On Monday evening, MLB announced the two newest players to receive the honor of Rookie of the Year. Despite having just 60 games on which to judge players’ seasons, 30 baseball writers cast their ballots for the awards.
What transpired has created another nearly unprecedented development in baseball. But perhaps fans shouldn’t have expected any less after a 2020 season where every new development seemed to transcend some long-standing record.
Baseball continues to sustain fans that dearly missed its presence during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same way, this year’s Rookie of the Year awards hold special significance to the players. It took them extraordinary determination, patience and belief in their own abilities to overcome all the obstacles strewn across their baseball landscape.
And now the proof of their determination is undeniable. The 2020 MLB Rookies of the Year are…
American League: OF Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners
The 25-year-old native Georgian is just the fourth Mariner ever to win Rookie of the Year. Lewis totally blew away all competition in the American League in 2020, finishing with a .364 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 90 total bases which led all rookies.
Baseball Reference marked Lewis finishing the season with 1.4 wins above replacement, good enough for second best among AL rookies. The center fielder also made more than a few stellar plays on defense for Seattle.
OMG, KYLE LEWIS. 😱 pic.twitter.com/RwOAaA8ti2
— MLB (@MLB) September 15, 2020
Lewis received all 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA, making him the sixth unanimous AL Rookie of the Year since 2008. He also became Seattle’s first ROY winner since 2001, when another unforgettable player debuted. That’s right, Lewis is walking in the shadow of Ichiro Suzuki.
What bodes well for Lewis is his relative roster spot security. He’ll start next season at the top of the outfield depth chart. While the young hitter powered the Mariners within two games of a playoff spot, his arrival was a bright spot in the shortened season. Seattle’s minor league pipeline is where they hope to draw their talent for the future. Lewis should complement top organizational prospect Jarred Kelenic in the outfield when he get his major-league callup. Evan White and Justin Dunn also saw significant playing time this year.
The M’s might own some serious clout potential in the American League West for the future, all realized through the emergence of Lewis. Pitching is still a major construction project for Seattle, but their master plan begins with young hitters like Lewis at the top of their lineup.
National League: RP Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
Williams was not a unanimous selection but arguably put up stronger numbers than any player in baseball this season. That’s right, not just among rookies but among all MLB players.
4-1, 0.33 ERA, 27.0 IP, 8 HA, 1 ER, 53 K, 5.89 SO/W
What’s most staggering about this line is just how good Williams had to be over the 22 games in which he appeared. Relief pitchers historically struggle to remain consistent. Williams not only overcame inconsistency, he also blew his stuff by nearly every batter he faced. The changeup was the best tool for 26-year-old Williams this season. Among pitch types that had at least 200 swings this season, Williams recorded the best whiff rate of anyone. Of any pitch. He posted a 61.1% whiff rate.
Don’t believe that massive number? See the quality of the pitch for yourself.
Water 💧 Earth 🍃 Fire 🔥 Devin Williams’ change-up 💨
Congrats to the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year, Devin Williams! pic.twitter.com/DPOk0IrHkV
— Cut4 (@Cut4) November 9, 2020
Notching the win, Williams cemented himself as the best pitcher in baseball this season. He also earned the NL Reliever of the Year award last week. But the manner in which Williams won MLB Rookie of the Year is also of special note. The right-hander became the first relief pitcher to ever win Rookie of the Year without recording a single save. That pattern goes back to when saves officially became a recorded stat in 1969.
Needless to say, Williams is the latest great relief pitcher to come out of the Milwaukee bullpen. It’s unlikely that Williams will keep up this frantic pace forever, but he certainly has hustled his way to one of the strongest starts in player history. On a club with limited free agent starting pitching options, Williams should prove to be a strong asset in Milwaukee.
Other Exciting Outcomes
The results of the Rookie of the Year awards were announced on MLB Network. The three finalists for each league joined the ceremony over a video call before the winners were announced by Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Cal Ripken Jr.
Winners Williams and Lewis are both black. Though many talented black players have taken home this award over the past dozen seasons, not since 1984 have both winners for a season been black. 1984 was the same season the Rookie of the Year award was renamed, in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert (11 HR, 31 RBI) finished a distant second for the award in the American League. Robert led all rookies in wins above replacement. Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.38), a starter for the Houston Astros, finished in third place.
Alec Bohm (.338), a young third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies earned enough votes to tie for second in the National League. Jake Cronenworth, a Michigander who played all four infield spots for the Padres, tied with Bohm.
Despite playing out of his mind during the playoffs, Randy Arozarena remains a rookie next season. Overall, the outfielder owns 84 career at-bats during the regular season. Those are the only plate appearances that count towards his rookie eligibility. Should Arozarena repeat his postseason performance, there would be littler doubt he is the betting favorite to win MLB Rookie of the Year next season.
Featured Image Courtesy of Abbie Parr & Getty Images
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