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2011 National League Rookie of the Year Race
Reggie Yinger | Wednesday June 15th, 2011
Gas throwing Craig Kimbrel is a strikeout machine. (Icon SMI)
Gas throwing Craig Kimbrel is a strikeout machine. (Icon SMI)
With the baseball season a third of the way complete, Baseball Press reviews some of this year's top performances from some of the game's best rookies in the National League.

This season, fans have already seen a talented crop of prospects make their major league debut in the NL, with additional talented prospects on their way in the upcoming months.

*Eligibility determined by players who prior to the current season, have had fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched or spent less than 45 days on an active big league roster prior to rosters expanding on September 1.

Craig Kimbrel - RP, Atlanta Braves (78% Save Percentage (18-for-23), 3.27 ERA, 2.88 SO/BB )
Reliever Craig Kimbrel is a serious strikeout machine, fanning 13.4 hitters per nine innings of work this season. While he has no issues striking out hitters, he's struggled with control issues, allowing 17 walks in 33 innings.  His 18 saves ranks fifth best among all MLB relievers and his 5 blown saves currently ties him for tops among all MLB relievers. Despite the five blown saves and the control issues, the Braves will seemingly stick with Kimbrel (for now) in the ninth inning.  However, the Braves could start using hard-throwing lefty Jonny Venters more in the ninth inning as the season goes on.  Venters, 26, has been absolutely filthy this season pitching from the bullpen, posting a 79% ground ball rate and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Josh Collmenter - SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (4-2, 1.86 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 3.40 SO/BB)
We've talked a lot about rookie starter Josh Collmenter's fantasy value here at Baseball Press this season.  The 25 year-old started the season in the bullpen before moving to the starting rotation during the month of May.  As a starter this season, Collmenter is 3-2 with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.  He uses a fastball and changeup along with a deceptive, over-the-top delivery to keep hitters off-balance.  Neither of his pitches are of great quality and he may continue to fool hitters with his delivery, but they'll figure him out eventually.  However, the Diamondbacks have limited options with starting pitching, so he'll continue to pitch every fifth day.

Dillon Gee - SP, New York Mets (7-0, 3.05 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2.20 SO/BB)
Although the New York Mets rotation has been a mess this season, pitcher Dillon Gee has been one of the few bright spots.  He's just the second rookie (Jered Weaver, 2006) to open the big league season with seven straight wins.  He started in the rotation for the Mets this season, but also pitched four games from the bullpen before returning to the rotation in the middle of May.  Since his return to the rotation, he's allowed just eight earned runs over 35 2/3 innings.  His numbers are certainly not flashy, holding around the league average in strikeouts and walks per nine innings, but it's been fun to watch and fans can certainly hope that his success will continue.

Brandon Beachy - SP, Atlanta Braves (1-1, 3.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 3.83 SO/BB)
Prior to his oblique injury, Braves starting pitcher Brandon Beachy looked good over seven starts.  Even though he only recorded one win over those seven starts, he averaged just over a strikeout per nine innings, while walking 12 in 44 1/3 innings.  While the injury was a hit to Atlanta's rotation, it may of actually helped the team limit Brandon's innings now, opposed to later, allowing him to pitch deeper into the season.  The 24-year-old righthander has a great pitching arsenal and knows how to throw strikes with all of his pitches.  He's currently scheduled to make two rehabilitation starts with Triple-A Gwinnett and could return later to big league action later in the month.

Darwin Barney - 2B, Chicago Cubs (.294/.321/.359, 1 HR, 25 RBI, .679 OPS)
Second baseman Darwin Barney has put together a terrific season thus far, but fans wonder if he can sustain this for the rest of the year.  He doesn't walk much (8 this season) but makes contact with the ball and avoids strikeouts. If he's going to have a serious shot at winning the award, he's going to have to keep hitting and try and work more walks to help his on-base percentage.  His high batting average early in the season earned him Rookie of the Month in April, but was driven by a high .354 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). He's started to fall back to Earth and since June 1, he's hitting .235/.278/.235 with just one walk in 12 games.  In addition to struggling this month, Barney landed on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee injury.

Danny Espinosa - 2B, Washington Nationals (.221/.313/.424, 10 HR, 36 RBI, .738 OPS)
Switch-hitting second baseman Danny Espinosa has been playing terrific defense and hitting for power this season.  Although his batting average is low and he's striking out a lot, he's been hitting home runs, running the bases well, and driving in runs for a struggling Nats offense.  His home runs and OPS are currently third in the National League among all second baseman.  When he's not in the batter's box, Espinosa is busy making defensive highlights at second base.

Domonic Brown - OF, Philadelphia Phillies (.250/.321/.486, 4 HR, 11 RBI, .807 OPS)
Despite missing the entire month of April due to injury, outfielder Dom Brown still has time to make a case for Rookie of the Year.  After returning from a fractured hand, Brown closed out the month of May hitting .333/.378/.545 with a .924 OPS.  However, he's scuffled in the month of June, collecting just seven total hits, with three of the seven being home runs.  Regardless of the slow June, he has the talent to produce, especially in the Phillies lineup.

Honorable Mention: Wilson Ramos (C, WAS), Brandon Belt (1B, SFG), Juan Miranda (1B, ARZ), Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL), Anthony Rizzo (1B, San Diego Padres), Justin Turner (INF, NYM)
Reggie YingerReggie is a writer and the co-founder of Baseball Press. He enjoys fantasy baseball and hates when players bunt in baseball.