By Evan Brunell
While the NL was saturated with quality rookies, there was one clear candidate that stood out: closer Craig Kimbrel.
On Monday, Kimbrel's excellent season was recognized as he was named NL Rookie of the Year. Over in the American League, Jeremy Hellickson took home the award.
|Rookie of the Year|
The Rookie of the Year award voting went exactly as Scott Miller predicted.
The 23-year-old beat out two of his teammates in first baseman Freddie Freeman and starter Brandon Beachy for the honors. He also had to hold off Phillies starter Vance Worley and Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa. The last time an Atlanta player won Rookie of the Year was in 2000, when Rafael Furcal took home the win.
Kimbrel's victory was historic, as he paired with Freeman to finish 1-2 in the voting. It's the first time since 1989 that a team was represented with the top two finishers. The Cubs' Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith were the last to accomplish the feat, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Not just that, but Kimbrel won unanimously, handing him the first unanimous vote since Albert Pujols' victory in 2001.
Hellickson, who now pairs with teammate Evan Longoria (2008) as the only Rays to win the award, entered the season with high expectations. Tampa Bay dealt away top pitcher Matt Garza in anticipation of Hellickson stepping in seamlessly, which he certainly did. In 29 starts, he posted a 2.95 ERA. He was actually very lucky, as he struck out just 117 and walked 72, but the Rays' dazzling defense behind him didn't disappoint. Hellickson gave up just 22.1 percent of all batted balls for hits, which is remarkably below the league average of 29 to 30 percent.
But while Hellickson's peripherals pointed to a poorer season than it may have otherwise appeared, the righty still put up remarkable numbers and is poised to break out into an ace in the coming seasons. If Tampa Bay had an average defense, Hellickson probably falls out of the top spot for the award, but it's not as if Hellickson's luck wasn't deserved. He led all rookies in innings pitched and some credit for his BABIP luck has to be attributed to Hellickson, who had the lowest opponent batting average among all rookies as well.
Hellickson beat out Mariners starter Michael Pineda and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer for the honor. His closest competition was Angels first baseman Mark Trumbo, who received five first-place votes. Hosmer received four, with Ivan Nova of the Yankees taking home one along with Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley.
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