2022 MLB Awards: Top 5 American League Rookie of the Year Candidates – Sports Illustrated

With Major League Baseball award season coming up, here’s a look at our top five American League Rookie of the Year candidates. Seattle Mariners’ George Kirby and Julio Rodriguez, Houston Astros’ Jeremy Pena, Cleveland Guardians’ Steven Kwan and Baltimore Orioles’ Adley Rutschman all put together remarkable rookie seasons. But who will win AL Rookie of the Year?
Heading into the 2022 Major League Baseball season, we knew that the American League Rookie of the Year race would be a battle of heavyweights.
The field was led by top prospects Bobby Witt Jr., Adley Rutschman and Julio Rodriguez. Others, like Steven Kwan, Jeremy Peña and Óscar González broke out over the course of the season.
As part of our 2022 Major League Baseball award selections, here's my top American League Rookie of the Year candidates:
5) Jeremy Peña, shortstop, Houston Astros
136 games, .253/.289/.715, 22 home runs, 63 RBI, 11 stolen bases, 101 OPS+, 16 Defensive Runs Saved, 4.8 Wins Above Replacement.
At first glance, Peña's statistics might not wow you. But entering the season, there were a number of questions surrounding the Astros after losing shortstop Carlos Correa to free agency.
With the 25-year-old Peña at short, the Astros didn't miss a beat, winning eleven more games in 2022 (106) than they did with Correa in 2021 (95). Peña led all shortstops with 16 Defensive Runs Saved.
4) George Kirby, pitcher, Seattle Mariners
25 games, 25 starts, 130 innings pitched, 3.39 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 133 strikeouts, 22 walks, 109 ERA+, 1.4 WAR.
Kirby was the best rookie pitcher in the American League, with Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Joe Ryan not too far behind him.
A Mariners rotation of Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales and Kirby appears that it will be one of the best in baseball for many years to come.
3) Adley Rutschman, catcher, Baltimore Orioles
113 games, .254/.362/.806, 13 home runs, 42 RBI, 4 stolen bases, 128 OPS+, 18 DRS, 5.2 WAR.
With all eyes on him, Rutschman did not disappoint in his freshman campaign. He was at the center of the Baltimore Orioles' first winning season since 2016. Now, the Orioles hope to push for the American League Division title in 2023.
2) Steven Kwan, leftfielder, Cleveland Guardians
147 games, .298/.373/.772, 6 home runs, 52 RBI, 19 stolen bases, 124 OPS+, 15 Defensive Runs Saved, 5.5 WAR.
As some teams are stacking non-traditional lead-off hitters at the top of their lineup, Steven Kwan is a throwback. He will get on base, hit for contact and burn his opponents on the base paths.
Kwan has been excellent both offensively and defensively. As the Guardians' table-setter, his club won its fourth American League Central division title in seven years.
1) Julio Rodríguez, centerfielder, Seattle Mariners
132 games, .284/.345/.853, 28 home runs, 75 RBI, 25 stolen bases, 147 OPS+, 2 Defensive Runs Saved, 6.0 WAR.
Rodríguez is going to win the American League Rookie of the Year award by a landslide. It may be unanimous, and he's had worthy competition.
Last month, Rodríguez became the fastest rookie to reach 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases in baseball history. As the Mariners' best player, he helped guide his club back to the postseason for the first time in 21 years. He's even had a better statistical rookie season than Ken Griffey Jr. did in 1989.
More of our MLB Awards Selections:
For more from Jack Vita, follow him on Twitter @JackVitaShow, and subscribe to his podcast, the Jack Vita Show, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, iHeartRadio, and wherever podcasts are found.
Jack Vita is a baseball writer for Fastball on Sports Illustrated/FanNation, and host of the Jack Vita Show, a popular sports podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube and wherever podcasts are found. Jack is a graduate of Valparaiso University. You can follow him on Twitter @JackVitaShow.


Leave a Comment