With another five shutout innings under his belt, our tomahawking starter, Josh Collmenter has now thrown close to fifty innings this year, with an ERA barely above one. And we discussed very recently how Juan Miranda has responded to regular playing time by increasing his offensive production. In a year without any obviously dominant rookie of the year candidates in the National League, is it possible that either man could take the prize? Obviously, there are still a hundred games to go, so there's still a chance for someone else to make a late run. But for now, here are five players who would seem to be among the contenders. [All stats through Thursday's games]
Josh Collmenter, Arizona: 48.1 IP, 1.12 ERA, 0.724 WHIP, 1.7 bWAR
Collmenter has been brilliant for the D-backs, and even better in the rotation: over six starts, he has allowed four earned runs in 34.1 innings. He has shown excellent control, walking one batter about every seven frames, and his over-the-top delivery has kept hitters off-balance. He has been helped by the defense, with a BABIP of .175. and that will certainly regress. However, his IF/FB rate is 23%, well above MLB average (14%), which shows how he is fooling batters into poor swings - see below for examples from his start vs. ATL. His FIP to date while higher, is still only 3.27, comparable with the likes of Chad Billingsley (3.29) and Tommy Hanson (3.22). We'll settle for that!
Danny Espinosa, Washington: .219/.316/.433, 10 HR, 1.3 bWAR
That batting average woudn't normally get you Rookie of the Year thoughts, but he comfortably leads all qualified NL hitters with ten homeruns - twice as many as anyone else, and particularly impressive for a second baseman. That average is also going in the right direction, considering it was down below the Uecker Line in mid-May. Since then, Espinosa has hit better (19-for-71, a .268 clip, with five home-runs), though he is also on pace to strike out more than 150 times. He dodged a bullet the other day, getting hit square on the hand by a 94 mph Matt Cain fastball; fortunately, no damage was done.
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta: 31 IP, 3.19 ERA, 18 saves, 0.6 bWAR
Just another in the line of pitching prospects to come out of the Braves' mines, Kimbrel has been blowing away batters at an amazing rate. Courtesy of his electric fastball and slider, more than half his outs (47) have come by means of the K. That's something only five pitchers in the 21st century have done over a full season (min. 30 IP) - one of them Byung-Hyun Kim for us in 2000, who fanned 111 in just over 70 innings. Kimbrel has also allowed exactly one HR in his major-league career, now at 51.2 innings, and his FIP this year of 1.77 trails just Ryan Madson of the Phillies among National League relievers.
Juan Miranda, Arizona: .248/.355/.471, 6 HR, .826 OPS, 0.3 bWAR
Miranda is perhaps low on the plate-appearances yet - he has 121 compared to Espinoza, who is well past 200. But as noted yesterday, he has quietly been putting together a very solid season, and his .826 OPS is the best among NL rookies with that number of ABs. Obviously, at age 28, he is also not a typical rookie, but from 2008-10, he had a total of only 83 at-bats, well below the limit of 130. His bWAR figure is hurt by his defense, which is rated at -0.2 bWAR - though if you saw that diving snag in foul territory yesterday, this may seem a tad unfair. How much attention he gets, may depend more on how much playing time Kirk Gibson sees to give him, than anything else.
Clayton Mortensen, Colorado: 45 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.0 bWAR
A 3.20 ERA at Coors works out as a 139 ERA+, so he definitely merits consideration. That said, Mortensen has been incredibly lucky, with a BABIP to date of .215. The league average is, as usual, up approaching .300, so those balls in play are going to start finding gaps and dropping as we go forward. That's why FIP hates the Rockies rookie, rating him all the way up at 4.78. As far as sustaining this level of success, he may be an outside shot, but with Jorge De La Rosa renamed De La Gone and Ubaldo Jimenez looking very mortal, Colorado will take solid outings wherever they find them, for as long as they can.