This week we’re taking a look at some of the top rookies in Major League Baseball in an attempt to ascertain who is the most deserving candidate for Rookie of the Year in both the American and National Leagues. Today, we’ll take a look at three rookie pitchers in the National League who have performed fairly well in their first seasons as they chase the Rookie of the Year award. On Monday we looked at the top rookie hitters in the AL, on Tuesday we looked at the top rookie pitchers in the AL, and yesterday we looked at the top hitters in the NL.
J.A. Happ, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
The 26-year-old Happ has truly made a name for himself this season, so much so that the Toronto Blue Jays insisted that he be included in any deal for former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. The southpaw is pitching well in the heat of a pennant race with just 99 hits allowed in 121 innings of work. His rates are solid too at 3.05 BB/9 and 6.62 K/9. A word of caution, though, as Happ is being aided by a low BABIP allowed of .256 and he is a fly-ball pitcher. His repertoire includes a fastball that averages out around 90 mph, as well as a cutter, changeup and occasional breaking ball.
Kenshin Kawakami, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Kawakami has arguably been the second most reliable rookie starter in the National League in 2009, although in fairness he’s a 34-year-old Japanese veteran. The right-hander has allowed 112 hits in 118 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 3.74 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 6.41 K/9. He’s had a little trouble with the long ball and he gives up his fair share of fly balls. Kawakami averages out at 90 mph on the fastball and his repertoire includes a number of pitches, including a curveball and splitter. The Japanese native pitches better at home (3.28 ERA) than on the road (4.92 ERA). Kawakami has been battling through some minor ailments as of late.
Randy Wells, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Wells has been a godsend for the Cubs in 2009 and the organization almost lost him in 2007/08 when the Toronto Blue Jays organization nabbed him in the Rule 5 draft. After just one MLB appearance, though, the Jays cut Wells loose and Chicago gladly took him back. The converted catcher is 26 years old, but he is big, strong and has a fresh arm. So far this season, Wells has allowed 102 hits in 107.2 innings of work. He has an excellent walk rate at 2.02 BB/9 and a respectable (but low-ish) strikeout rate at 5.68 K/9. Right-handed batters are having a much more difficult time hitting for average against Wells (.228) than left-handers (.288). He’s approaching his career high in innings pitched.
Quick Hits: Jordan Zimmermann (Washington) was on pace to be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate before blowing out his elbow. Now it looks like the pitcher – who was leading rookie starters in K/9 – will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2010. Tommy Hanson (Atlanta Braves) has pitched just 73.2 innings so he falls short of qualifying for consideration this week. With a great final month and a half, though, he could vault himself into the race.
Tomorrow, we’ll wrap things up.
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