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Will we see the NL rookie of the year at Nats Park tonight?

Ever since Stephen Strasburg, he of the 100-mph heaters, and Jason Heyward, of the 500-foot rockets, showed up in Florida this spring, the baseball world has been waiting eagerly for the first head-to-head matchup of these storied phenoms. The moment was delayed by the Nationals' decision to keep Strasburg in the minors for the season's first two months, then again by a thumb injury that had Heyward on the DL when Strasburg first faced the Braves in June.

But tonight, they finally meet.

It seemed like a good opportunity to take stock of the NL rookie of the year race, because Strasburg and Heyward were the overwhelming favorites when the season began (with Heyward far outpacing Strasburg, at least in this poll).

As we sit here now, with a little more than two months left in the season, it's safe to say neither Strasburg nor Heyward is leading the ROY competition. In fact, you could make an argument that neither is even in the top five. Here is how I would rank the top contenders, along with some of their key stats.

1. Buster Posey, Giants: .368/.404/.571, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 182 AB
2. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals: 9-4, 2.21 ERA, .234 opp. BA, 90 K/43 BB, 110 IP
3. Jason Heyward, Braves: .276/.387/.459, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 294 AB
4. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: 5-2, 2.32 ERA, .216 opp. BA, 75 K/15 BB, 54 1/3 IP
5. Gaby Sanchez, Marlins: .301/.364/.472, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 356 AB

Also in the race: Tyler Colvin (Cubs), Starlin Castro (Cubs), Mike Leake (Reds), Jonny Venters (Braves), John Axford (Brewers), Madison Bumgarner (Giants).

Now, I believe Strasburg will overtake Garcia as the league's top rookie pitcher by the end of the season. But I'm doubtful that either Strasburg or Heyward can surpass Posey, who would be first overall in the NL in batting average and second overall in OPS (behind Joey Votto, just ahead of Albert Pujols) if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. I don't expect Posey to keep up this pace, but even if he had a significant fall-off, his lead over the rest of the hitters in the field is large enough to keep him on top. He also doesn't have to deal with the innings limits that will cut short the seasons of some of the pitchers in the race, including Strasburg.

By Dave Sheinin  |  July 27, 2010; 10:03 AM ET
 
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