2011 MLB Predictions Have Jeremy Hellickson as a Candidate for the AL ROY

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, at just 23 years old, showed flashes last year of why he could be the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011.

In 36 1/3 innings pitched, he compiled a 4-0 record, 3.47 ERA and 33 strikeouts (10 games, four starts).

With not enough innings pitched to qualify as a second-year pitcher, Hellickson stands a chance to win the AL ROY award right out the gate this season, slated as the Rays’ fifth starter.

As Yahoo! Contributor Ron White points out, “The future is now for Hellickson…With help from a strong Tampa Bay offense, there’s a real chance that Hellickson could win 15 or more games.”

The organization’s top prospect, Hellickson, aka “Hellboy,” mixes in a good fastball, deceptive changeup, ferocious curveball, and even a cutter, and was a big reason the Rays let Matt Garza go in the offseason.

Want to know why he’s referred to as Hellboy?

Watch him pitch this season and imagine yourself as the hitter that has to face him. You will think he’s straight from…well, you know.

As noted on Hellickson’s ESPN profile, “Hellboy” has drawn comparisons to David Cone by some scouts, and that’s high praise…Pundits are often guilty of overrating rookies, but Hellickson has a history of success, and there’s a very good chance he’ll hit the ground running this season.”

Hellickson will have some ups and downs as all rookies do, but as he has already shown, he can be a handful for hitters and will be a key part of a downsized Rays team that hopes to contend in the increasingly competitive AL East.

ESPN.com’s Jason Grey has the young hurler as his No.1 fantasy prospect for 2011.

The other contenders for the award are Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia in my mind.

Moustakas is a solid contender, but won’t start right away for the Royals.

Arencibia’s power puts him as another possible John Buck for the Blue Jays, but his batting average may fluctuate quite a bit in his first season behind the plate. He’s also not the best defensive catcher.

To see who Josh Schoch predicts as the winners of every major MLB award in 2011, go here.