The NL rookie of the year will be a Brave, but WHICH Brave?

Here's a stellar rookie in hermit-crab mode. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A rookie in game-saving mode. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Here’s an easy question: Who’s the Braves’ rookie of the year?

Said Frank Wren, the general manager: “Right! Like I’m going to answer that.”

Said Brandon Beachy, a starting pitcher: “That’s the impossible question … They’re the two best rookies in baseball.”

Said Fredi Gonzalez, the manager: “This is going to sound politically correct, but I’ve got to give it to both.”

Said Jonny Venters, the set-up man: “If I made the rules, you’d have co-winners.”

Said Tim Hudson, also a starting pitcher: “It’s hard to say. They’ve blown away any other players on other teams.”

The rookies in question are Freddie Freeman, who’s hitting .295 with 16 homers (third-most among Braves) and 60 RBIs (second-most) and who leads National League rookies in every significant hitting category, and Craig Kimbrel, who leads the major leagues in saves. What renders this question — I was kidding about it being easy — so thorny is the difference in job descriptions. Freeman works every day, playing first base and hitting in the middle of the order; Kimbrel works when the Braves have a lead in the ninth inning.

Venters: “They’re both doing unbelievable things. One’s probably going to set the rookie record for saves. The other has a chance to hit .300 with 25 home runs.”

Hudson: “You could argue that Freddie has been our best player all year. But it’s not easy to get those last three outs, either.”

Asked to name the Braves’ best rookie, Freeman said: “Craig Kimbrel. It’s obvious. He’s got 36 saves, and he leads the world in strikeouts [by a reliever]. He’s not just the best rookie reliever; he’s one of the best relievers in baseball.”

Asked to name the Braves’ best rookie, Kimbrel said: “Freddie.” Why? “He’s an everyday player hitting .300 [or thereabouts]. He’s been carrying our team. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had the [save] chances I’ve had.”

Let the record reflect that the Braves whose opinions were solicited and who deigned to choose were unanimous in their sentiment. (Not that an electorate of three represents a quorum.) Martin Prado, the man of many positions, was walking down the hall when the question was broached, and he tapped a name on the nightly lineup board and spoke two words.

Said Prado: “First baseman.”

Another stellar rookie in heroic mode. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A rookie in game-winning mode. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Said Chipper Jones, the face of the franchise: “Freddie Freeman. But it’s very close. I’m a little biased because I’m an everyday player. But I think he has helped us win more games than Craig Kimbrel has. But he’s a close second.”

Said David Ross, the backup catcher: “For me, Freddie Freeman. He plays every day. He gets big hits and he plays every day.”

The manager, it should be noted, voiced a concern. Said Gonzalez: “Is it possible they could split the votes and [the award] go to someone else?”

No. Freeman and Kimbrel figure to 1-2 or 2-1 on every ballot. And, since you asked, writers vote for the official NL rookie of the year award, although not writers from this newspaper. (The AJC doesn’t allow us to participate in balloting for yearly awards, believing its reporters shouldn’t make the news.)

The Braves' rookie of the year is:

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That said, it’d be a wimp-out of the first degree if I didn’t offer an opinion. I’ll be in the minority, but I’d go with Kimbrel. Not many rookies are entrusted with closing games, and Kimbrel has already tied Todd Worrell, who had 36 for St. Louis in 1986, for most saves by a National League rookie. (The major-league rookie record was set by Neftali Feliz, who had 40 for Texas last season. And yes, Feliz once worked in this organization.)

Said Beachy: “It’s not easy to close games.” And that would seem an endorsement of Kimbrel. Then Beachy nodded toward Freeman and said: “It wasn’t easy for Brian Wilson the other night.”

On Monday night Freeman beat the bearded Giant with a single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch with two out in the ninth. As we’ve seen from the sentiments expressed above, it’s the toughest of calls. I keep coming back to this, though: Freeman is having an outstanding season; Kimbrel is having a record-setting season. It’s a slight difference, but it is a difference.

And with that, Game 3 of the gigantic Giants series is about to commence. Join me to chat about rookies, veterans and Fredi Gonzalez’s bunt tactics. Please?

By Mark Bradley

241 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
5:58 pm

Fredi Gonzales?

jjm

August 17th, 2011
5:58 pm

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
5:58 pm

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
5:59 pm

Fredi is a rookie Braves Manager, so shouldnt he be in the running Mark?

Matt

August 17th, 2011
6:00 pm

What a great problem to have — I noticed no Phillies rookies are in consideration. Which is why they will suck in a few years, and the Braves will rule the division again.

Benjamin

August 17th, 2011
6:00 pm

I’m going to go with Kimbrel. No question they’re one-two, though, and I think it’ll be close. [I also predict the writers pick Freeman.]

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
6:01 pm

Kimbrell makes the ole coach’s back ache when i see him pitch.

JoshTown

August 17th, 2011
6:03 pm

I’m down for either of them. They’ve been amazing assets to the club, and both are extremely deserving. P.S. AJC not letting you guys cast a ballot is lame.

Steve

August 17th, 2011
6:03 pm

It should be Freeman, but as long as it’s a Brave, I really don’t care.

My concern is that Freddie and Craig split the vote and allow someone else (like the 2B at Washington) to take the award. That would be the worst result of all.

Matt

August 17th, 2011
6:03 pm

Todd Grantham should not be given kudos after those comments/questions, Mark.

Matt

August 17th, 2011
6:04 pm

The interesting question is how many ROY awards in a row Braves players will win, starting with this year – heck, we should have won last year with Heyward and/or Venters

Beano Cook Fan Club

August 17th, 2011
6:12 pm

Football is almost here.

NCBravesFan

August 17th, 2011
6:13 pm

I agree, Mark. Give it to Kimbrel — when he’s in, the game is there for the winning. I wish they could share it, though. Freddie’s been amazing this year.

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
6:15 pm

todd grantham; Too modest to claim the coveted kudos.

Todd Grantham is an idiot

August 17th, 2011
6:16 pm

You can’t be a rookie manager if you’ve managed before. If you didn’t know Fredi was the manager of the Marlins. Last time I checked they were a major league team.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
6:17 pm

Matt, I’ll be sure not to be first on your blog.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
6:18 pm

TGIAI, if you will closely peruse my comment, you will notice i said Braves rookie manager.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
6:20 pm

i have to go with Freeman. Everyday player and Heaven only knows how many runs he’s saved by his glove work.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
6:22 pm

Kimbrell, while having a record season, cant “win” a ballgame. his job is to protect games.

MLE

August 17th, 2011
6:23 pm

It’s gotta be Freddie. Mark, you’ve completely overlooked how many times he gets us extra outs by stretching for a ball, leaping for a ball, digging a ball out of the dirt… He has performed amazingly well at first base and been the difference in a lot of close plays — in addition to all the good he’s done in the middle of the batting line-up! I love Kimbrel and am amazed at what he’s accomplished, too, but if you can’t split the award, give it to the guy who plays so hard and so well every single-dingle day!!!

Andres "the Cat" Galarraga

August 17th, 2011
6:24 pm

I have to give the nod to Freeman. In addition to his consistent and clutch hitting, he is the best fielding first baseman in the NL since I hung up the spikes.

Delbert D.

August 17th, 2011
6:31 pm

Can’t do without either of ‘em.

Dave

August 17th, 2011
6:36 pm

As a Braves fan you just have to love this “problem.” Frank Wren is probably like that guy in the organic male “enhancement” commercials a few years back, he just can’t get the smile off his face. And it will probably stay fixed for the next couple of years as the kid pitchers graduate to the club. Then there’s Medlen coming back and Moylan and, and. His face may just shatter.

Nativebird

August 17th, 2011
6:37 pm

Freeman. Chicks dig the long ball.

Brian in Athens

August 17th, 2011
6:43 pm

Ah, when Chipper was denied Rookie of the Year I argued what he did. If you play everyday you are more valuable than the starter (Hideo Nomo in his case) that plays every fifth day. A closer makes more appearances though and here is the decider for me. Freeman is going to have a really good rookie season, capable of winning most years but sometimes not. Kimbrel is getting ready to set a record of 40-45 saves that might not be broken for a very long time. Record setters trump good seasons, especially when the job descriptions are so different. Compared to all-time rookie seasons Freeman’s is a footnote, Kimbrel is listed among the best EVER. It has to be the closer unless he blows up his ERA from this point forward and doesn’t get those last 5 saves to go over the top.

collegeballfan

August 17th, 2011
6:46 pm

Wren needs to give them both a $250,000 bonus after the season.

Dave

August 17th, 2011
6:47 pm

I think Brian in Athens wins the logic prize.

BiggdawgK

August 17th, 2011
6:56 pm

DNice

August 17th, 2011
6:57 pm

Knowing what we have ran out there to “Close games” in the past I would say it has to be the closer #1 and Fast Freddie #2. The guy from the Nationals while he has a lot of homers but he is batting lower than Ugla LOL.

Joey M

August 17th, 2011
6:58 pm

I have to give it to Freeman simply by adding his defense to the overall package. Both have been stellar. Kimbrel made us all forget about Wagner. And Wagner was the best closer we had since Smoltz. One thing that is exciting is we forget Beachy is a rookie. Beachy has been very good. With some run support, he would be in the argument too. If the performance by Delgado is any indication of what we can expect, the ROY will reside in Atlanta for a few years. BTW, Heyward was robbed last year.

Runner-

August 17th, 2011
7:04 pm

Freddie all the way, Kimbrel has saved us in some tight situations, but he’s also lost us 3 or 4 games. Freddie on the other hand has won us at least 10 games this season, because we’d be no where without him. Imagine if someone like Hinske was our everyday 1st baseman? We’d no longer have the dangerous middle of the order we have now – 3- McCann 4- Uggla 5- Freeman 6- Chipper. Would look much weaker without Freeman in there…

bfred

August 17th, 2011
7:06 pm

Brian in Athens beat me to the punch as well. All-time great season at a position, versus best for that specific year. The Nomo comparison is tempting but it should have been obvious to voters in ‘95 that once hitters got used to his funky delivery he didn’t have much special to merit an award. Kimbrel seems to be a different animal; nothing gimmicky about his success.

Those who vote for Freeman will be doing so based mostly on personal philosophy, that an everyday player automatically trumps a pitcher. And I do think there’s a higher percentage chance that Freeman has an All-Star career, just because it’s so hard to project closer performance over the long haul. It’s so mental – look what happened to Wohlers, Rocker, etc. Once the head goes the arm is useless.

Skeezix

August 17th, 2011
7:09 pm

I have to give it to the everyday player, but if Kimbrel wins it, I’ll be just as delighted.

bfred

August 17th, 2011
7:10 pm

Fact is, I don’t really care which wins it. I’m mostly psyched that our already strong team is young and getting younger. Phils are on the back side of the career curve with their best players. I want success this year but for once am willing to wait a little longer. We should own the East for 10 years.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 17th, 2011
7:12 pm

Take FF’s D and offense from this team and are they where they are? I say he’s the MVP.

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
7:12 pm

Game’s underway. Jurrjens pitching. Gets Cody Ross to ground to third. Only 26 more to go.

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
7:14 pm

One thing about this Kimbrel-doesn’t-play-every-day argument: He’s not a starting pitcher who works every five days. He has pitched in 61 games.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
7:14 pm

Gotta have a thick skin on this blog Mark

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
7:15 pm

Oh, and the Giants lead 1-0. Panda just doubled off the fence in left. Fontenot had doubled down the line

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
7:15 pm

Oh, I think I have a remarkably thick skin.

braves 2012

August 17th, 2011
7:16 pm

JJ is still leaving his pitches up…..here we go….can we get a G-brave pitcher in this game already?

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
7:16 pm

Not downing Kimbrell.. if i had to pick one that had to go on the DL, it would be Kimbrell rather than Freeman.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
7:17 pm

I meant my skin

Columbus

August 17th, 2011
7:17 pm

Both of them. Co-Rookies of the Year.

Fredi will get some votes for mananger of the year for what is he is doing with his meager payroll compared to the Phillies, Giants and Cardinals and it being his first year. Giants have about 120 million, Cards 106 million and Braves 87 million. Phils have 173 MILLION! Dbacks have much lower payroll than Braves at 54 million so thats a vote getter righ there. But Braves go to NLCS and Fredi wins manager of the year!

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
7:18 pm

i’m sure you saw that rudeness earlier. i did get the last word in though.

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
7:19 pm

I saw that. But I knew you could handle it.

Blaze

August 17th, 2011
7:20 pm

OK….There should be a rookie pitcher award and an everyday player rookie award. Since there is not……Freeman gets it because of his added dimension……DEFENSE. How many errors & games has he saved us? One word……WOW!

Stinger2

August 17th, 2011
7:20 pm

I believe both are the logical candidates but its too early to make this important award. We should wait until the regular season is over to vote. A lot can or cannot happen between now and then.

todd grantham

August 17th, 2011
7:20 pm

rarely see a pitcher catch an infield fly. In fact, i’ve NEVER seen a pitcher catch an outfield fly.

Mark Bradley

August 17th, 2011
7:21 pm

Lou Brock was here before the game. I shook hands with him and said, “Greatest World Series player of all time.” I wasn’t exaggerating.