Rookie Watch: The legend of ‘El Oso Blanco’ grows

Several highly regarded prospects were called up last week, including Texas’ Jurickson Profar, Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman and Arizona’s Tyler Skaggs. While they get acclimated to the majors, we’ll keep spotlighting the top five rookies to date (all stats through Monday).


1. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals

5-3, 2.02 ERA, 65 K in 62-1/3 IP


Winless in his past three starts, Shelby Miller still leads all rookies in ERA (2.02), strikeouts (65), WHIP (0.98) and, if you’re sabermetrically inclined, WAR (2.4).


High pitch counts are becoming an issue for Miller, who hasn’t made it through the sixth inning since he threw a one-hitter on May 10. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wants Miller to pitch down in the strike zone, perhaps inducing more ground-ball outs and fewer foul balls off his high fastball.


Miller doesn’t seem too concerned.

“It’ll work itself out,” Miller said. “I’ve just got to throw strikes. It’s not a big deal at all. It’s an easy fix.


2. Evan Gattis, C-OF, Braves

.271/.319/.612, 11 HR, 31 RBI


Gattis doesn’t wear batting gloves, and he doesn’t take practice swings. All he does, it seems, is hit clutch home runs.


Last week, he hit a two-out, pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning as the Braves beat Minnesota in 10 innings. The next night, he belted an opposite-field grand slam on 3-0 pitch.


He has gone yard 11 times in 129 at-bats, and four of his homers have been in the eighth inning or later, tying the game or putting the Braves ahead.


In Atlanta, the legend of El Oso Blanco has reached Chuck Norris proportions. Check out this slightly embellished account of Gattis’s journey:


3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Dodgers

5-2, 3.30 ERA, 60 K in 62-2/3 IP


Ryu gives the Dodgers a chance to win every fifth day. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his 10 starts, and only once has he failed to pitch six innings.


The Dodgers, who have the largest payroll in baseball history, are taking a beating for their slow start, but they deserve some credit for signing Ryu.


Considering he had never pitched in the United States at any level before this season, Ryu has been impressive. About as impressive as another Korean ace who pitched for the Dodgers, Chan Ho Park, who was 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA with 48 K in 48 innings in his first 10 starts.


4. A.J. Pollock, OF, Diamondbacks

.273/.302/.447, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 6 SB


Pollock continues to see most of the action in center field while the D-backs wait on rookie Adam Eaton, who has been on the disabled list all season. Eaton suffered a setback with his injured elbow and could be out another month.


In the meantime, Pollock has been more than adequate in the leadoff role, hitting .480 (12 for 25) with two doubles and five runs scored in his past seven games.


Among rookies, Pollock ranks first in doubles (17) and stolen bases (six), second in runs (23) and third in hits (44) and RBI (17).


5. Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres

.269/.332/.423, 5 HR, 16 RBI


Gyorko might be the rare hitter who thrives at Petco Park. He’s hitting .345 (30 for 87) at home and .193 (17 for 88) on the road.


Gyorko has hit safely in eight of his past 12 games (.326, 15 for 46) with two homers and 11 runs. He didn’t go deep in April, but Gyorko needs one more homer to tie the Padres’ rookie record for home runs in a month. Nate Colbert (September 1969), Benito Santiago (August 1987) and Will Venable (August 2009) each had six-homer months.


If you haven’t had a chance to watch Gyorko, here’s a great example of his short, compact swing: