Michael Pineda

First-third awards: 2011 AL Rookie of the Year

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Wilson Ramos, who started off in the AL with the Twins, was my choice as the NL Rookie of the Year one-third of the way through the season.  Now on to the other league.

Just for the fun of it, we’ll look at the hitters first:

Mark Trumbo (1B Angels): .256/.306/.472, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB in 180 AB
J.P. Arencibia (C Blue Jays): .258/.319/.497, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB in 151 AB
Eric Hosmer (1B Royals): .283/.321/.515, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB in 99 AB
Hank Conger (C Angels): .233/.288/.369, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB in 103 AB
Elliot Johnson (INF Rays): .258/.306/.409, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 SB in 66 AB
Brent Morel (3B White Sox): .238/.256/.311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB in 122 AB

It was a given that Arencibia would hit for power, but he’s managed a decent enough OBP and he ranks as the top rookie position player to date. Trumbo is on pace for 30 homers and 80 RBI, which would definitely get him some votes if he can keep it up. Hosmer, though, is coming on quickly and projects as the better player over the rest of the season.

Of course, it’s the pitching side that features most of the talent:

Michael Pineda (Mariners): 6-2, 2.42 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 63.1 IP
Jeremy Hellickson (Rays): 6-3, 2.80 ERA, 46/27 K/BB in 64.1 IP
Zach Britton (Orioles): 5-3, 2.93 ERA, 38/24 K/BB in 70.2 IP
Tyson Ross (Athletics): 3-3, 2.75 ERA, 24/13 K/BB in 36 IP
Ivan Nova (Yankees): 4-3, 4.67 ERA, 27/24 K/BB in 54 IP
Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays): 3-3, 4.16 ERA, 42/42 K/BB in 62.2 IP
Tyler Chatwood (Angels): 3-2, 4.13 ERA, 27/32 K/BB in 56.2 IP

Jordan Walden (Angels): 0-1, 12 Sv, 3.20 ERA, 26/13 K/BB in 25.1 IP
Aaron Crow (Royals): 2-0, 1.33 ERA, 26/9 K/BB in 27 IP
Vinnie Pestano (Indians): 1-0, 1.35 ERA, 25/7 K/BB in 20 IP
Tim Collins (Royals): 2-2, 2.73 ERA, 31/24 K/BB in 29.2 IP

Pineda, Hellickson and Britton rank 8th, 10th and 12th respecitively in the AL in ERA.

And those three are pretty obviously the top candidates for the hardware. Here’s how Baseball-Reference’s WAR rates the candidates:

Britton: 2.3
Pineda: 2.2
Crow: 1.4
Arencibia: 1.2
Hellickson: 1.2
Drabek: 1.1
Ross: 1.1
Pestano: 1.0
Collins: 0.8
Trumbo: 0.7
Walden: 0.7
Hosmer: 0.6

WAR doesn’t see Hellickson matching up with the other two, even though he has a similar ERA. He probably has been luckier than the other two so far, given that he doesn’t have Pineda’s strikeout rate or Britton’s groundball rate. His .208 average against isn’t going to be sustainable unless he starts striking out batters.

The schedules for the three starts have been similar. One would think Pineda would have had it quite a bit easier than the other two while pitching in the AL West, but the numbers don’t reflect that, at least not yet. As a result, I am going to give Pineda the nod here. I think Hellickson might be the favorite for the full year, since he’s the better bet to end up somewhere around 200 innings. Britton is plenty good, too, but the starts against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays figure to wear on his numbers as time goes on.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Pineda
2. Britton
3. Hellickson

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.