This writeup was originally posted over at Jason's Baseball Blog, and has been updated to current day stats.
Every year we see some solid rookie players come to the Majors and have a major impact, and this year is no exception. Already we've seen at least half a dozen players who could legitimately win their Rookie of the Year award, along with a lot of impact players as well. Each of these players is still eligible to win the Rookie of the Year award, according to ESPN.com's stats page. All these stats are through Tuesday's games, and the players are in order of what I believe their likelihood to win their respective Rookie of the Year awards.
1. Jason Heyward (ATL) - .265/.388/.488, 35 runs, 10 home runs, 43 runs batted in, 4 stolen bases
What else is there to be said about Heyward that hasn't been said? I wrote about him as a prospect back in January, and predicted that he would hit .280/.370/.470 with 6 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 80 games. Even doubling that prediction to get him to around 160 games, that's 12 homeruns and 20 stolen bases. While he's not running as much as I thought, the power appears to be legitimate and the Braves are going to be extremely happy with him for a very long time. I don't really see too much out there that would cause him to not win this award. UPDATE: Heyward has been in a huge slump of late, but is still posting very solid stats. I think this award is still his to lose, but if the slump continues it could get a lot closer.
2. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) - 2-0, 2.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 22 strikeouts, 5 walks, 12 1/3 IP
The hype is real. Strasburg did not make his debut until June 8th, giving the rest of the rookies in this class a full two months of time to get ahead. That said, and even with the 100 inning limit that he is likely to be on, he could very well come up and post a sub-3 ERA and a strikeout per inning he pitches. He has looked that good. UPDATE: Having now actually seen Strasburg against Major League hitters, he, in my opinion, is the only one who could catch Jason Heyward for this award. If he finishes the season with a sub-3 ERA and over 120 strikeouts in less than 100 innings, he could make it real close.
3. Jaime Garcia (STL) - 6-2, 1.49 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 59 strikeouts, 34 walks, 72 1/3 IP
Garcia made the rotation out of spring training, and has never looked back. Clearly the ERA is going to go up at some point during the season, but the rest of the numbers really look legitimate to me. He's pitching in St. Louis, and I've learned to never bet against the coaching staff there either. UPDATE: I am still waiting for the bottom to fall out at least a little bit
4. David Freese (STL) -.309/.374/.435, 27 runs, 4 home runs, 33 runs batted in, 1 stolen base
It's hard to put another position player this far down the list, but realistically all 5 of the top rookies in the NL would probably win the award in the American League this season. Freese won the 3B job out of spring training, but it really appeared that no one was particularly confident that he would be able to make it stick. But he's been a very bright spot in the Cardinals lineup, and has played at least reasonable defense to this point. UPDATE: Freese remains a solid part of the Cards' lineup, but hasn't really driven in a whole lot of runs since I last wrote.
5. Mike Leake (CIN) - 5-0, 2.68 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 52 strikeouts, 29 walks, 77 1/3 IP
I was extremely surprised when Leake made the rotation out of spring training, but it really looks like the Reds knew what they were doing here (shocking, I know). Leake isn't necessarily going to be a fantasy darling, as he probably isn't going to strike out enough hitters to make him very valuable for that. But he has shown to this point that he is definitely a good Major League pitcher. UPDATE: At some point, he is going to regress closer toward his FIP of 3.94. But the fact that his FIP is so low in spite of not pitching in the minors is really interesting to see. My only concern at this point might be that at some point they limit his innings, but I have not read anything to indicate that.
The "We Got Here a Little Too Late to Have an Impact on the Rookie of the Year Race, but We're Still Good" Group:
Starlin Castro (CHC), Buster Posey (SF), Mike Stanton (FLA), Pedro Alvarez (PIT), Jose Tabata (PIT), Drew Storen (WAS)
Quite a good group of players here, with only Alvarez yet to make his debut. For any of them to unseat one of the other five in my opinion, they would have to go completely nuts for the remainder of the season. I'm just not seeing enough to have that happen.
The "We've Been Here, and in a Different Year We'd Have a Better Chance" Group:
Ian Desmond (WAS), Gaby Sanchez (FLA), Jhoulys Chacin (COL), Ike Davis (NYM)
All 4 of these players are having solid seasons, if not stunning seasons. Unfortunately for them, the rookie crop for the league this season is simply too strong for them.