Julio Rodríguez left little question that he was the top rookie in the American League this season. In the National League, however, it was a far more tightly contested race — between a pair of teammates, no less — for the 2022 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
In the end, Rodríguez was unsurprisingly named the AL winner, while the Braves outfielder Michael Harris II edged out teammate Spencer Strider in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting results, unveiled Monday night on MLB Network.
Rodríguez claimed 29 of the 30 first-place votes in the AL, while Adley Rutschman of the Orioles received the other first-place vote and finished as the runner-up. Steven Kwan of the Guardians placed third.
“Without anybody in this room, it wouldn’t have happened,” Rodríguez said on MLB Network as family members and friends chanted “Ju-li-o” following the announcement. “I’m happy that they’re in my life and they support me and they pushed me to be who I am today.”
On the NL side, Harris received 22 first-place votes while Strider got the other eight. Cardinals rookie utility player Brendan Donovan rounded out the top three.
Harris and Strider became just the eighth set of teammates to finish 1-2 in Rookie of the Year Award voting — and the first since fellow Braves stars Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman did so in 2011. Aside from those two Atlanta duos, no other team has had its players finish 1-2 in ROY voting since 1989.
“Just being able to stay with the home team and play for a team that I grew up rooting for, going to games all the time, so it’s a really crazy moment,” said Harris, an Atlanta-area native. “But I didn’t even have this as one of my goals. I really just wanted to have fun every day and get through the season healthy.”
As for Rodríguez, he was in a class of his own among rookies this season. He led all rookies in home runs (28), wins above replacement — according to both Baseball-Reference (6.0) and FanGraphs (5.3) — OPS (.853), wRC+ (146) and total bases (260). He ranked second among rookies in RBIs (75), runs scored (84) and stolen bases (25), while finishing third in hits (145).
It wasn’t just this year’s crop of rookies, though. Rodríguez joined Angels superstar Mike Trout in 2012 as the only rookies in AL/NL history with at least 25 home runs, 25 stolen bases and an .800 OPS. Fittingly, Rodríguez had already been named an AL Silver Slugger Award winner — along with Trout and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge — on Thursday.
“It’s amazing to be just mentioned with players like that — guys who really left their mark on the game,” Rodríguez said.
Like Rodríguez, Harris turned in a remarkable all-around debut season.
Harris led all NL rookies with a 5.3 bWAR, including 4.4 offensive WAR and 1.3 defensive WAR (per Baseball-Reference). He also racked up 19 home runs and 20 stolen bases. The only other rookies since 2000 to finish with at least 15 homers and 15 steals while accounting for at least 3.0 oWAR and 1.0 dWAR were Bryce Harper and Mike Trout (each in 2012).
Although Harris missed most of the season’s first two months, he still finished tied for fourth among all center fielders with eight Defensive Runs Saved — and only Victor Robles (12) had more among NL center fielders. Harris also ranked eighth among center fielders with eight outs above average.
A third-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Harris had played only one full professional season — last year at High-A Rome — before making the leap from Double-A to the Majors in May.
“There’s a lot going through my mind. Just to be recognized for it,” said Harris, who began the season as Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. “Not even thinking I’d be up in the league this year, and to be honored for an award this special. … It’s kind of crazy.”
Harris became the ninth Braves player to win the Rookie of the Year Award, tying the franchise with the Yankees for the second most by any team. Only the Dodgers (18) have had more Rookie of the Year winners.
As for Rodríguez, he’s the fifth player in Mariners history to claim the honor — and the second in the past three seasons. He joins Kyle Lewis (2020), Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Alvin Davis (1984).
Rodríguez is also just the eighth Dominican-born player to claim the honor, and the first since Neftali Feliz in 2010. The others are Hanley Ramírez (2006), Angel Berroa (2003), Albert Pujols (2001), Rafael Furcal (2000) , Raul Mondesi (1994) and Alfredo Griffin (1979).