By all accounts, Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is the overwhelming favorite to take home the National League Rookie of the Year award when it is announced Monday at 1:30. His teammate Freddie Freeman, however, made his own case during 2011.
Highly lauded coming into the season, Freeman was awarded the starting first base job on Opening Day and only missed four games all season. The 21-year-old California native struggled through the first month and a half, but after reaching a .227 batting average in mid-May and having a sit down with Chipper Jones, Freeman hit an even .300 over his last 114 games.
Freeman led rookies with over 400 at-bats in batting average by finishing at .282. He also tied Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals for the rookie lead for home runs with 21. He was also second on the team in at-bats (571) and games played (157)
Freeman also showed his ability to hit the ball to the gaps – particularly to the opposite field – with 32 doubles, second on the team only to Chipper Jones
A tendency for flashy glove work is another one of Freeman's calling cards. Along with all the errors he saved by digging out balls thrown in the dirt, Freeman finished the season tied for second in the NL for fielding percentage among first basemen at a .996 clip. He only committed six errors himself all season.
Yes, Kimbrel strung together a lofty consecutive scoreless innings streak that stretched for months, and he broke Neftali Feliz's Major League rookie record for saves, but had he not done that, Freeman very well may have been a lock.
While it will not echo Chipper Jones' 1995 rookie year when he was robbed by the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hideo Nomo of the ROTY, Freeman is still a deserving candidate who will probably get the short end of the stick.
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