First-third awards: 2011 NL Rookie of the Year

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We’re one third of the way through the season, so it’s time to check in on the award races.  First up is the NL Rookie of the Year.

The candidates

Wilson Ramos (C Nationals): .252/.336/.403, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB in 119 AB
Darwin Barney (2B Cubs): .311/.333/.389, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB in 193 AB
Justin Turner (INF Mets): .337/.384/.467, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB in 92 AB
Danny Espinosa (2B Nationals): .205/.302/.420, 8 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB in 176 AB
Jason Pridie (OF Mets): .239/.320/.413, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB in 92 AB
Juan Miranda (1B Diamondbacks): .250/.370/.490, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 100 AB
Freddie Freeman (1B Braves): .254/.335/.392, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB in 181 AB

Brandon Beachy (Braves): 1-1, 3.45 ERA, 46/12 K/BB in 44 1/3 IP
Josh Collmenter (Diamondbacks): 3-1, 1.49 ERA, 21/4 K/BB in 36 1/3 IP
Clayton Mortensen (Rockies): 1-2, 2.83 ERA, 21/15 K/BB in 35 IP
Sam LeCure (Reds): 0-1, 3.18 ERA, 30/8 K/BB in 34 IP
Craig Kimbrel (Braves): 1-2, 15 Sv, 3.00 ERA, 40/13 K/BB in 27 IP

Last year, the NL had a much stronger rookie pool than the AL did.  This time around, not so much.  It doesn’t help that two Cardinals who would be very much in the mix for the award, Allen Craig and Fernando Salas, are both ineligible because they spent too much time on the team’s roster last year.  Also ineligible are Houston closer Mark Melancon and San Diego reliever Ernesto Frieri.

That doesn’t leave us with a whole lot to choose from.  Let’s look at how WAR (Baseball-Reference’s version) ranks the candidates:

Josh Collmenter: 1.0
Wilson Ramos: 1.0
Brandon Beachy: 0.9
Danny Espinosa: 0.9
Clayton Mortensen: 0.8
Craig Kimbrel: 0.6
Sam LeCure: 0.6
Darwin Barney: 0.5
Jason Pridie: 0.5
Justin Turner: 0.5
Juan Miranda: 0.2
Freddie Freeman: 0.0

Craig would actually be the leader here at 1.1 WAR, with Salas right behind at 1.0.

But those two don’t count, and WAR isn’t really doing anything to distinguish the candidates. Based solely on the results so far, I’d have to give Ramos the nod, even though he’s struggled offensively all month and particularly so the last 10 days.

Beachy, who has been out since May 13 with a strained oblique, did enough in his first seven starts to justify a place in the top three. After him, it’s mostly about personal preference. Collmenter has the shiny ERA, but he has made just four starts since moving into the rotation.  Kimbrel has the huge strikeout total, but he’s blown four of his 19 save chances and the Braves may well have been better off with someone else working the ninth the last two months.

Espinosa gets points for defense and baserunning, and even though his slash line is mediocre, he has has driven in 29 runs in 53 games. Barney, the NL rookie of the month for April, is only really hitting for average and doesn’t measure up with Espinosa defensively.

As for the first basemen, they’re really not in the mix yet, but there’s fourth months left for that to change. Freeman has been a below average regular to date, and Miranda is just getting started now. San Francisco’s Brandon Belt could yet be a factor, as could San Diego’s Anthony Rizzo.

So here’s my current top three, with the caveat that I don’t think any of them will be at the top of the list when all is said and done this year.

1. Wilson Ramos
2. Brandon Beachy
3. Danny Espinosa

Yoenis Cespedes: “I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland”

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Yoenis Cespedes told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants to finish his career with the Athletics, according to an exclusive interview released on Friday. The Mets’ 31-year-old outfielder praised Oakland manager Bob Melvin, telling Slusser, “I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin” and adding that while he didn’t know if a return to Oakland would be possible, his love for the city had not faded.

Melvin, for his part, said he wasn’t surprised that the slugger wants another go-round with his first major league club, even if only as a final hurrah. Cespedes hit well over two and a half seasons with the A’s, compiling a cumulative .262/.318/.470 batting line from 2012 to 2014 and enjoying two postseason runs with the club before he was traded for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes in 2014.

There’s been relatively little for Cespedes to complain about since his departure from Oakland, of course: he turned in a career-best performance in 2015, slashing .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 6.7 fWAR in back-to-back gigs with the Tigers and Mets, and netted a whopping three-year, $75 million contract prior to the 2016 season. Still, there’s something special about the A’s, as the slugger relayed to teammate Jerry Blevins:

I told Blevins, ‘I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland.’ I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal.

Whether or not Cespedes gets his wish, it’s unlikely he’ll pursue any kind of deal with the A’s for the time being. He’s still owed $23.75 million in 2017 and 2018 and isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until 2019.

Brewers sell Michael Choice’s contract to the Nexen Heroes

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The Brewers offloaded outfielder Michael Choice’s contract to the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a team announcement on Friday. Choice signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in early May, but did not earn a major league stint in 11 weeks with the team.

It’s been two full years since the 27-year-old outfielder snagged a big league opportunity of any kind. He last appeared with the Rangers in 2015 and played in just one game, striking out in his only at-bat. His production rate sagged through three consecutive minor league assignments with the Indians, Orioles and Brewers and peaked in 2016 after slashing .246/.304/.456 with 14 home runs for the Indians’ Triple-A Columbus. He was off to a decent start this season for the Brewers’ Double-A Biloxi, working a .272/.349/.503 batting line with nine home runs and an .852 OPS through his first 195 PA.

Choice is poised to join several other ex-major leaguers on the Heroes’ roster, including left-hander Andy Van Hekken, right-hander Jake Brigham and infielder/outfielder Danny Dorn.

6:43 PM: Danny Dorn no longer plays for the Nexen Heroes, as he was released to clear roster space for Choice.