MLB Chicago White SoxNew York Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Abreu Are Early Favorites For AL Rookie Of The Year

Jackie Robinson Award

Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

It’s only April, but the AL ROY award is already a two-man race – one pitcher, one hitter.

Masahiro Tanaka came to the New York Yankees with overwhelming expectations after going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and .943 WHIP in Japan last year. I don’t think anyone actually believed he would match that level of success, but he’s come pretty close. Thus far, he’s 3-0 on the year with a 2.27 ERA and 0.938 WHIP. Even in his two no-decisions, he pitched well enough to earn the win (7.0 IP, 3 ER; 6.1 IP, 2 ER).

He’s splitter, which was touted to be all-world, has lived up to the hype. According to Fangraphs, opponents are hitting .057 against it.

Through his first five starts, he’s racked up 46 strikeouts (22 of them on the splitter). In the history of baseball, only two other rookies have had more through their first five games: Herb Score with 50 in 1955 and Stephen Strasburg with 48 in 2010. The former took home ROY honors. Tanaka’s greatest competition for the award is Jose Abreu, who has burst onto the scene for the Chicago White Sox with a historically torrid March/April.

He now has 10 home runs on the year with 31 RBIs – both rookie records previously held by Albert Pujols. According to ESPN’s Doug Padilla, he’s tied with Zeke Bonura for the most home runs through the first 26 games of his career and is the first player in MLB history to have four games with four or more RBIs in his first 26 games. What’s scary is that he still has three more games this month.

With a .262/.330/.631 slash line, Abreu is currently third among rookies in BA behind Yangervis Solarte (.301) of the Yankees and Xander Bogaerts (.287) of the Boston Red Sox. He leads all rookies in slugging and OPS.

The Yankees travel to Chicago on May 22 for a four-game set that could see these two young stars square off. If they continue their history-making paces, not only will they be favorites for the ROY award, but potentially the MVP.

James O’Hare is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JimboOHare, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.