Posted: Friday May 21, 2010 1:23PM ; Updated: Friday May 21, 2010 1:23PM
Jon Heyman

Ranking the year's top rookies (cont.)

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Reid Brignac
Reid Brignac is far from the only Rays rookie to be having an impact for the majors' best team.

16. Brian Matusz, Orioles SP. The AL Rookie of the Year favorite has big potential to move quickly up this list but he's been held back by non-support from the struggling Orioles. He's 2-4 with a 5.26 ERA but could easily have two or three more wins.

17. Sergio Santos, White Sox RP. The hard-throwing converted shortstop is the latest project of excellent ChiSox pitching coach Don Cooper. He has 18 strikeouts and an 0.63 ERA in 14 1/3 innings.

18. Reid Brignac, Rays INF. They seem to have a factory for young players. Whoever thought he'd be a light-hitting infielder may be wrong. Brignac has two home runs, 16 RBIs, and a .263 batting average.

19. Luis Atilano, Nationals SP. He was a perfect 3-0 until a loss to the Mets on Thursday. Not even in the picture in spring for a rotation spot, he's proved very solid in the surprising start by Washington.

20. John Jaso, Rays C. Catcher was a position of question for the Rays, and they were hoping Shoppach would improve things. But it's been the youngster Jaso who's made the most impact behind the plate for the killer 30-11 team. He's hitting .333 with one homer and 14 RBIs.

21. Alcides Escobar, Brewers SS. The slick fielder isn't the reason for the Brewers' recent collapse. He's hitting just .241 but has 12 extra-base hits, including five triples. Some say he still needs to mature, though, both on the field and off it.

More rookies: Nick Stavinoha, Cardinals OF; Storen, Nationals RP; Bernadina, Nationals OF; Rusty Ryal, Diamondbacks OF; Michael Saunders, Mariners OF; Alex Burnett, Twins RP; Russell, Cubs RP; Dusty Hughes, Royals RP; Jenrry Mejia, Mets RP; Hisanori Takahashi, Mets RP; Brooks Conrad, Braves IF.

Around the Majors

David Ortiz's big turnaround (.405 over 11 games) came just in time for him. The Red Sox were starting to think about what else to do with Ortiz, and a release wouldn't have been out of the question with a few more bad games. Ortiz had said he would turn his season around and next time, maybe we should believe him. He's just a very slow starter. Credit goes to manager Terry Francona for sticking with him.

• Longtime Red Sox Mike Lowell upset his bosses by talking to the media about how he has "no role'' before meeting with the higherups. The bosses didn't think the quotes were terrible, they just would have liked to have heard them first. The quotes weren't that bad. Plus, it's true that he has no role. The only way for him to get his release at this point would be to pay back a small part of the $12 million he's making to get his release from the Red Sox, but of course, that is never happening. That's not something that occurs in the real world. But the truth is, it's going to be hard for Boston to just release Lowell and eat the $12 million when it had $3 million coming for him from Texas in the winter deal that was killed because of Lowell's need for thumb surgery at the time.

• The Rays did absolutely the right thing by releasing Pat Burrell, who was hitting just .202 and isn't a good clubhouse presence even in the best of times. Some folks noticed Evan Longoria, a very good kid, hanging with Burrell last year, and Rays people surely didn't want Burrell influencing their prize young player. One of the reasons Philly didn't try hard to keep him after the 2008 season was his attitude. Defense was reason No. 1, attitude 1A.

• For the Rays to go 30-11 while hitting around .257 is pretty impressive. Good for them. Great job by Andrew Friedman, Joe Maddon and the rest of the Rays.

• The Jays certainly are having an interesting season. Adam Lind and Aaron Hill might like to turn the clock back to 2009 as they are both struggling with an on-base percentage below .300. But lesser players Jose Bautista (12 home runs, 3 RBIs) and Alex Gonzalez (10 home runs, 30 RBIs) are off to monster starts, and Vernon Wells (11 homers, 32 RBIs) is experiencing a revival.

• Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. had a nice walkoff hit Thursday, putting the Jays to bed. Sorry, couldn't resist.

• The Yankees say they will "definitely'' lock up Derek Jeter after this year. And that's easy to believe since in many ways he is the player of the past decade and a half. This doesn't diminish him one bit, but he has some interesting stats so far this year, including a .968 OPS at Yankee Stadium and a .512 OPS on the road (that's really odd since the ball isn't flying at Yankee Stadium like it did last year).

• Royals GM Dayton Moore told, "I'm not talking getting to .500, I'm talking about winning the World Series when I say eight to 10 years.'' Pirates fans must be wondering: Why is he in such a hurry?

• Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli will get a lot of playing time with Jorge Posada expected to be out for a month with a hairline fracture of his right foot. Cervelli is batting .579 with runners in scoring position and .750 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

John Maine's spot in the Mets' rotation was in jeopardy even before a one batter outing Thursday against Washington in which he worried Mets people by clocking 83 mph and looked so bad he's been ordered to see a doctor Friday morning. Maine is going only under protest. So not only is he pitching poorly, he now is bickering with Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

• The Mets may be forced to put Oliver Perez back in the rotation.

Carlos Beltran had a positive report within the last few days and now appears to be aiming for a late June return from his knee surgery.

• Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson appears to be in some jeopardy at this point. He and manager Jerry Manuel are not tied in any way, so it's possible HoJo could be the first and only one to be fired. The Mets team OPS of .698 is 22nd best in baseball and their road batting average of .223 is 29th best (only the Astros' .219 is worse). Johnson was a member of the 1986 Mets so that might be a deterrent to making the move.

• If it seems like the Diamondbacks make one move a day involving a reliever, it's because they do. At least, they have lately. Within the past few days they've acquired Saul Rivera and Luis Ayala and dumped Bobby Howry and Blaine Boyer.

• Even if the Rockies are concerned about Clint Barmes, who has just one home run, they can't afford Luis Castillo. "Not even close,'' said someone connected to the Rockies. Castillo makes $6 million a year through next year and the Mets have been looking for a year to find a trading partner. It was reported on that the two teams talked.

• Score one for Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez with Hanley Ramirez apologizing (such as it was) before retuning to play. Ramirez's indiscretions were several: after obviously loafing on the field, he criticized Gonzalez and also "threw teammates under the bus," in the words of a Marlins person. An assist goes to Marlins employees and Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, who staged an intervention for the selfish young superstar. According to the Palm Beach Post, Dawson told Ramirez, "I'm not going to say a lot because if you say the wrong thing to me, then you might wind up on the floor on your rear end.'' Dawson did point out to Ramirez regarding teammates that "the guys are laughing at you.'' No joke, Ramirez finished second to Joe Mauer when major leaguers were polled by SI last week as to which player they'd build their team around. Ramirez wouldn't make my top five. Not anymore.

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