From the first swing of his bat on opening day, Jason Heyward was preordained the 2010 Rookie of the year. A lot of Braves fans were disappointed when he came in second behind Buster Posey, but it marked the third consecutive year a Brave was among the top three rookies in NL ROY balloting. As impressive as this seems, the 2011 Braves could see as many as three rookies receive a substantial number of votes.Freddie Freeman is already considered one of the top contenders for 2011 ROY honors. He is a disciplined hitter with doubles power and a great glove. ROY voters love HRs (who doesn't?) which could hurt Freeman, but he has proven he can hit for average and should have a the opportunity to drive in a lot of runs batting in the bottom of Atlanta's lineup.
Mike Minor was not considered a power lefty when the Braves drafted him in the first round of the 2009 draft, but he racked up strikeouts in the minor leagues with his improved velocity and plus secondary pitches. Last year Minor set the record for strikeouts in a single game for a Braves rookie. ROY voters love wins, so if Minor can hold up for the entire season as the Braves fifth starter he should be able to win enough games (13+) to receive a considerable number of votes.
Craig Kimbrel showed frighteningly dominant stuff in his short stint at the major league level last year, going 4-0 with 40 strikeouts in only 20.2 innings. ROY voters generally ignore relief pitchers but they love saves. The last relief pitcher to win NL ROY was Scott Williamson in 1999, but since then four of the AL ROYs have been closers. If Kimbrel can hold down the closers job for the entire season he should receive a lot of attention.
The last Atlanta Brave to win Rookie of the Year was Rafael Furcal in 2000, but since Frank Wren has taken over as General Manager their farm system has been turning out fantastic young players every year. I don't take a lot of stock in the Rookie of the Year award, but it is impressive to look at how many Braves rookies have been recognized for being near the top of their class every year. The 2011 Braves should have one of the NLs top three rookies for the fourth consecutive year, and Julio Tejeran should be a serious contender in 2012.
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