Lamet my pick for Padres' Rookie of the Year

Rivals hit .210 vs. right-hander, who averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings

Lamet my pick for Padres' Rookie of the Year

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

The Padres had no shortage of Rookie of the Year candidates for 2017.

Manuel Margot is the obvious choice. But he was my Most Valuable Player pick . . . and I'd rather not duplicate selections. So that also rules out Jose Pirela, who was my pick for Most Improved Padre.

Still, the list of candidates runs deep.

There's right fielder Hunter Renfroe, who set the Padres record for home runs by a rookie with 26 despite missing 29 games while on a refresher course with Triple-A El Paso. But he hit only .231 on the season with a .284 on-base percentage while striking out 140 times in 445 at-bats. Although he hit six home runs in 11 games after returning from El Paso -- including three in a single game -- he still hit .231 with one walk and 15 strikeouts in 41 at-bats.

You can also make a strong case for second baseman Carlos Asuaje. He hit .270 with a .334 on-base percentage in 90 games after being promoted from El Paso on May 22. Among Padres regulars, only Pirela had a higher batting average and on-base percentage. Plus, like Pirela, Asuaje's defense markedly improved this season. The Padres were a better team with Asuaje at second.

But my personal pick for Padres Rookie of the Year is right-handed starting pitcher Dinelson Lamet.

Lamet, who turned 25 on July 18, was 7-8 on the season with a 4.57 ERA in 21 starts after being promoted from El Paso on May 25. The Padres were 9-12 when Lamet started despite scoring three or fewer runs in 11 games.

Lamet did struggle right at the end of the season, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits -- including four home runs -- and seven walks over 10 1/3 innings in his final two starts as he pitched through the end of September for the first time in his career.

But Lamet's 95-plus fastball and sharp slider left an impression with Major League hitters this season. And he's developing a changup.

Rivals hit only .210 against the 6-foot-4 native of the Dominican Republic with a .306 on-base percentage and a 1.242 WHIP.

Right-handed hitters had a .155 batting average against Lamet.

Lamet also had 139 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings -- an average of 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which would have been a Padres' single-season record had he worked enough innings to qualify (162 minimum needed). He would have also finished with the fourth-best opponents' batting average mark in franchise history.

During a 10-start run from July 23 through Sept. 20, Lamet had a 2.40 ERA while allowing only 38 hits with 66 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. Only once during that 10-start run did Lamet allow three runs in a game. He failed to pitch into the sixth only once during the run.