Well, we’ve already taken a look at the top rookie pitchers in the American League, so let’s have a gander at the Senior Circuit’s best young hurlers. Warning: The depth amongst the starters is not as good as it is in the American League.
St. Louis’ Jason Motte was absolutely lights-out in spring training and won the closer’s role… as much as any rookie pitcher can win a role for manager Tony LaRussa. A couple shaky games later, though, he was on the outside looking in. Motte hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last nine appearances but veteran Ryan Franklin has established himself as the club’s closer. Middle relievers rarely receive consideration for the Rookie of the Year award, but you never know.
One of my pre-season favorites for the NL rookie pitcher of the year, James McDonald has struggled to say the least. He currently has an 8.16 ERA (6.17 FIP) and has pitched himself out of the starting rotation for the first-place Dodgers. McDonald’s lack of control has been his downfall as he’s walked 14 batters in 14.1 innings of work.
Jordan Zimmermann won the No. 5 spot in the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation in spring training, but the club did not need five starters until the middle of the first month so he began the year in Triple-A. Since being recalled, Zimmermann has pitched well in two of his three starts (The stinker came against St. Louis). The 2007 second round draft pick is still getting comfortable in the Majors and he’s allowed 20 hits and three walks in 17 innings of work. He’s also struck out 14 batters. Zimmermann needs to try and avoid the long ball (2.12 HR/9). When all is said and done, the right-hander could have the best numbers of any of the rookie pitchers in 2009 but it remains to be seen if the Rookie of the Year voters will lose him in the mess that is Washington. His teammate Shairon Martis is also having a nice season so far in the Nats rotation.
Like Scott Richmond of the Jays, Bobby Parnell is another talented rookie hurler that gets overlooked despite playing in a large market like New York, likely because he is a middle reliever who gets a ton of outs by putting the ball in play. The right-hander has a 1.38 ERA (3.10 FIP) in 13 innings so far this season. He has walked just four batters with eight strikeouts and he hasn’t allowed a home run. Parnell still has room to get better as he has not been inducing quite as many groundballs as he traditionally does.
It’s no secret that I hate the fact Japanese players are eligible for the Rookie if the Year awards. Baltimore’s Koji Uehara, 34, and Atlanta’s Kenshin Kawakami, 33, have years of experience while playing in Japan. Uehara spent nine years in the Japanese Central League and is currently leading all MLB ‘rookies’ in innings pitched and strikeouts (by one over Richmond). Kawakami, 33, spent 10 years in the Japanese Central League. Despite the added experience, though, the right-hander has struggled with his control and currently has a 6.41 ERA (5.54 FIP) in 26.2 innings of work.