As we prepare to flip the calendar from June to July, we decided to put together a list of this year’s American League-Rookie of the Year front runners. We have comprised a list of 5-prime candidates that we strongly believe will remain on top until this November when the coveted award will be announced.
1. Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Michael Pineda has exceeded expectations in 2011. Regarded as a top-prospect entering this season, Pineda has not only been a clear-cut Rookie of the Year favorite, but he has been seen as one of the most dominate pitchers in the Major Leagues this year, let alone the American League. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his latest start versus a solid-Philadelphia Phillies offense and has been on top of his game in essentially all of his starts. He has posted and maintained a 2.64 ERA over the course of this year and an astonishing K/9 rate of 8.63 compared to a much smaller BB/9 of 2.64-a K/9 to BB/9 ratio of nearly 4:1. Although he sports an FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.08 and an xFIP (expected FIP) of 3.52 suggesting regression, only time will tell with this future surefire ace.
2. Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
Zach Britton, known to be a contact-to-contact pitcher, has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles in 2011. He has taken the reigns in a rather weak Baltimore rotation that has lost former top-prospect Brian Matusz and right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to a brief DL-stint early on. Although he has a mediocre K/9 rate of 5.28, he has located the ball well, posting a legit 0.72 HR/9 rate to this day. If the 23-year-old left-hander can keep up with a 3.10 ERA that is due for regression, he will have strong consideration when the voting day comes.
3. Jordan Walden, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
When Fernando Rodney was announced as the closer for opening day and failed to comply, Walden was the man who got the nod for the ninth inning from there on-and he has taken advantage of that opportunity. Walden has posted 1.3 WAR (wins above replacement), top amongst AL-relievers and has posted more WAR then fellow teammate Ervin Santana in 1/3 of the innings pitched. That’s just a glimpse of how spectacular he’s been. Walden has converted 17 of 20 save opportunities and has posted an unhumanly-high K/9 rate of 10.91. His FIP suggests that he can only get better from this point as he makes his case to become the third AL West-closer in as many years to win the award.
4. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
When it was announced that All-Star first-basemen Kendrys Morales would miss one more season due to a leg injury, Trumbo was called on to fill rather big shoes, and so far he has succeeded. With the re-assurance that he is here-to-stay, Trumbo has hit 12 big-flys as head announcer Victor Rojas calls them, to go along with 30 RBIs and a solid OPS+ of 114. Not only has Trumbo done big things with the stick, he has stolen six bases and has played above average defense and is sure to be a candidate for this year’s Rookie of the Year award.
5. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Seemingly a top prospect on every prospect list available, Hosmer wasn’t in Omaha long before he was recalled to Kansas City to take over as the full-time first basemen in 2011. With the disadvantage of playing in just 41 games, Hosmer has answered pretty well, hitting .276 with 5 HRs and 22 RBIs and a 108 OPS+ to this date. Guaranteed the future at first base, Hosmer should only get better with time and could skyrocket up these Rookie of the Year lists by year’s end.
Just missed the cut: J.P. Arencibia, C, TOR, Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, TB, Tyler Chatwood, RHP, LAA