Starting Pitcher: Daisuke Matsuzaka – Probably the person that everyone anticipated being the AL ROY of the year at the start of the season. His numbers aren’t as good as Verlander’s were last year, but Dice K has put up good numbers. He has struck out 119 in 114 IP and is 10-5 with a 3.53 ERA. The league is only hitting .233 off of him. Granted, he plays for the Red Sox and gets lots of run support.
Starting Pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie – Guthrie is a guy that I voted for as an all-star substitute in one of my recent articles here. Guthrie was formerly a top prospect and is finally developing into the pitcher many thought he could be. He’s only 4-2 thanks to horrible run support from a lackluster Baltimore team, but Guthrie a 2.63 ERA and miniscule 0.89 WHIP.
Relief Pitcher: Hideki Okajima – If you saw this one coming you’re probably lying. Okajima has been significantly better than he ever was in Japan and owns a 0.88 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Opponents are only hitting .156 against him, likely due to his weird delivery to the plate in which he looks at the ground instead of the catcher. Okajima recently won the online voting and was the final selection for the AL-All Star team.
Outfielder: Delmon Young – Young leads all rookies in RBIs (45) and hits (91). He’s hitting .280 in the middle of the Devil Rays order and is part of a young Devil Ray nucleus that could produce a few winning seasons in the very near future. He’s also leading rookie outfielders in outfield assistants with 9. (Thanks Tim Krukjian for that factoid).
Outfielder: Reggie Willits – Willits is hitting .324 with 39 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. He’s leading American league rookies in most categories that you would want out of a top of the order guy, steals, runs, average and on base percentage. When Garrett Anderson went down Willits turned into a solid leadoff hitter for a potentially playoff deep Angel team.
2nd Baseman: Dustin Pedroia – Pedroia was a little slow out of the box and I began to think he was a bus, but he’s come on strong since April and has upped his average to .322 (only behind Willits among AL rookies). For a guy that is only a year and two days older than me (He’ll be 24 in August), he really has a bright future ahead of him. And it’s awfully entertaining to watch him swing out of his shoes on every pitch.
3rd Baseman: Alex Gordon – Don’t let Gordon get lost in the shuffle just because of his dismal start. Despite a .228 average on the season, Gordon’s recent surge may allow him to sneak back into the rookie of the year chase before it’s all said and done. He’s hitting .333 with 3 of his 6 HRs in the last month and he’s finally starting to play like everyone anticipated from former Cornhusker.
Verdict: The AOL Midseason Rookie of the Year award has to go to Reggie Willits for me. Young will probably end up being the better player throughout the course of a few years, and you can certainly make a case for both Dice-K and Guthrie, but I’d vote for Willits. The Angels were scared, and rightfully so, when Garrett Anderson went down and with Figgins hurt at the time they didn’t have a lead off hitter, and Willits emerged to fill the roll exceptionally well. Leading rookies in average, OBP%, runs and steals, the nod definitely goes to Willits here.
Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum – It hasn’t been a flawless transition for this former Washington stud, but in his last two outings he’s thrown 14 innings, given up 0 earned runs, and recorded 20 strike outs. Some scouts worried about his durability of his small frame, but Lincecum only seems to be more polished as the season continues. His ERA is a little inflated at 4.64, but if you convert his component skills into an anticipated ERA it’s well under 4.00. He’ll definitely be in the mix for the award at the end of the year.
Outfielder: Josh Hamilton – After kicking the drug habit, Hamilton is finally becoming the player he was destined to be when the Devil Rays chose him #1 overall in 1999. Hamilton is hitting .280 and leading all rookies with 14 home runs. He has also shown considerable versatility playing all three outfield positions.
Outfielder: Hunter Pence – Everything Pence does is awkward, but the numbers don’t lie. Pence is hitting .347, with 11 home runs, 41 RBIs, and 7 stolen bases and he didn’t even start the year in the majors. Pence leads all NL rookies in 6 offensive categories including SLG%, OBP%, AVG, and extra base hits.
Third Basemen: Ryan Braun – Braun started the league in the minors, but since being called up he’s been on fire hitting .342, 10 bombs and even showcasing some speed with 8 stolen bases. He is part of a very young Brewer infield (Braun, Hardy, Weeks and Fielder) that if the Brewers can keep paying them all, they might win the central the next few years. Braun’s numbers over more at bats projects to probably the best offensive numbers of any rookie.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki – In a year in which shortstops are dominating offensive categories, Tulowitzki isn’t too far behind some of the premiere players and has very similar offensive stats to the Rangers Michael Young. Tulowitzki is hitting .286 with 9 bombs (three were go ahead bombs in the 9th inning), and 49 runs scored. He also plays great defense.
Verdict: For me it’s a two horse race right now. I’m not convinced Lincecum doesn’t end up in the picture by the end of the year, but right now it’s between Pence and Braun. Braun might catch him by the end of the year, but Pence has shown he can be consistency over significantly more at bats and he leads NL rookies in 6 categories hitting in various spots in the Astros order. He dominated AA ball for quite some time and now he’s been spectacular in the pros so might vote goes to Hunter Pence.