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Six for Saturday: NL Rookie Race

It's hard to believe that June is already here. It seems like just yesterday it was Opening Day 2010. The bright-eyed, young rookies are all grown up now and the training wheels are off the bicycle, so let's check in with the Rookie of the Year race in the National League.

David Freese | 3B | St. Louis: Freese, 27, is hitting .316/.386/.449 in 214 at-bats. He's leading all NL rookies (100 at-bats or more) in batting average. He hasn't displayed a ton of power, especially for a third baseman, but he's posted a respectable .370 wOBA. His strikeout rate of 24% is high considering his .134 ISO rate and the batting average is definitely aided by a high BABIP at .396. Freese is doing a lot of his damage at home (1.043 OPS at home, .629 on the road), so keep that in mind if your utilizing him on your fantasy squad.

Jason Heyward | OF | Atlanta: Heyward leads NL rookies in on-base percentage, slugging, homers, RBIs, and runs scored. He's clearly the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. The outfielder has been a great value for my fantasy team as I was able to snag him with the final pick of my auction draft for $1. You don't often - if ever - see a .263 ISO rate from a 20-year-old rookie. His batting average has dipped lately, but Heyward does a little bit of everything and his 154% walk rate looks like a typo... He has uncanny patience for his age and the rookie swings at pitches outside the strike zone 5% less than the league average.

Starlin Castro | SS | Chicago: Keeping in mind that he's just 20-year-old, Castro's line of .301/.350/.398 is pretty darn impressive. He doesn't have a ton of fantasy relevance right now, though, unless you're desperate for the batting average. Castro has speed but he's not a great base runner. He's also not a power hitter, as witnessed by his .094 ISO. This shortstop is an exciting prospect and could develop into a really good offensive player, but he's a singles hitter right now with a good idea at the plate and a solid glove in the field.

Jaime Garcia | LHP | St. Louis: The NL rookie leader in strikeouts (51) and ground-ball rate (60%), Garcia has a lot of the key ingredients for success. Toss in the fact that he's left-handed and has command of four pitches, and you can see why he's been so successful. The best part is that it doesn't appear to be a fluke; all these factors come straight out of his previous scouting reports. He's just finally healthy after batting injury problems in the past, which is still a bit of a red flag going forward. With an eye-popping ERA, Garcia is a useful mixed league starter; just expect a little regression as the year progresses.

Mike Leake | RHP | Cincinnati: The 22-year-old Leake, who leads NL rookie pitchers in innings, has received a lot of press for skipping over the minor leagues and going straight from college to the Majors, which is definitely an impressive feat, but it may have caused him to be a little over-hyped. Yes, he's been very successful so far but his strikeout rate is just 6.14 K/9 and his xFIP is 4.07 (good, not great). Leake is a solid NL-only pitcher and an OK back-end mixed league starter. His a pitcher with command of four pitches, a good ground-ball rate but he's not the overall talent that Garcia is at this point.

John Ely | RHP | Los Angeles:
Ely, who was acquired from the White Sox in the off-season, has been a nice story but, like Leake, he's not quite as good as he might seem. The right-hander has a modest fastball that sits around 87 mph and he commands four pitches, including a very good change-up. He also has exceptional control, as seen with his walk rate of 1.57 BB/9. Ely will face a true test when he goes through teams for the second time and they're prepared for his good change-up. With all that said, a 3.47 xFIP and 7.24 K/9 strikeout rate through seven big league starts deserves some attention.


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