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11/06/10 10:00 AM EST

Race wide open for NL Rookie of the Year

Heyward, Posey, Garcia, Sanchez lead crowded candidate field

Many were ready to hand Braves right fielder Jason Heyward the trophy before the season began. While the young slugger certainly went out and put up numbers worthy of winning the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in the National League, he was not alone among the high achievers in his freshman class.

Before anyone could write Heyward's name into the record books, along came Gaby Sanchez, and Jaime Garcia, and then Buster Posey. Suddenly, fresh faces were contributing seemingly everywhere, and the competition for the NL Rookie of the Year -- to be announced along with the AL Rookie winner at 2 p.m. ET on Monday -- was blown wide open.

Heyward, 21, was a fan favorite from the beginning and was voted to the NL All-Star team as a starter. He wound up hitting .277 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs, numbers similar to those of Posey, the baby-faced Giants catcher who hit .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs after begin called up in late May.

Sanchez, the Marlins' first baseman, batted .273 with 19 homers and a rookie-leading 85 RBIs. He would be the second consecutive Marlins player to win the award -- Chris Coghlan took it last year -- and third since Dontrelle Willis in 2003.

Garcia, a left-hander who was plugged into the Cardinals' rotation, went 13-8 in 28 starts with a 2.70 ERA that ranked fourth in the NL.

Here's a closer look at the candidates for NL Rookie of the Year:

Buster Posey, C, Giants (.305, 18 HRs, 67 RBIs)
The case for:
He was among the best hitters on a Giants team that won the NL West.
The case against: He wasn't called up until late May and played in only 108 games.

Jason Heyward, RF, Braves (.277, 18 HRs, 72 RBIs)
The case for:
Billed as the favorite, he was voted in as a starter in the outfield for the NL All-Stars.
The case against: His overall numbers didn't quite live up to his preseason hype.

Jaime Garcia, LHP, Cardinals (13-8, 2.70 ERA)
The case for:
He was fourth in the NL in ERA and had 19 quality starts in 28 games.
The case against: The league appeared to catch up to him somewhat in the second half (5-4, 3.43 ERA).

Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins (.273, 19 HRs, 85 RBIs)
The case for:
Among NL rookies, he led the league in RBIs and was third in homers and batting average.
The case against: His batting average was 65 points lower in the second half of the year.

Also worth consideration: Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs; Chris Johnson, 3B, Astros; Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins; Tyler Colvin, OF, Cubs.

Like a few of the Baseball Writers' Association of America postseason awards, this one should be close. Heyward was the early runaway favorite, but by the end of the year, Posey was the flavor of the month. So if were up to you, the fan, who would you pick? Is it the year for Heyward or Posey, or does a long-shot like Sanchez get your pick? If you like pitching, then perhaps Garcia is your man. Could he be the first hurler to win NL Rookie of the Year since the Rockies' Jason Jennings in 2002? You tell us.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.