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Boesch leads American League rookies

7/1/2010

In response to Tuesday's post about Rookie of the Year candidates, a reader writes, "Brennan Boesch doesn't merit ROY honors? Does he not qualify or something? His numbers are ridunk. Isn't he the clear-cut frontrunner?"

Sure. In the American League. I was writing about the National League, which has a far more interesting group of candidates this year. In the American League, there are only three serious candidates, or maybe four.

Among the rookie pitchers, only one has more than 10 saves and only one has more than five wins.

The rookie with more than 10 saves is Neftali Feliz, and yeah I'm surprised to learn (or be reminded) that he's a rookie, too. But he didn't debut with the Rangers last year until the 3rd of August, and he pitched only 31 innings. So he's still a rookie by a couple of weeks and 19 innings. And considering that he's leading the American League with 21 saves, he has to be considered a serious candidate.

The rookie with more than five wins is Cleveland's Mitch Talbot, who's somehow managed an 8-6 record (meanwhile, the only other rookie with more than four wins is Tampa Bay's Wade Davis, who's got five wins and nine losses). It's not easy to imagine Talbot keeping up this pace, considering both his teammates and his minuscule strikeout rate (4.2 per nine innings).

The third serious candidate is Boesch, who's obviously been outstanding. He didn't arrive in the majors until the 23rd of April, but all he's done since then is hit. Which is, it must be said, more than a bit of a surprise. Before the season, Baseball America ranked Boesch as the Tigers' 25th-best prospect, well behind Austin Jackson (No. 3) and Scott Sizemore (No. 10). Both opened the season in Detroit's lineup.

Even Tiger fans will, I hope, allow for a tinge of skepticism. Boesch turned 25 in April. Entering this season, he'd not played above Class AA and sported a .269/.314/.428 line as a professional hitter. Granted, he got off to a hot start in Triple this spring, but is his .332/.380/.602 line in the majors more than a first-half mirage? Hey, that's why we keep watching.

If Boesch should falter -- I mean, I know he's heading for Cooperstown but please indulge my whimsy for a moment -- his teammate Austin Jackson might be the beneficiary. Jackson's hitting has fallen off some, which was perhaps inevitable considering he strikes out more than once per game. But if he keeps his batting average close to .300 (no sure thing) and continues to play Gold Glove-quality defense in center field (more likely), he'll figure in the Rookie of the Year balloting this fall.

At the moment, then, I make the candidates like this:

1. Boesch

2. Feliz

3. Jackson

4. Talbot

5. Carlos Santana

Cool?