12 November 2011
One key to the Diamondbacks' amazing 2011 season was the pitching of rookie Josh Collmenter, who came out of nowhere to post a 3.38 ERA with 10 Wins over 24 starts. For the National League as a whole, it wasn't a great year for rookies. The best rookie starting pitchers, for example, did not pitch in the Majors for the full season. Only six rookie position players managed to get over 350 Plate Appearances. None of the best rookie position players were both full-time players and particularly good offensively. The only rookie who played like an All-Star all season was the Braves' Craig Kimbrel, who I have ranked at #1. Here are my Top 10 NL Rookie of the Year rankings for 2011. The official MLB Rookie of the Year results will be announced on Monday, November 14th at 2:00 ET.
1. Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL - 4-3, 46 Saves, 77 IP, 2.10 ERA, 1.52 FIP, 3.0 bWAR, 3.2 fWAR
Kimbrel had an amazing year as the Braves' closer, finishing with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings, for a rate of 14.8 K/9. That gives Kimbrel the 4th highest K/9 season in history among pitchers with at least 75 IP, and his career rate of 15.4 K/9 (167K in 97.2 IP) is currently the highest of any pitcher in history. Kimbrel led the NL with 46 Saves and in Games Finished with 64. He did slow down a little down the stretch, as did the rest of the Braves, by allowing runs in three of his last four outings, but his overall season was very impressive.
2. Wilson Ramos, C WAS - .267/.334/.445, 435 PA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 2.5 bWAR, 3.1 fWAR
Ramos emerged as the Nationals' primary catcher in 2011, and had a surprisingly good offensive season, with a .789 OPS. He has moved past veteran Ivan Rodriguez and fellow youngster Jesus Flores as the starter for 2012. At age 23, he hit 15 HR, which was a higher total than any of his minor league seasons. But the power appears to be real, and his on-base skills are solid for a catcher. Defensively, he caught a respectable number of basestealers at 32%, and is well regarded for his throwing, release, and footwork, with an average defensive rating from the Fans' Scouting Report of 64.
3. Vance Worley, SP PHI - 11-3, 131.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 2.8 bWAR, 2.5 fWAR
Like Collmenter, Worley was another pitcher who really improved in 2011. Worley had 8.1K/9 for the Phillies, after only striking out 5.9 and 6.8 per 9 in the Minors in 2009 and 2010. He increased his strikeouts while keeping his walk rate decent (3.1 BB/9) and the home runs down (0.7 HR/9). Worley emerged as the Phillies' 4th best starter in 2011, moving ahead of Roy Oswalt, and is penciled in as the team's #4 starter in 2012.
4. Danny Espinosa, 2B WAS - .236/.323/.414, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB, 2.5 bWAR, 3.5 fWAR
Espinosa led all NL rookies in HR (21-tie), Runs (72), and Plate Appearances (658), and finished second in RBI (66) and SB (17). While his counting stats are high, the offensive rate stats were just so-so, a .236 batting average, .323 on-base percentage, and a .414 slugging percentage. His first half was much better with a .793 OPS, but in the second half he slumped to a .663 OPS. Espinosa does offer a nice combination of power and speed, and gets high marks for his defense, averaging 76 on the Fans' Report. He will probably need to cut down his 25.2% strikeout rate in the future.
5. Josh Collmenter, SP ARI - 10-10, 3.38 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 2.5 bWAR, 2.2 fWAR
Collmenter started the year in the Minors, but ended up as the Diamondbacks' #3 starter in the Playoffs. Many expected Collmenter's unusual pitching motion and lack of velocity to make him better suited to be a reliever, but he continued to exceed expectations. He led all NL rookies in Innings Pitched (154.1), and also in Quality Starts with 15. One key to his success was his control, as Collmenter only walked 1.6 per nine innings, much better than the 3.1BB/9 he averaged in the minors.
6. Brandon Beachy, SP ATL - 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 2.0 bWAR, 2.8 fWAR
Beachy led all NL rookie starters with 169 strikeouts and an excellent 10.9 K/9. He pitched very well through August, but finished with a 5.27 ERA over the final month of the season. Beachy is one of several great young Braves' pitchers battling for a rotation spot in 2012.
7. Freddie Freeman, 1B ATL - .282/.346/.448, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 1.1 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR
Freeman led all NL rookies in HR (21-tie) and 76 RBI. The defensive metrics hated him (-12.6 UZR, -5 TZ), which contributed to his low WAR totals. But first base is one of those positions where these metrics are least reliable - most scouts and fans rated him as above average, and the Fans Scouting Report gave him an average score of 56. Offensively, he had a fine season for a 21-year old.
8. Kenley Jansen, RP LAD - 2-1, 2.85 ERA, 5 Saves, 53.2 IP, 1.0 bWAR, 1.5 fWAR
Jansen had a remarkable season in relief for the Dodgers, striking out 96 batters in just 53.2 IP, for a rate of 16.1 K/9. Over the second half of the year, Jansen was even more impressive. He only allowed 2 ER in 23 IP (0.78 ERA), while striking out over two batters per inning (48K in 23 IP).
9. Cory Luebke, SP SD - 6-10, 139.2 IP, 3.29 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 1.8 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR
Luebke had a fine season with the Padres, despite the poor W-L record. His peripheral stats were very good - 9.9K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 0.8 HR/9, and it wasn't just a function of Petco Park. His road ERA of 2.55 was actually much better than his ERA at home, 4.04.
10. Lucas Duda, 1B/OF NYM - .292/.370/.482, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 0.8 bWAR, 0.9 fWAR
Duda's WAR numbers are also pulled down by poor defensive metrics, but much of that was from his outfield play. At first base, his defense was closer to average. Offensively, Duda was much better. Among rookies with over 300 PA, Duda's OPS and wOBA were the best in the league.