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Tuesday, Jerry Crasnick led a discussion of two hot young American League pitchers, both of them rookies last season: Joba Chamberlain vs. Clay Buchholz. Today we turn our attention to the National League, where we begin with a short list of candidates for consideration.

Consider: in 2007 only three National League pitchers younger than 24 pitched enough innings (162) to qualify for the league's ERA title. And none of them were rookies. So when a kid pitcher comes along who can actually, you know, pitch ... well, I'm sure you'll pardon us for getting just a little bit excited.

Eight pitchers younger than 24 pitched more than 100 innings, and only three of those eight made their major-league debuts last season. Those three? 21-year-old Yovani Gallardo, 22-year-old Kyle Kendrick and 23-year-old Tim Lincecum. Which one of them has the most promising future?

With due respect, we're going to summarily eliminate Kendrick from the competition. Why? Because while Gallardo and (especially) Lincecum feature overpowering stuff, Kendrick struck out only 3.6 batters per nine innings, which ranked 73rd among the 76 National Leaguers with at least 100 innings pitched last season. Granted, Aaron Cook ranked 76th and Cook is a pretty good pitcher. But you have to look at strikeout rates when comparing young pitchers, and Kendrick just doesn't stack up with Gallardo and Lincecum.

The case for Lincecum

Lincecum struck out 9.2 hitters per nine innings. Among those 76 National Leaguers with at least 100 innings pitched, only Cy Young winner Jake Peavy did better. Lincecum showed little sign of wear: between his time in the minors and his five months with the Giants, he totaled 177 innings last season. The Giants did shut him down after his Sept. 16 start, but that was purely precautionary. Though slight of build, Lincecum can throw his heat in the high 90s and his curveball, at its best, is simply unhittable.

The case for Gallardo

Gallardo's two-and-a-half years younger than Lincecum, which means he's got a shorter track record than Lincecum -- at least in terms of staying healthy -- but also means he might have more room to grow. Gallardo doesn't throw as hard as Lincecum, but he still throws plenty hard (88-94 mph) and has good command of his curveball and his changeup (and throws the occasional slider, too). Thrown into the heat of a pennant race last summer, Gallardo went 9-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 20 games, and after a rough August he thrived down the stretch, posting a 1.36 ERA in September.

The Choice

Entering last season, Lincecum and Gallardo both were listed among the top five or six pitching prospects in the minors, and both justified their status after reaching the majors. Perhaps we should be frightened by Lincecum's small frame -- he's listed as 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds -- but I find his strikeout rate irresistible, and he's also past the age at which we might be particularly concerned about a serious injury. But what do you think?

Vote: Which young pitcher would you rather have?

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