Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Look at the Rooks

We are past the half-way mark of the 2008 Major League Baseball campaign. That's long enough to get a pretty good idea of the state of this years rookie crop. Last year's ROY's, Boston's Dustin Pedroia and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, are playing like seasoned veterans already; now it's time to make some educated prognostications on who might be bringing home the hardware in 2008.

AL: 1. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays - All eyes have been on Longoria after he signed an unprecedented contract in April. After stumbling through a .234 May, the slick fielding third sacker has done a good job of learning on the job: He hit .300 in June, with 8 bombs and a .650 slg.

The 6'2" 22 yr old has only committed 6 errors, and his .973 fielding percentage is 2nd among A.L. 3B. He is currently the AL rookie leader in HR (16) and 2nd in AVG (.281). His .527 Slg. is 1st among A.L. rookies, and his 53 RBI's are 2nd.

2. Alexei Ramirez, 2B, Whitesox - This Johny-come-lately hit a paltry .138 in 29 AB's in April. But don't vote him off the island just yet. A .355 June (with 17 RBI's) has made him a permanent fixture on Ozzie Guillen's lineup card. He is currently hitting .308 with 7 bombs and 28 RBI's. The tall lanky Cuban, nicknamed the Cuban Missile, has been nothing but a crisis for opposing pitchers.

He is also Mr. Clutch. Ramirez, in 44 Ab's, is hitting .406 with risp.

3. David Murphy, Lf/Rf, Rangers - When you lead all MLB rooks in RBI's and hits, you are definitely an ROY candidate. He's K'd 63 times, but hey, he's young. The 26 yr-old Texan, who came to Texas in the Gagne 2007 trade, is feeling right at home as Ranger.

4. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Redsox - Got a solid lineup and need an incredibly speedy rookie to round out your lineup and create diversity on your roster? Enter Oregon State standout Jacoby Ellsbury.

Wanna score? The Redsox rookie CF is 6th in the A.L. in runs. Last time I checked, runs was a pretty important but never noticed statistic. He's 2nd among all A.L. CF's in runs (60, to Ichiro's 62) as well. Oh, and his 35 SB's lead the Majors.

Others rooks worth looks:

Nick Blackburn, P, Twins - Blackburn, 7-4, has won his last 3 decisions and has a 3.72 ERA.
Armondo Gallaraga, P, Tigers - The 7-2 Venezualan has allowed only 69 hits in 88 innings pitched.

NL: With 1998 rookie of the year Kerry Wood now closing games for them, the Cubbies know a thing about what kind of excitement a dynamic rookie can generate. This years Cubs have a pair of rookies that have been the cream of the N.L.'s rookie crop.

1. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs - His 16 bombs puts him on pace for 30. Add in 55 Rbi's and the Puerto Rican has to be the top rookie in the bigs at this point. But his best month was April, so don't count out the rest of the class just yet (his .250 June did not measure up to his .341 April).

2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF, Cubs - The 31 year-old Osaki Japan native is hitting .333 with risp. That tops all MLB rookies with at least 75 such Ab's. His 59 runs are tops among NL rookies as well.

3. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves - On July 8th the 22 yr-old from Curacao lowered his ERA to 3.00. In that victory over the Dodgers he improved to 9-4. MLB's Rook of the month in June, Jurrjens allowed an earned run in only 1 of 4 of his starts during the month. He was 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA.

4. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds - Rebuilding has never been so much fun in Cincy, as the Reds are sporting many a new face (Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, Johny Cueto) in addition to Votto. The soon to be 25 year-old Canadian is hitting at a .284/13/40 clip. He is 2nd in among N.L. Rooks in all three categories. Only Geovany Soto (see #1) has been better.

Others rooks worth looks:

John Bowker, 1B, Giants - The Giants most pleasant surprise this years is hitting .284 with 9 Hr's in a pitchers ballpark.
Blake Dewitt, 3B, Dodgers - His Stats don't jump out (.263, 5, 34) but the fact that he is hitting .343 with risp and 2 outs has positive implications.