11/16/09 12:31 AM EST
Wide-open race for AL Rookie of the Year
Plenty of worthy candidates makes it a tough decision
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
But this much is certain -- there is no shortage of quality arms in the race with starting pitchers such as Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann, Oakland's Brett Anderson and Detroit's Rick Porcello having performed like seasoned veterans this year.
All three of those starters made at least 30 appearances while also winning at least 11 games each. Porcello's 14 wins were the most among the trio, Niemann's 3.94 ERA was the best of the three while Anderson set the bar with 150 strikeouts.
But they're not the only rookie starters who put up quality numbers, as Toronto's Ricky Romero and Baltimore's Brad Bergesen are right behind that trio.
Then there's A's right-hander Andrew Bailey, who flew under the radar this season despite being one of the best closers in the American League with a 1.84 ERA and 26 saves.
And, of course, it wasn't just rookie pitchers who impressed this season, as perhaps the favorite in the race is Elvis Andrus, the 21-year-old shortstop who forced Gold Glove-winning shortstop Michael Young to move over to third base in Texas.
Andrus immediately emerged as one of the top defensive shortstops in the game while also putting up solid numbers offensively for a shortstop with a .267 batting average and 33 stolen bases.
So while Andrus has proved to be a defensive wiz, there are a few candidates who showed a bit more offensively this season, including two position players in Baltimore -- outfielder Nolan Reimold and catcher Matt Wieters -- who both had fine rookie seasons. Reimold led all AL rookies in home runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage while Wieters, a future superstar behind the plate, led all AL rookies in batting average by hitting .288.
And if it's slugging percentage you're looking for, the White Sox's Gordon Beckham is your man as he finished second in that category despite playing out of position at third base instead of his natural position of shortstop. Beckham led all AL rookies with 28 doubles en route to an impressive .466 slugging percentage.
So it appears to be just a matter of preference in this year's AL Rookie of the Year race, but here's a look at favorites, contenders and dark horses:
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: The Venezuela native is already regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game even though it was just his first year in the Majors. He also led all AL rookies in hits, triples and stolen bases.
Andrew Bailey, A's: Bailey finished in the top 10 in the AL in saves and had more strikeouts than innings pitched. He was also the only rookie to make the AL All-Star team.
Gordon Beckham, White Sox: Beckham led all AL rookies in RBIs and doubles by a large margin and had plenty of long-ball power to boot as he ranked second among AL rookies in homers.
Jeff Niemann, Rays: Niemann surprisingly led a strong Rays rotation in wins this season with 13 and had an impressive 3.94 ERA as well, despite pitching in the AL East. The right-hander also led all AL rookies with two shutouts.
Brett Anderson, A's: The left-hander arguably has the best stuff of any rookie starter, evidenced by his 150 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings. He also struck out more than three times as many batters as he walked.
Rick Porcello, Tigers: Porcello emerged as one of Detroit's top starters despite being just 20 years old. He led all rookie starters with 14 wins and he did it all while pitching for a contender in the AL Central.
The Dark Horses:
Matt Wieters, Orioles: If the award went to the player with the most potential, Wieters would likely win in a landslide. But the catcher struggled with the bat early before turning it around late to finish with a .288 batting average.
Ricky Romero, Blue Jays: Romero, like Anderson, has elite stuff as he had 141 strikeouts in 178 innings to finish second behind Anderson in strikeouts by an AL rookie.
The Field: Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Brett Gardner, Yankees.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.