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Possible 2011 American League Rookie of the Year candidates
If 2010 was the year of the pitcher, perhaps 2011 will be remembered as the year of the battery. After all, the top rookies in the American League are not the traditional power-hitters at third and first base. With the exception of one of those types, the competition for the American League Rookie of the Year Award features a pair of slugging catchers and a pair of power pitchers. This list of five, though, leaves out one guy who might be the considered the top candidate by some. Desmond Jennings(notes) is expected to replace Carl Crawford(notes) in the Tampa Bay Rays' outfield for the 2011 season. Jennings is a Crawford clone. He has great speed and the ability to reach a lot of balls that would drop if other guys were playing his outfield position. Jennings stole 62 bases during the 2010 season and received a brief promotion to the big club, but I left him off the list because he's still developing at the plate. He had just four hits in 21 at bats for the Rays during his late-season call up, and he's playing for a team in a division that features the likes of C.C. Sabathia(notes), Josh Beckett(notes) and rookie phenom Kyle Drabek(notes), among others. Here are the five guys who made the list:
The 25-year-old Arencibia supplies just what the Seattle Mariners lineup needs most, a power hitter. The slugging catcher is a rarity even in the modern era, and his time is now. After all, Arencibia spent the past two seasons with AAA Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. During those seasons, he walloped 53 homers and 68 doubles. In 2010, Arencibia hit .301 with a .986 OPS. Meanwhile, he committed only six errors in 94 games behind the dish. Arencibia gives up a little with his poor caught stealing percentage (28 percent throughout his minor league career), but he'll more than make up for it when he knocks in runs for the Mariners.
Whether you call him Moose, M&M or just plain Mike, you might be calling this guy the AL Rookie of the Year next fall. After all, he's the favorite to win the award heading into the season. The lefty-hitting Moustakas packs a wallop in his 230-pound frame, and he proved in 2010 by slamming 36 homers while splitting time between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha. Moustakas also had 124 RBIs and a .322 batting average. Originally a shortstop, Moustakas, who was picked in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft by the Royals, moved to third base in 2008. Wilson Betemit(notes) stands in the way of Moustakas, but there's a good chance Betemit will become a utility infielder and bat off the bench. He also could be traded to acquire depth at other positions. That should free up a spot for Moustakas to become the starter for the Royals.
After more than a decade as the Yankees' everyday starting catcher, Jorge Posada(notes) began to show signs of wear a few years ago. The Yankees, though, planned for his heir apparent, and that plan involved drafting Jesus Montero in July 2006 and signing him to a $2 million contract. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound catcher brings plenty of pop to the position. In 2010, he hit 21 homers with 34 doubles and 75 RBIs for AAA Scranton. He also hit .289. Just 22 years old, Venezuelan-born Montero is ready for the Major League game, and GM Brian Cashman told Montero in November 2010 that he would have a shot to unseat Posada as the everyday starter behind the plate.
The future is now for Hellickson, who will turn 24 early in the 2011 season. The hard-throwing righty pitcher is the organization's top prospect, and the Rays have room for him after disappointing 2010 performances by James Shields(notes) and Jeff Niemann(notes). Hellickson, who started four games for Tampa last season, would not benefit from another season in the minors. In 2010, he dominated with a 12-3 record at AAA Durham. He had a 2.45 ERA and struck out 123 batters in 117 innings. With help from a strong Tampa Bay offense, there's a real chance that Hellickson could win 15 or more games. Since he only pitched 34 innings last season, he still qualifies for the rookie award.
Kyle Drabek, P, Toronto Blue Jays
After spending five seasons in the minor leagues, this 2006 first-round draft pick is ready for the primetime. Drabek, who moved to Toronto prior to the 2009 season, made his mark with New Hampshire by winning 14 games in 2010. He posted a 2.94 ERA and struck out 132 in 162 innings. He could be the big piece in the puzzle the Blue Jays need to overcome the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
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