|Jackson Leads AL ROY Race||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on June 21, 2010
In just over six weeks Austin Jackson has seen 69 points shaved off his batting average (knocking him down to a mere .308).¬† That's not his fault, but it's something that often happens to high flying rookies who light it up in the early months of their careers.¬† It doesn't mean that Jackson has lost anything, or that suddenly he's swinging differently (although he may be). ¬†It means that Major League pitchers and Major League scouts are finally making a book on him and discovering ways to get him out.
That's opened the door for a handful of other competitors who are making an argument that they need to be considered for ROY honors in the AL.¬† So far the field isn't a big one -- many teams are just now calling up their top prospects or are deciding just when they might slot them into their big league rosters.¬† At the moment these are the ones to keep your eye on.
Carlos Santana, not the musician, but the catcher for the Cleveland Indians who has just 28 MLB at bats under his belt.¬† Santana is already looking like a force to be reckoned with.¬† The top catching prospect in the game was sitting down at AAA and when the calendar changed and Santana could no longer earn Super 2 status the Tribe brought him up.¬† Opposing pitchers so far haven't enjoyed the ride as Santana has tried to force them to change their evil ways by wielding a big club.¬† So far his 28 AB has produced a .393 with 2 home runs, 8 RBIs and 5 runs.¬† Playing for a lousy club with little support, and little media attention, could severely hurt his cause.
The Detroit Tigers have ROY candidate who isn't Austin Jackson too, and OF Brennan Boesch was on nobody's radar when the season began.¬† Forty-seven games into his Major League career he's changed all that with .337 average, 10 home runs, 36 RBIs, 22 runs and a couple of steals.¬† Skeptics have been waiting for the fall for well over a month now, but Boesch just keeps on mashing and has done his part to keep the Tigers in contention in the Central.¬† It could hurt him a little bit that the same writers will likely be deciding between him and Jackson as to who was the better player at year end, but ROY voting isn't a lot like MVP voting -- statistics rather than intangibles are usually a lot more important to the voters.
It's hard for a closer to make a run at ROY but Neftali Feliz threw so few innings last year that he qualifies to try for it this year.¬† He's been the stopper for the Rangers and has done the job quite well.¬† So far he's collected 19 saves to go with a single win and a 2.87 ERA with a 3.6:1 strikeout to walk ratio.¬† The fact he's just pitched 31 1/3 innings and probably will finish the season with less than 70 will probably hurt his chances at ROY severely, but a couple of high profile, high pressure saves against big teams on National TV could give him a big boost.
Another Ranger, this time first baseman Justin Smoak looks like he might finally be getting into the action too.¬† Smoak struggled badly the first six weeks of the season and his .174 average a month ago caused a lot of fans and critics to discount him.¬† Thirty days later he's raised that average over 50 points and has discovered that he can hit for power at the Major League level.¬† He's still got a lot of climbing to do but now his .228 average, 8 home runs, 32 RBIs and 26 runs looks like a platform to build on, rather than one to jump off of.¬† He's got the biggest upside of any rookie first baseman to toe the field so far this year.
That's not to say that there aren't others out there who could either round into shape (SP Wade Davis, SP Brian Matusz) or come out of the minors to shine in the second half (CI Brett Wallace, SP Kyle Drabek, C Tyler Flowers, SP Jeremy Hellickson, OF Desmond Jennings, etc), but right now the it seems that the AL has only a handful of legitimate contenders for the ROY and Jackson is still leading the pack, but the longer he struggles before finding his game again the more likely it is that someone else will start grabbing those highlight reels over at ESPN.