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Andrus, A's hurlers lead AL rookies

Andrus, A's hurlers lead AL rookies

Elvis Andrus might be favored, but it's anyone's guess who will take home the American League Rookie of the Year Award this season.

This much is certain -- there is no shortage of quality arms in the race with starting pitchers such as Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann, Oakland's Brett Anderson and Detroit's Rick Porcello performing like seasoned veterans this year.

All three of those starters have made at least 30 appearances while also winning more than 11 games.

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They're also not the only rookie starters who have put up quality numbers, as others, such as Toronto's Ricky Romero and Baltimore's Brad Bergesen, are right behind that elite trio.

Then there's A's right-hander Andrew Bailey, who has flown under the radar this season despite being one of the best closers in the American League with a sub-2.00 ERA and more than 25 saves.

And of course, it's not just rookie pitchers who are getting it done this season, as perhaps the favorite in the race is Andrus, the 21-year-old shortstop who forced Gold Glove-winning shortstop Michael Young to move over to third base this year in Texas.

Andrus has emerged as one of the top defensive shortstops in the game while also putting up solid numbers offensively for a shortstop with a .268 batting average and 32 stolen bases through Tuesday's game.

So while Andrus has proved to be a defensive wiz, there are a few candidates who are showing a bit more offensively this season, including two position players in Baltimore outfielder Nolan Reimold and catcher Matt Wieters, who have had fine rookie seasons. Reimold leads all AL rookies in both home runs and on-base percentage while Wieters, a future superstar behind the plate, leads all AL rookies in batting average.

And if it's slugging percentage you're looking for, the White Sox's Gordon Beckham is your man as he leads in that category despite playing out of position at third base instead of his natural position of shortstop.

So it appears to be just a matter of preference in this year's AL Rookie of the Year race, but here's a look at favorites, contenders and dark horses:

THE FAVORITES

Elvis Andrus, Rangers: The Venezuela native is already regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game even though it's just his first year in the Majors. He also leads all AL rookies in hits, triples and stolen bases.

Jeff Niemann, Rays: Niemann surprisingly leads a strong Rays rotation in wins this season with 12 and has an impressive sub-4.00 ERA as well, despite pitching in the AL East. The right-hander also leads all AL rookies with two shutouts.

Brett Anderson, A's: The right-hander arguably has the best stuff of any rookie starter, evidenced by his 145 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings pitched. He's also struck out more than three times as many batters as he has walked.

Rick Porcello, Tigers: Porcello has emerged into one of Detroit's top starters despite being just 20 years old. He also leads all rookie starters with 14 wins and he's done it all while pitching for a contender in the AL Central.

THE CONTENDERS

Andrew Bailey, A's: Bailey is in the top 10 in the American League in saves and he hasn't done it with smoke and mirrors as he has more strikeouts than innings pitched. He was also the only rookie to make the AL All-Star team.

Gordon Beckham, White Sox: Beckham leads all AL rookies in RBIs and doubles by a large margin and has plenty of power to boot as he ranks second among AL rookies in homers.

THE DARK HORSES:

Matt Wieters, Orioles: If the award went to the player with the most potential, Wieters would likely win in a landslide. But the catcher struggled with the bat early before turning it around late to finish with a batting average near .300.

Rickey Romero, Blue Jays: Romero, like Anderson, has elite stuff as he has 130 strikeouts in 166 innings, second behind Anderson in strikeouts by an AL rookie.

The Field: Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Brett Gardner, Yankees.

Rhett Bollinger 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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