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

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.

Ervin Santana gets Opening Day nod from Twins again

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Ervin Santana will once again start on Opening Day for the Twins, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports. He’ll face the Royals at home in a day game on Monday, April 3.

The last pitcher to start back-to-back Opening Days for the Twins was Carl Pavano in 2011-12.

Santana, 34, is entering the third year of a four-year, $55 million contract signed in December 2014. Last season, the right-hander finished with a solid 3.38 ERA and a 149/53 K/BB ratio over 181 1/3 innings.