Danny Espinoza [sic] finished sixth overall in the BBWAA voting for 2011's NL Rookie of the Year. They misspelled the Nats' 24-year-old second baseman's name in the official BBWAA press release accompanying today's announcement unfortunately. Espinosa finished his rookie campaign with a .236/.323/.414 slash line, 29 doubles (3rd among rookies in the NL), 21 HR's (tied for 1st in NL among rookies w/ ATL 1B Freddie Freeman), 17 steals (3rd among NL rookies) and the second-most RBI's with 66 to Freddie Freeman's 76 among rookies in the National League. In the field, the rookie shortstop-turned-second baseman had the second-highest error total in the Nationals League, with a .982 fld%, (the 6th best fld% overall among NL second baseman) and the 6th best UZR/150 +0.9.
24-year-old Nats' backstop Wilson Ramos finished fourth overall in the BBWAA voting, with the Phillies' pitcher Vance Worley third, the Braves' first baseman Freddie Freeman second and Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel the unanimous choice as the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year. The voting members of the SB Nation gave Kimbrel the nod as well as we reported last week with Danny Espinosa finishing second overall ahead of Freeman and Worley. In my own ballot it was Kimbrel, Freeman and Wilson Ramos 1-3.
Kimbrel, the Braves' 23-year-old '08 3rd Round pick, (who was taken 19th overall out of Wallace State Community College in Alabama nine picks after the Nationals' selected Espinosa out of Long Beach State in California), had 46 saves, a 2.10 ERA, 1.52 FIP, 32 BB (3.74 BB/9) and 127 K's (14.84 K/9) in 79 games and 77.0 IP in 2011. As we noted in last week's post, Kimbrel's +3.2 WAR was tops amongst rookie NL pitchers ahead of Braves teammate Brandon Beachy's +2.8 and Worley's +2.5. Espinosa's +3.5 WAR was the best among NL rookies overall, with Wilson Ramos' +3.1 second among position players and third overall.
In an appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. this afternoon, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked to hosts Chad Dukes and Danny Rouhier about the young core of the Nationals including Espinosa, Ramos, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman. "When people ask me, 'What did you take from last year was the most positive thing?'" Rizzo said, "'I always say, that the development of our core young players that really had a chance to play a full season in the major leagues. To see how they matured physically, mentally and emotionally at the big league level was very refreshing."
"When you talk about a core group of guys," Rizzo continued, "Wilson Ramos as a catcher, Ryan Zimmerman, third, Desmond, short, Espinosa at second. You've got a [Stephen] Strasburg, a Jordan Zimmermann, a Drew Storen, a Tyler Clippard. These are all young controllable players that can really grow with an organization. And when you look at the emergence of Michael Morse and the acquisition of Jayson Werth, you see that going into the winter, this season, you really have a group of players that you can count on for the next year. There's very, very few questions that we have as far as our core group and our everyday position players that you have to tackle this offseason."
Ryan Zimmerman cited the same certainty about the roster as a reason for optimism last month in an interview with CSNWashington.com's Ivan Carter, telling the host, "'It's the first offseason, where I think going into Spring Training next year we might have one or two positions up for grabs. Usually it's nine or ten.'" Davey Johnson too spoke about the stability of knowing what you have going into next season in a conversation with the press late this past September.
"'I think in everybody's eyes, a lot of guys have laid claim to starting positions in the regular nine," the Nats' Skipper said, "[but] we still have some spots that are open. The bullpen has really done a great job and has kind of taken a really definite shape, and there's some spots up for grabs in the starting rotation that some guys are pitching very well for, and so, I think there's going to be very few question marks going into next Spring which is a great thing." Who will play center? Who'll be at first? Can the Nats land a starter? Very few questions, but important ones.