San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey topped Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward in voting for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, while Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz earned the honor in the American League.
Posey got 20 of 32 first-place votes and 129 overall points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before the postseason. Points were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. Heyward had nine first-place votes and 107 overall points.
Posey, 23, started the 2010 season in Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies before playing 108 games with the Giants.
“It gave me an opportunity to work on some stuff that maybe if I started immediately in the big leagues, I wouldn’t have had the leeway,” Posey said. “So I’m sure it was beneficial.”
He batted .305 with 18 home runs and 67 runs batted in as a major-leaguer, putting together a 21-game hitting streak during one stretch. Posey also caught a San Francisco pitching staff that led the NL with a 3.36 earned run average.
It was the sixth Rookie of the Year honor for the Giants and the first since pitcher John Montefusco in 1975.
Posey was the sixth NL catcher to win the award, joining Johnny Bench, Earl Williams, Benito Santiago, Mike Piazza and Geovanny Soto.
Heyward, a 21-year-old right fielder, hit a home run in his first at-bat of his career and became an All-Star midway through the season. He finished with 18 homers, batting .277 with 72 runs batted in, 29 doubles, 5 triples and 11 stolen bases in 142 games.
“I remember seeing him hit the homer opening day and as a baseball fan myself, it was a really cool moment,” Posey said of Heyward while on a conference call with reporters. “The guy had an unbelievable year and I’m just extremely humbled to have won the award.”
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia earned a first-place vote and 24 overall points to finish third in the balloting, followed by the Florida Marlins’ Gaby Sanchez (18 points; two first-place votes).
Feliz, 22, became the first pitcher from the Dominican Republic named Rookie of the Year and the eighth Dominican overall, joining AL winners Alfredo Griffin, Carlos Beltran and Angel Berroa, and NL honorees Raul Mondesi, Rafael Furcal, Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez.
“To be a rookie and to be in the company of those great names, I’m very proud of it,” Feliz said through a translator on a conference call with reporters.
Feliz was named on 20 of 28 ballots in AL voting, earning 122 points to top runner-up Austin Jackson, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers. Jackson received the remaining eight first-place votes and a total of 98 points.
Feliz set a rookie record with 40 saves as the Rangers claimed the AL West for the first time since 1999.
He was All-Star and finished the most games in the league, posting a 4-3 record with a 2.73 earned run average while striking out 71 and allowing 18 walks.
The only other Rangers player to win the award was first baseman Mike Hargrove, in 1974.