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The Rockies' Wilin Rosario may be the best rookie you're not hearing enough about

Rookie catcher Wilin Rosario is the first Rockies player to record three hits in four straight games. (Getty Images)

Rockies rookie catcher Wilin Rosario, who's maybe the best young player you haven't heard or thought much about, just accomplished something even the great Larry Walker never did.

And neither did Todd Helton. Or Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Juan Pierre, Troy Tulowitzki or any of the other great and near-great hitters who have played for the Rockies, pre or post humidor.

Rosario has now recorded three hits in four straight games, becoming the first Rockies player ever to do so. While he's now finally starting to get mentions in the National League Rookie of Year conversation, Rosario is really having an extraordinary season.

Sure, no one expects any of the other National League rookies to have the career of Bryce Harper, who is every bit the 19-year-old wunderkind advertised. But for now, statistically speaking no first-year position player is outperforming Rosario in the National League.

Not that anyone has noticed.

Rosario, with his recent hot streak, now leads NL Rookies with 26 home runs, 69 RBI, a .537 slugging percentage and .851 OPS. He probably won't win the award, as he badly trails everyone else in the publicity department, no surprise since the Rockies are possibly en route to a 100-loss season. Sometimes, when Rosario is mentioned, they note how he's been the catcher for an unsuccessful pitching staff.

“It blows me away he gets criticized locally, and nationally he never gets mentioned,'' Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said, asserting that Rosario is actually the most deserving of all the position players to win Rookie of the Year.

“He caught one of the worst pitching staffs in the history of the game,'' O'Dowd pointed out. “There's certainly room for growth, but somebody needs to cut this kid a break.''

One more beautiful thing about Rosario is, he doesn't seem to mind that hardly anyone's noticed just how good he is. He recently broke Helton's Rockies rookie home run record, not that it's been noted anywhere outside Denver.

When asked about his Rookie of the Year chances, Rosario talked up the other guys, Harper and the Reds' Todd Frazier specifically, as if the others need any help in the PR department. “Harper, Frazier … these are great players,'' Rosario said. “They can do everything. It's not a secret, these guys are going to be stars at the major-league level.''

No, the other guys certainly are not a secret. The sites that track these things, this one included, have far more prominently mentioned Harper, Frazier and Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley, and until recently, Brewers Norichika Aoki and Mike Fiers, who also are having very nice seasons.

Rosario may be out-doing the others now, at least statistically, but he's happy just to be associated with them. “It's beautiful,'' he said. “If I get Rookie of the Year, I am going to be happy. And if I don't get it, I'll be happy, too, because my names are close to their names.''

Naturally, Harper's name has been promoted the most, and for ample reason. He is a teenager, he's viewed as the next superstar and he's a major reason the Nationals stayed afloat early when their veterans were mostly beat up. Harper might still be the choice for those reasons, even though he trails Rosario with 19 home runs, 52 RBI, a .258 batting average and .779 OPS.

Some sites, presumably more focused on the stats than the story, have instead favored Frazier over Harper. Frazier has 18 home runs, 64 RBI, a .281 batting average and .849 OPS. Miley, who is 16-10 with a 3.25 ERA, is understandably a popular choice, as well. But if numbers are what you're looking at, Rosario has plenty of them.

Rosario also happens to have a terrific attitude. About the first thing he'll tell you is how hard he intends to work on his defense, especially his receiving and game-calling skills that are a work in progress for almost any 23-year-old catcher not named Johnny Bench. He says he intends to devote the winter to working just as hard on his defense as he has on his offense.

“We couldn't be happier with the progress he's made under a difficult set of circumstances,'' O'Dowd said. “He plays the most demanding position in the game, and he plays it in Coors Field.''

The Rockies love his energy, and his attitude.

“The game is tough,'' Rosario said. “You're going to see something different every day. You're going to see pitchers you've never seen. You're going to see stadiums you've never seen.''

At Coors Field, you're going to see a lot of things you don't want to see, much of them while behind the plate. O'Dowd estimated Rosario blocked 16 balls a game in the last series, and caught 194 pitches in the last game.

There are some more numbers to tell Rosario's story, and if the numbers are how things are decided these days, it's a wonder this nice young fellow hasn't gotten a closer look.

 
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