Athlon Sports' 2011 NL Rookie of the Year

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Athlon editors name their choice for the National League's top rookie

<p> Athlon editors name their choice for the National League's top rookie</p>

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) will make their announcements starting Monday. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

NL Rookie of the Year

Unlike the American League, the pool of quality candidates for this year's National League Rookie of the Year was considerably smaller. All of the leading contenders hail from the NL East, headlined by the Atlanta Braves duo of reliever Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Freddie Freeman, along with their teammate starter Brandon Beachy, Philadelphia Phillies starter Vance Worley, and Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Contenders' Stats:

Brandon Beachy, P, Atlanta Braves: 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 141 2/3 IP, 46 BB, 169 K, 25 GS

Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington Nationals: 158 G, .236, 72 R, 29 2B, 21 HR, 66 RBI

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves: 157 G, .282, 67 R, 32 2B, 21 HR, 76 RBI

Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta Braves: 4-3, 2.10 ERA, 46 SV, 77 IP, 32 BB, 127 K, 79 GP

Vance Worley, P, Philadelphia Phillies: 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 131 2/3 IP, 46 BB, 119 K, 21 GS

Athlon's Winner: Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta Braves

It's no surprise that Kimbrel got all four first-place votes since he will most likely run away with the BBWAA voting as well. What is a little more surprising, however, is that all four Athlon editors' ballots turned out exactly the same — Kimbrel, followed by Freeman and then Worley. Nice to see they can agree on some things.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
Converted 25 consecutive save opportunities during the meat of the schedule. Kimbrel anchored the best bullpen in the NL.
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Vance Worley

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel set an MLB rookie record with 46 saves this season and finished tied with John Axford for the NL lead. His 127 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched (14.8 K/9) made him only the fourth player in history to post at least 30 saves and a K/9 rate over 14.0 (Carlos Marmol 2010, Eric Gagne 2003, Billy Wagner, 1998, 1999). Kimbrel enjoyed a 37.2 scoreless inning streak from June 14 to September 8 to lead Atlanta to a big Wild Card lead. We just won’t talk about his last six outings.
2. Freddie Freeman
From the batter’s box, there isn’t really any NL competition for Freeman. He led all NL rookies in batting average (.282), hits (161), doubles (32), homers (21), RBIs (76), on-base percetange (.346) and slugging (.448). He was the stabilizing force in the heart of the Braves order and was arguably their most consistent hitter in 2011.
3. Vance Worley
Worley had the benefit of learning from four of the best to play the game, but that does very little to diminish his NL rookie-best 3.01 ERA (minimum 15 starts). And when it counted, Worley posted a 2.83 ERA over his final 17 starts of the season.

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
The Braves’ fireballer was dominant for most of the season, including a 38-game scoreless streak from June 14 to September 8. During that amazing run, Kimbrel had two wins and 25 saves in 37.2 innings pitched while striking out 67 batters. The young righty tied for the NL lead in saves with 46 and set the MLB record for rookie saves in the process.
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Vance Worley

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel set the single-season record for saves by a rookie with 46. He struck out 127 and gave up just 32 walks in 77 innings. With the exception of a rough patch at the end of the season and three games over a two-week span in May, Kimbrel was as close to automatic as it comes. From June 14 to September 8, Kimbrel threw 37 2/3 scoreless innings, collecting two wins and 24 saves in those 38 appearances.
2. Freddie Freeman
Given the starting job at first base in spring training, Freeman struggled at the plate out of the gate, hitting just .217 with three home runs and eight RBIs through April. He started turning things around in May, batting .312 and found his power stroke during the summer, when he hit 10 home runs with 35 RBIs in June and July combined. The 21-year-old led finished the season leading all NL rookies in batting average (.282), hits (161), doubles (32), home runs (21), RBIs (76), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging percentage (.448).
3. Vance Worley
Used sporadically at the start of the season, Worley became a regular in the Phillies’ starting rotation in the middle of June and thrived in the role. For the season, he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 appearances, 21 of them starts. In a three-month stretch between June and August, Worley went 7-0 in 14 starts with a 2.30 ERA.

Other Baseball Awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

National League MVP

Miscellaneous: 
MLB League: 

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