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<  Gary Hill - High Heat

Nick Franklin, Wil Myers leading ROY race

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Off to a hot start since his callup in late May, Nick Franklin is a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. (AP)

By Gary Hill

Nick Franklin continued his sizzling start to his career on Sunday by battering the Twins with twin long balls. Franklin smashed his ninth and 10th homers on the way to driving in four of the Mariners' six runs. It is the second time in his young career he has swatted two homers in a game. His stellar production has pushed him towards the top of the American League Rookie of the Year race.

Franklin is among the AL rookie leaders in several key offensive categories:

Home runs

Nick Franklin, 10
Conor Gillaspie, 9
Aaron Hicks, 8
Wil Myers, 7

RBIs

Nick Franklin, 32
Aaron Hicks, 27
Wil Myers, 26
Conor Gillaspie, 25
Oswaldo Arcia, 25

Slugging percentage

Wil Myers, .537
Nick Franklin, .492
David Lough, .441
Jose Iglesias, .410

On-base percentage

Jose Iglesias, .377
Wil Myers, .345
Nick Franklin, .340
J.B. Shuck, .326

On-base plus slugging

Wil Myers, .891
Nick Franklin, .832
Jose Iglesias, .787
David Lough, .756

Doubles

J.B. Shuck, 13
Nick Franklin, 12
David Lough, 11
Aaron Hicks, 11
Oswaldo Arcia, 11

Stolen bases

Brandon Barnes, 9
Aaron Hicks, 8
Nick Franklin, 5
Wil Myers, 4
J.B. Shuck, 4

Bases on balls

Conor Gillaspie, 25
Aaron Hicks, 24
Nick Franklin, 19
Robbie Grossman, 17

Batting average

Jose Iglesias, .330
Wil Myers, .328
David Lough, .297
J.B. Shuck, .283
Nick Franklin, .277

Franklin has been cooking in July. He is tied with Chris Davis and Torii Hunter for the fifth-most homers in the league this month. He is just one long ball behind some guy named Miguel Cabrera. He has driven in 17 runs in the month, which is fourth best in the league and tied with several players, including Cabrera.

Franklin is just one of four AL second basemen to reach double-digit homers:

Robinson Cano, 21
Jason Kipnis, 15
Howie Kendrick, 11
Nick Franklin, 10

The difference, of course, is that the three players ahead of him have already surpassed 400 plate appearances while Franklin has just 215 under his belt.

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Rays rookie Wil Myers has lived up to expectations so far, hitting .328 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 33 games. (AP)

The competition is fierce for the rookie crown in the AL. Wil Myers has burst onto the scene and helped the Rays bolt towards the top of the AL East. Myers has only played in 33 games this season, but his impact has reverberated throughout the division. He is hitting .328 with seven home runs, seven doubles and 26 RBIs. The Rays lost his first two games, but have gone 23-8 in games in which he's played since.

He already has the advantage of a high profile after being swapped during the offseason along with three other players by the Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis. At one point Myers was listed as the fourth-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Myers has certainly met his lofty expectations in the first few weeks of his career.

If Sunday is any indication then the race for AL Rookie of the Year should be fabulous to watch. Myers blasted two homers in Yankee Stadium early on Sunday only to be matched by the pair from Franklin later in the day.

Rookie of the Year races are the most volatile among the awards because of the nature of rookies. Races can dramatically change in the matter of a week because of the roller-coaster existence of first-year players. At this point of the season it does not look like another hitter will step up and challenge this dynamic rookie duo.

However, there is a pitcher who is looking to turn one of the best months a rookie pitcher has ever had into a campaign launch. Tampa Bay's Chris Archer went 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA in five July starts. He only yielded 17 hits in 37 innings. He was 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA in June. He has only coughed up one run in his last four starts including a two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium in his most recent turn. He will steamroll the competition if he continues to deal at this ridiculously high level.

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