, Oakland (OF-1B); Jonny Gomes, Tampa Bay (OF); Russ Adams, Toronto (SS); Dan Johnson, Oakland (1B). Quite a year for rookies in Oakland, by the way.
1. Huston Street, Oakland (RP): Converted 23 of 25 Saves since becoming the A's closer in early June, and his 1.72 ERA was second among all AL closers to none other than Mariano Rivera...enough said.
2. Robinson Cano, New York (2B): As it turns out, Tad Iguchi's defensive numbers were only slightly better than Cano's, leaving the decision as to where to rank these two as a virtual tossup, considering Cano's offensive numbers (.297 BA, .458 SLG, 78 Runs, 34 2B, 14 HR, 62 RBI) are slightly more impressive. In the end, I gave Cano the edge because he's more of a true rookie than Iguchi, the Japanese four-time all star.
3. Tadahito Iguchi, Chicago (2B): Easily produced the most consistent season among AL rookie position players (.278, 74 Runs, 15 HR, 71 RBI, 15 SB), but since he was already an established professional, that was less impressive than Cano's season. Okay, I'll admit it...I said I wasn't going to discriminate against Iguchi due to his professional experience in Japan, but I guess I changed my mind.
4. Joe Blanton, Oakland (SP): Easily the most consistent among AL rookie starting pitchers. Suffered from a lack of run support (3.93 per 9 IP, compared to 6.21 for Chacin), which explains the 12-12 record, despite leading all AL rookies in ERA (3.53) and quality starts (22).
5. Gustavo Chacin, Toronto (SP): He slumped big time in August, but in the end put together a strong rookie campaign, leading all AL rookies in innings (203) and wins (13-9).
In the National League, the early season injury suffered by Clint Barmes and the second half emergence of Ryan Howard and Jeff Francoeur muddled the rookie of the year picture. However, there was a pair of everyday rookies who provided the strongest candidacies for the award.
1. Willy Taveras, Houston (CF): Despite just a .666 OPS, Taveras is my pick for the NL award. He led all Major League rookies in At Bats, Runs, Hits, and Stolen Bases. He also played very good defense in CF for the Astros, including ranking second only to Andruw Jones in outfield assists among NL center fielders.
2. Garrett Atkins, Colorado (3B): Often overlooked in NL rookie discussions, Atkins produced the most solid season of all, leading all NL rookies in RBI with 89 and hitting .287 with 13 HR and a .773 OPS.
3. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia (1B): While not quite as celebrated as Francoeur, Howard gets the edge in my book. His numbers speak for themselves: 22 HR (first among NL rookies), 63 RBI, .924 OPS. And, let's not overlook the fact that he stepped in admirably to replace the injured Jim Thome.
4. Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta (OF): I'm certainly not trying to diminish Francoeur's accomplishments, but this is a strong field, and less than half a season does not a rookie of the year make. It was, however, a fantastic partial season, as he batted .300 with 14 HR in 257 AB, and produced an amazing 13 outfield assists (although also 5 errors) in just 67 games.
5. Clint Barmes, Colorado (SS): Barmes gets the nod to round out the top five over a number of solid, but unspectacular, NL rookies. He did make 17 errors in only half a season, but he was the leading candidate before getting injured, and did finish at .289 with 10 HR, 46 RBI, 55 Runs, and a .764 OPS.
I could either rattle off a long list of NL honorable mentions, or just a few, so I'll opt for the latter: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (2B); Gary Majewski, Washington (RP); Chad Qualls, Houston (RP).
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