COMMENTARY | Through the first three weeks of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals have discovered some young talent in their pitching rotation. Shelby Miller, who had to fight his way into the rotation during spring training, has looked borderline dominant in his first four starts. The rookie hurler might be establishing an early case for the Rookie of the Year Award.
The National League has a few rookies putting up notable numbers but few have shown the clear-cut edge of Miller. The right-hander has compiled an impressive 26 strikeouts, walked only seven batters, surrendered just one home run and six earned runs, over 25 innings pitched while winning three of his first four starts. His wins, earned run average, runs allowed, and home runs allowed rank first among all rookie starting pitchers.
His competition from rookie-level pitchers in the National League is sparse, but there are a few challengers that are not exactly falling flat to start the season.
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins - Fernandez has allowed a few more runs through his first four starts of the season but otherwise matches up closely with Miller. He has 20 innings pitched and 19 strikeouts so far but is receiving very little run support giving him no wins and two losses. He has yet to go further than six innings in a start but could be in the discussion with a few strong starts.
Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers - Henderson has been dominant in his own right, though he pitches at the other end of games. He has saved four games in four opportunities for the Brewers since taking over the closer role. His control has been stellar, striking out 12 while only walking one hitter. Should he remain the closer in Milwaukee, he may force himself into the conversation.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers - Ryu may be the most likely candidate, thus far, to challenge the Cardinal pitcher. Ryu also has 26 strikeouts but has only walked five over 24 2/3 innings. While those stats put him in the discussion, his 27 hits allowed and 11 earned runs pulls him back out of it. Still, a few solid games from him and a few bad ones from Miller and the discussion will even up pretty quickly.
The competition on the offensive side of the National League is sparse but there are a few players that stand a real chance of disrupting the pitcher's potential award winning season.
Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves - The young catcher has found his way into the lineup in 15 games thus far, producing a rookie-leading five home runs and 12 runs batted in. Add into that a solid showing of four doubles, five walks and a .918 O.P.S. and he will draw plenty of attention as an offensive rookie weapon.
A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks - Pollock leads all rookies in hits with 17 and doubles with nine. He also leads rookies with more than 10 games played with a .309 batting average. Two home runs and eight runs batted in round out a strong opening statement for the outfielder. His patience at the plate might need some work if he hopes to sustain his early success.
All things considered, Shelby Miller is poised as one of the best, if not the best, rookie in the National League early on. If the season continues on this pace for the players being considered, he could be the latest player to bring home the Rookie of the Year Award for the Cardinals.
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