Mariners center fielder Julius Rodriguez He won the American League Rookie of the Year award for 2022, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America. Orioles catcher Atlee Rutchman Finished second in the voting while the Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan Checked third.
The rookie class was notable on the junior circuit this year, led by Rodriguez and Rutchman. A pair of top prospects both hit the ground running against MLB pitching. Seattle moved Rodriguez as an Opening Day center fielder, looking to build off their impressive 90-win campaign in 2021. The young outfielder got off to a rough start, thanks to several questionable strike calls early on. going, but he eventually emerged as a great position player on a good Seattle club.
In over 560 plate appearances, Rodriguez posted a .284/.345/.509 line. He connected on 28 home runs and swiped 25 bases in 32 attempts, one of four players (Kyle Tucker, Adolis Garcia And Marcus Semien being others) to reach 25 longballs and steals each. Rodriguez was especially electric in the second half, posting a .303/.361/.576 line coming off the All-Star break to help Seattle make its first postseason appearance in more than two decades.
Rodriguez also impressed on the other side of the ball, starting 130 games and pitching 1126 2/3 innings in center field. Defensive runs saved and Statcast both credit him with above-average defense, no small feat for a player some prospect evaluators suggested would be a better fit for right field. The 21-year-old has put any questions about his defensive home to rest for now.
Rutschman comes up short on hardware, though that’s more a matter of timing than a potential indictment of his performance. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft, the switch-hitting backstop pitched in spring training and eventually started the year in the minors. He played 20 minor league games before receiving his first big league call-up in late May, by which time Rodriguez had already cemented himself among the AL favorites.
Once he reached the big league level, Rutchman emerged as Baltimore’s first baseman. He hit .254/.362/.445 with 13 home runs in 470 plate appearances. Of the 29 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Rutchman trails only Toronto. Alejandro Kirk Ranked eighth in on-base percentage and slugging. The former Oregon State star struck out 11 of 36 base-stealers, was rated 18 above average with the glove by saving runs defensively and generally stepped in immediately to lead a young pitching staff.
Rutschman was already one of the game’s top three catchers, and his arrival helped the O’s make an incredible midseason turnaround. 16-24 during his promotion, Baltimore went 67-55 after his call-up and shocked much of the baseball world by flirting with wild-card contention in September. They didn’t make the postseason, but they were much better than expected and positioned themselves for a much more active offseason than when they began their rebuild. Rutschman is not only responsible for the Orioles’ turnaround, but he will no doubt be a huge part of an increasingly promising team.
A lot more to come.
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