Veterans and Rookies

In one of the most bizarre coincidences in recent history Major League Baseball chose Veteran’s Day as the day they would announce the Rookie of the Year awards. In the National League the Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves with a legitimate candidate in center fielder Chris Young. Legitimate candidate should not be confused with favorite. It has long been speculated that the winner would come from either the Colorado Rockies or the Milwaukee Brewers for the Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year. Wow, that award title is a mouthful. About the only thing longer than that is the team name for the Angels.

This is the second time in team history where an Arizona Diamondbacks player was mentioned among the favorites for the Rookie of the Year. In their 10-year existence no Diamondback has ever won this award. The closest a Diamondbacks player came to winning was in 2003 when Brandon Webb finished third in voting behind winner Dontrelle Willis and second place Scott Podesdnik and in 1998 when first baseman Travis Lee finished third in voting behind Kerry Wood and Todd Helton.

Going into the 2007 season many predicted that several Arizona Diamondbacks players would be vying for this honor. There was Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young, and Miguel Montero who all seemed poised to make a big splash at the Major League level. Unfortunately things did not quite pan out the way Arizona had expected. Quentin was injured during Spring Training and struggled all year while dealing with a shoulder injury that was finally surgically repaired in October. Montero found himself playing behind the hot bat of Chris Snyder that substantially cut into his playing time. Stephen Drew struggled out of the gate and faltered most of the season before turning it on late. That left Chris Young as the most consistent of the Diamondbacks rookies. He hit 32 home runs while stealing 27 bases. Young struggled a little striking out 141 times but his slugging percentage of .467 ranked him third among Diamondbacks position players. Defensively Chris Young struggled slightly as the season started but soon became comfortable in center field turning in several highlight reel catches. His range and his arm proved advantageous to keeping opposing baserunners from stretching hits into extra bases. But even with all of his accomplishments Young was not thought of as a Rookie of the Year favorite. He unfortunately made his major league debut the same year as two others that in their own right had even better years.

Ryan Braun made his way to the major leagues on May 25th and never looked back. Over the remainder of the season Braun established himself as a good third baseman and a great hitter. His batting average for the season was .324 while hitting 34 home runs and recording a .634 slugging percentage which broke a major league record for rookies. This offensive firepower was enough to hold off Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who finished a mere 2 points behind Braun in the closest finish in rookie of the year voting history.

So while the drought continues in the desert at least as it pertains to the Rookie of the Year this much is certain; the Diamondbacks have high expectations in 2008 for Chris Young as well as all of the other young players they have on their roster. Hopefully with a full year of baseball under their belts these players will be able to produce at a level that will see the Diamondbacks return to the post season and this time reach the World Series.

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