Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel received all 32 first place votes to take home the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year award. Nationals Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
Kimbrel was the clear choice after he set a major league record for saves by a first year closer (46) and worked to a 2.10 ERA in 79 appearances.
His teammate, first baseman Freddie Freeman, and Phillies pitcher Vance Worley finished second and third but behind them was Nationals catcher Ramos in fourth and second baseman Espinosa in sixth. Arizona’s Josh Collmenter finished fifth in the voting.
The Nationals knew all season they had two of the top rookies in the game in Ramos and Espinosa. Ramos, who finished the year with a solid .267 batting average and 15 home runs, was praised up and down the pitching staff for his work as a receiver and he threw out 32 percent of base stealers. He had a number of pretty big home runs for the Nationals last year but it’d be tough to top the three-run shot off Seattle’s David Pauley to cap what was perhaps the Nationals most improbable comeback of the season, a 6-5 victory.
Espinosa was at the top of the Rookie of the Year discussion for much of the first half when he broke out of the starting gate on a power tear unparalleled for rookie second basemen in the history of the game. With 16 homers and 15 doubles before the All-Star break, Espinosa’s surge helped the Nationals cope with the loss of Ryan Zimmerman for much of the first half and his defense was equally superb. He tailed off significantly at the plate in the second half, though, and his final numbers (.236 AVG, .323 OBP, .414 SLG - 21 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB) couldn’t eclipse the work of his childhood teammate Freeman, who hit .282 with a .346 OBP and .448 SLG. He hit 21 home runs, drove in 76 and drew raves for his defense at first base as well.
– One other interesting thing to note from the Rookie of the Year voting: Five of the top six rookies came from the National League East. Kimbrel and Freeman from the Braves, Worley from Philadelphia and Ramos and Espinosa from the Nationals. Only Collmenter came from another division in the top six. Darwin Barney (Cubs) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) were the seventh and eighth place finishers.
– The American League Cy Young award will be announced on Tuesday.