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Soto heads class of talented NL rookies

Soto heads class of talented NL rookies

For a guy only 25 years old, Geovany Soto has already authored an impressive resume.

In July, the Chicago rookie became the first National League rookie catcher to start an All-Star Game and the first Cubs backstop to start a Midsummer Classic in 71 years.

2008 AWARDS
CANDIDATES
• Rookie: AL | NL |
• Cy Young: AL | NL |
• Manager: AL | NL |
• MVP: AL | NL |
• Comeback: AL & NL |

2008 awards coverage >

Soto's 21 home runs are a franchise record for a rookie catcher and the most by any rookie catcher since Mike Piazza's 35 in 1993. Soto is the first Cubs rookie to hit as many as 21 home runs since Billy Williams belted 25 in 1961.

Soto leads all NL rookies in home runs, RBIs and slugging, and his defense and handling of the Chicago pitching staff have been good enough to help the Cubs stay atop the NL Central race.

Little wonder then why Soto might be the first Senior Circuit catcher to win Rookie of the Year honors since Piazza 15 years ago.

While Soto is arguably the favorite, others, like teammate Kosuke Fukudome, Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens and Cincinnati's Joey Votto are also in the running.

Here's a look at the candidates for the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

THE FAVORITES

Geovany Soto, Cubs: The 25-year-old has been instrumental in the Cubs' success and most of his statistics (.290 batting average, 21 home runs, 80 RBIs, .877 OPS) stack up well in comparison to some of the other candidates.

Jair Jurrjens, Braves: Atlanta's pitching staff has been a disappointment, but Jurrjens has been a bright spot. The 22-year-old right-hander is 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA through 28 starts and is the only NL rookie among the top 30 in the league in ERA, wins, innings and strikeouts.

THE DARK HORSES

Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs: Two months into the season, Fukudome was a front-runner for the award, but after his fast start, he has cooled off considerably. He also trails teammate Soto in most statistical categories. Fukudome, however, leads NL rookies with 74 runs scored. He also has 11 stolen bases and has played outstanding defense in right field. With a fast finish, Fukudome could perhaps push his way back into top-of-the-ballot status.

Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers: The 33-year-old is two games under .500 (8-10), but has a 3.96 ERA over 27 starts (161 innings) and two complete games to help the Dodgers stay in contention in the NL West.

Joey Votto, Reds: Votto (.292, 18, 70, .837) has shown why the Reds think so highly of the 24-year-old first baseman. Tabbed as a future All-Star by some, Votto is having a fine season. He is also above-average defensively and should give the Reds stability at the position for many years.

HONORABLE MENTION

Brian Barton, Cardinals; Gregor Blanco, Braves; Jay Bruce, Reds; Jorge Campillo, Braves; Johnny Cueto, Reds; Blake DeWitt, Dodgers; Edgar Gonzalez, Padres; John Lannan, Nationals; Kyle McClellan, Cardinals; Chris Perez, Cardinals; Jeff Samardzija, Cubs; Ian Stewart, Rockies; Wesley Wright, Houston.

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

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