There isn’t much of a question about who will win the American League Rookie of the Year. Julio Rodríguez, Adley Rutschman and Steven Kwan were named the three finalists, with Rodríguez firmly cemented as the favorite.
Rodríguez mashed 28 home runs, 25 doubles and stole 25 bases while accumulating a 6.0 WAR, according to baseball-reference.com. The center fielder also ranked in the 90th percentile or better in a number of important statistical categories, including average exit velocity, barrel percentage and sprint speed, according to baseballsavant.mlb.com.
Despite Rodríguez’s dominance, Rutschman still has a case for the award, albeit not an incredibly strong one. Playing in 19 fewer games than Rodríguez, the catcher’s counting stats fall short. Thirteen home runs and a 5.2 bWAR are impressive numbers, but don’t encapsulate the value that the rookie brought.
If you were making the case for Adley Rutschman to win the Rookie of the Year award, you wouldn’t just point to the numbers. You would point to the fact that after Rutschman’s debut on May 21, the Orioles went 67-55. Just one year removed from losing 110 games, the O’s found themselves in a playoff race, thanks in large part to their rookie catcher.
However, a very similar case can be made for Julio Rodríguez. Seattle’s playoff berth in 2022 was their first since 2001, and their 21-year-old All-Star led the charge. Rodríguez led his club in WAR, home runs and OPS, and his infectious energy seemingly brought new life to baseball in the city.
Rutschman and Rodríguez both seemed poised to reach superstardom, if they weren’t already knocking on the door. But what kind of impact can these players really have?
Let’s look back to the 2015 season, in which the AL and NL Rookie of the Year winners were Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant, respectively.
In 2014, the Houston Astros (and then-scouting director Mike Elias) lost 92 games. There were already solid pieces on the team like Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel, but the introduction of Correa in 2015 began to turn the tide.
Correa led all Astros position players in bWAR in 2015, and helped push the Astros to an 86 win season. As more talented youngsters like Alex Bregman entered the fold, Houston went on to win the World Series in 2017.
The Cubs (and then-bench coach Brandon Hyde) lost 89 games in 2014, and yes, this is going to sound familiar. Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta produced excellent seasons, but it wasn’t enough to produce a winning record. Kris Bryant’s addition in 2015 helped elevate Chicago to a 97-win season and a trip to the playoffs. One season later, the Cubs were crowned World Series champions.
Of course, there were more factors that led to success than solely the additions of Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant to their respective teams. However, these rookie superstars seemed to signal a changing of the tide in their cities.
It remains to be seen what kind of success the Mariners and Orioles will find in the coming years. But as we stand, Seattle and Baltimore both seem to be on the upward trajectory. At the center of that success stand Julio Rodríguez and Adley Rutschman, who seemed poised to usher in a new age of winning baseball for their teams.
Adley being Adley pic.twitter.com/VgFNwKIbJv— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) March 2, 2023