Talented field up for AL Rookie of Year

Talented field up for AL rookie honor

In Major League Baseball's trophy case, Rookie of the Year Awards have always been a mixed blessing. Recognition of any sort carries a distinction, yet such honors come with caveats and burdens.

As much as teams appreciate props for noteworthy contributions by the game's next generation, clubs usually find chances to promote young players for one of two reasons: Because they're in a downturn, affording openings for rookies, or because injured veterans have to be replaced.

And, for the player, Rookie of the Year acknowledgment raises future expectations not always met.

Most peculiar about this honor is that it is hardly conclusive of players' career destinies. Joe Mauer was not an American League Rookie of the Year, and neither was Alex Rodriguez. The Rookie of the Year in A-Rod's 1995 rookie season? Marty Cordova, who has been out of baseball for five years.

On the flip side, Angel Berroa (2003) and Bob Hamelin (1994) have both been AL Rookies of the Year -- both with Kansas City. Their ensuing troubles have nothing to do with Royals lineage -- Carlos Beltran (1999) was another award-winning KC rookie, and he turned out all right.

Do the math, and in 13 years three Royals have won Rookie of the Year Awards to one Yankee (Derek Jeter). What was that point about the undesirable environment that enables this hardware?

All that being said, the impact of young players is growing exponentially in a game that is learning to trust and depend on the new blood. Hence, the competition among rookies is also intensifying, making the award certainly more meaningful.

The AL Rookie of the Year Award will be handed out on Nov. 12.

THE FAVORITES

2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: Pedroia hasn't been as flashy, or followed as wide a hype trail, as some of his peers. But he has carried a big stick since mid-June, has surprising range and a ball-sucking glove, and is a hard-nosed fundamental player who has helped re-write the Red Sox culture. Pedroia has become a rock at a position which had been a Boston quagmire for years.

OF Delmon Young, Devil Rays: Young has not hit with the power expected of him which, safely assuming that it will eventually come with maturity and experience, actually is a positive. Because people have had a chance to appreciate the totality of Young's durable and consistent game. While being the only AL player to not miss a game, he kept his average in the .300 range with five hitting streaks of 10-plus games -- something only one other rookie has done in the last 50 years (Ichiro Suzuki, the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year).

RHP Brian Bannister, Royals: With 12 wins, Bannister was second among the league's rookies to Daisuke Matsuzaka -- with an ERA that was a half-run lower (3.87). At 12-9, Bannister was also a winner on a team well below .500. The son of former Major League left-hander Floyd Bannister was the league's Rookie of the Month in both June and August.

RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox: By any objective yardstick, Matsuzaka may not be as deserving as other first-year pitchers, having benefited from tremendous run support to win some of his weakest starts. But the bottom line of justifying the tremendous hype with 15 wins may be too hard to ignore. Unless the growing influx of established Japanese pros has raised resistance to their eligibility for the award, Matsuzaka also has history on his side: Since 2000, two other players from Japan have been AL Rookies of the Year -- Ichiro and Kazuhiro Sasaki.

THE WORTHY FIELD

INF Alex Gordon, Royals
OF Reggie Willits, Angels
INF Billy Butler, Royals
3B Akinori Iwamura, Devil Rays
RHP Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles
LHP Hideki Okajima, Red Sox
LHP Rafael Perez, Indians

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.