THE AWARD TOUR: CSP’s Best Baseball Kids of ’11

Posted: October 11, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
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Any award named after Willie Mays has to be something legit. In the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, the honors to each top rookie in each league is taken after him, and rightfully so. Long before he became arguably the greatest player to ever throw on a cap, he was a promising young talent in the New York Giants outfield, putting up a modest by his soon to be standard .274/20/68 season, with seven stolen bases and of course fine glove work tossed in.

All of the nominees this year had better starts to their tenure than the Say Hey Kid did. Now it’s up to them to take it from here and reach the stars, which is where Willie sits the highest now. However, this year, since both winners jobs is to miss bats rather than connect with them, preventing future Mays’ from taking over would be more up their modus operandi. So without further ado, the CHEAP SEATS presents the National & American League Rookies of the Year for the concluding 2011 season.

2011 NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves

Kimbrel's 127 strikeouts led all relievers & were good for a 14 per nine innings average.

Kimbrel showed the promise last year, and delivered on it fully this time around. In a brief stop through Atlanta last fall, he blew away everything he faced to the tone of a 0.44 ERA in just over 20 innings. This was good enough for the Braves to both let potential Hall of Famer Billy Wagner to walk off into his retirement plans without much objection, as well as ignore the plethora of closers on the market last winter. Instead place the game ending fate of their season in the 23-year-old righty’s hands, and the investment paid off at a record-setting pace. His 46 saves set the Major League record for the most by a rookie, and he did so in a dominant fashion. His 127 strikeouts were good for tops in the MLB by a reliever and his 34 consecutive scoreless innings were the longest streak in baseball this season.

2011 AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays

Hellickson delivered on the promise he showed in his brief 4-0 call up last year over 29 2011 starts.

On the AL side, Hellickson began the year as a backend starter, which while having the standing as one of the best prospects in the game, was only to be counted on in a limited fashion. However, by the end of the season , he was taking the ball in an amazing pull from behind by his club and was instrumental in sending them to the Playoffs. In his first full year, his record broke even at 12-12, but in the brutal American League East, he kept his ERA under three runs a contest, at 2.95 which was the 8th best total in the league. It was a baptism under fire for the young hurler, and even in one of the league’s best rotations he stood shoulder to shoulder with them all.

LEFT ON DECK…

In the NL, Vance Worley had a late call up, but was just effective as his more celebrated rotation mates for a stretch of the season. He arguably became a major bonus to the Phillies league-best rotation, winning 11 games overall. At one point, the Phillies won 14 consecutive games started by Worley. In Atlanta, Freddie Freeman, became a much needed consistent bat in an up-and-down Braves lineup. He led all NL rookies in RBI and batting average, and rode a 20 game hit streak across July & August.

Eric Hosmer proved that he was everything he was touted to be after making his Major League debut as the Kansas City Royals first baseman. He led all Major League rookies in hits and batting average, including 19 homers and an impressive .293 lineup. It didn’t take him long to become the best hitter in the Royals lineup, and it’s a role he’ll inhabit for a long time to come. Ivan Nova became the much needed second starter the shaky Yankees rotation needed. He won 16 games on the year, and was especially crucial in making it possible for the Yanks to wrap up the East the way they did. After returning from a June injury, he five wins in August & a September ERA of 2.67.

2011 CSP MLB Awards Season Recap thus far

NL/AL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson & Joe Maddon

NL/AL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel & Jeremy Hellickson

Up Next: Reliever of the Year…

For more on this and the unbelievable MLB postseason taking off right now, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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