Thursday, August 20, 2009

Niemann my leader for AL rookie of the year

Here is something I never thought I would write: Jeff Niemann should be the American League Rookie of the Year.

Not that I didn't think a Rays pitcher would win the award this year, I just thought that rookie would be David Price. I don't think I was alone in that assumption, either.

Back in March, the story was how the Rays would baby Price at Triple A to keep him fresh for the late summer playoff push.

Well, the Rays are making a playoff push, and one reason is because Niemann has emerged as the best pitcher in the rotation.

Price, who returned to the big leagues sooner than the Rays planned because of the injury to Scott Kazmir, has pitched like a rookie.

Niemann, who almost didn't make the team out of spring training, is the reason why the Rays still have playoff hopes.

He is 11-5, leading the staff in wins, ERA (3.71), complete games (2) and shutouts (2).

He leads all American League rookie pitchers in wins, complete games and shutouts. Detroit's Rick Porcello and Toronto's Ricky Romero are tied for second with 10 wins each.

I have voted for the AL ROY in past years, though I won't this year, and I tend to lean toward a rookie who is involved in a playoff race. I figure it is tough enough being a rookie. Throw in the pressure of playing meaningful games and the pressure only gets dialed up.

Trying to learn the game at the big league level while trying to help your team reach the playoffs is a lot to ask from a rookie.

That said, Porcello and Niemann are two pitchers I feel are legit ROY candidates.

As far as position players go, Nolan Reimold of Baltimore appears all over the hitting categories, but he plays for a last-place team.

Gordon Beckham of the White Sox is also having a nice year, but his numbers aren't Evan Longoria numbers.

I think the ROY is going to be a pitcher, and at this time, I think it should be Niemann.

The No.5 starter is pitching like the staff ace. Take him out of the rotation and you can take the Rays out of the Wild Card hunt.