Leading up to the Baseball Writers Association of America’s American League Rookie of the Year announcement set for next month, the name perhaps most often mentioned to win the award is Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners. Other names discussed are Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles, Steven Kwan of the Cleveland Guardians and, of course, Bobby Witt Jr. of the KC Royals.
Rodríguez, Rutschman, Kwan and Witt could be considered the leading candidates.
Although he struggled to begin 2022, Witt posted a .254/.294/.428 season line with 20 home runs, 80 RBIs, 30 steals, 31 doubles, and six triples in 591 at-bats. Rodríguez slashed .284/.345/.509 with 28 homers, 75 RBIs, 25 steals, 25 doubles and three triples in 511 at-bats. In 398 at-bats, Rutschman slashed .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers, 42 RBIs, four steals, 35 doubles and a triple. Kwan slashed .298/.373/.400 with six homers, 52 RBIs,19 steals, 25 doubles and seven triples in 563 at-bats.
How does the KC Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. stack up against the frontrunners?
All four players had outstanding rookie seasons, but Rodríguez and Rutschman seem to be the AL Rookie of the Year frontrunners. Rodríguez had the second highest batting average and hit the most home runs among the four, and his team reached the playoffs. (The Mariners came back from seven runs down Saturday to beat Toronto in the AL Wild Card series and advance to the league Division Series starting Tuesday in Houston).
In a season shorter than Rodríguez’s, Witt’s, or Kwan’s, Rutschman had the second highest OBP and the most doubles and was the starting catcher on a Baltimore team that battled until the end to make the playoffs.
Kwan had the highest batting average, OBP and number of triples in the group while helping Cleveland reach the playoffs. (Cleveland advanced to the ALDS against the Yankees by beating Tampa Bay in 15 innings Saturday).
Kansas City’s Witt had the most RBIs and stolen bases, and was second in triples. He also had the most errors with 19 while playing shortstop and third base. Although he wasn’t as solid defensively as Rodríguez, Rutschman, or Kwan, he did put up offensive numbers quite comparable to the trio.
Witt may not win the Rookie of the Year award, but he deserves to be one of the frontrunners. He’s the fifth player in major league history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in his first season. An achievement of that magnitude should warrant serious consideration in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
Will the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. be the AL Rookie of the Year? We’ll find out in November.