Taking a look at the AL Rookie of the Year finalists

BySarah Langs ESPN logo
Monday, November 12, 2018

The Rookie of the Year winners will be announced Monday, and the American League has a particularly unique race among the three finalists. It features two players from the same team, Yankees Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andújar, and one player who did two things this year, then got hurt, and then excelled at just one -- Shohei Ohtani.

The atypical candidate is the one who may, at some point, change the game. Ohtani's rookie season began with promise of being the first full-time two-way player since Babe Ruth. The pitching side was shut down from early June through early September because of injury, then fully shut down after a Sept. 2 start. But he still made an impact with his bat.

Here's a look at the Angels star's profile:

  • Ohtani is trying to join Mike Trout (2012) and Tim Salmon (1993) as the only players in Angels history to win Rookie of the Year.
  • He's seeking to become the fourth Japanese-born player to win Rookie of the Year honors, joining Hideo Nomo (1995), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).
  • Ohtani bolstered his résumé in August and September, batting .318 (47-for-148) with 13 homers and 36 RBIs. His .649 slugging percentage from Aug. 1 was the second-highest in the majors (minimum 150 PA), trailing only Christian Yelich (.728).
  • Ohtani became just the second player in MLB history to throw 50 innings and hit at least 20 homers in a season, joining Ruth, who achieved that in his last season with the Red Sox in 1919. That means there has never even been a chance to give a Rookie of the Year award to such a candidate, as the award didn't begin until 1947.
  • Ohtani had one of the most unhittable pitches in baseball, too. He allowed an .036 opponents average in at-bats that ended on his splitter, the lowest opponents' average for any pitcher on any single pitch type this season (minimum 150 pitches thrown of that type).
  • Ohtani hit 22 HRs this season in 367 plate appearances. His career high in his five seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan was 22 homers in 382 plate appearances in 2016. Those 22 homers were also the most by a Japanese-born rookie, besting the prior mark of 18 set by Kenji Johjima in 2006, as well as Hideki Matsui's 16 in 2003.
  • It's not just rookie records. Ohtani had two games this season with two HRs, four hits and a stolen base. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he's the fourth player to do that multiple times in a season in modern MLB history (since 1900). The others were Carlos Beltrán in 2004, Larry Walker in 1997 and Kirk Gibson in 1986.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Yankees managed two finalists for the award. Yankees players have won nine Rookie of the Year awards, the second most of any franchise behind the Dodgers (18).

  • If either Torres or Andújar wins it, it would be the second straight year that a Yankees player would have taken home the award after Aaron Judge won last year. The Yankees have never had back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners. The most recent American League team with back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners was the A's in 2004-05, with Bobby Crosby and Huston Street. In the National League, the Dodgers had two straight winners entering 2018: Corey Seager in 2016 and Cody Bellinger in 2017.

Each of the two Yankees finalists had their share of "youngest Yankees player" or "youngest since" notes to go around this season:

  • 76 of Andújar's 170 hits this season went for extra bases. Prior to this season, only four Yankees had ever had 40 percent of their hits go for extra bases in their rookie season, according to Elias Sports Bureau research: Judge (2017), Joe Gordon (1938), Joe DiMaggio (1936) and Lou Gehrig (1925).
  • Torres is the youngest player in Yankees history with multiple walk-off RBIs in a season.