With the conclusion of the regular season, we’ve seen all that we need to see in order to determine those players most deserving of individual MLB hardware. From MVPs to Cy Young’s, well-known stars like Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, and Max Scherzer will hope to add to their respective trophy cases.
However, with the Rookie of The Year awards, we are all collective witnesses to the beginning of stardom. Last year’s shortened season introduced us to Devin Williams and Kyle Lewis as Rookies of the Year, with Williams using his first full season in 2021 to further establish himself as a high-level reliever (before an unfortunate meeting with a wall) while Lewis essentially was sidelined all year due to knee injuries, but looked primed to build on his success in his limited appearances.
2021 is no different from the rest. We’ve had the opportunity to collectively be introduced to some new names and faces, some we’ve waited years to see like Wander Franco, while others seemingly appeared out of nowhere and lit it up (looking at you, Adolis Garcia, Patrick Wisdom, and Frank Schwindel). The writing staff at OTH thought we would try our hand to predict the award winners before it happened, each voting as if we were the BBWAA. One League was very lopsided, while the other produced mass chaos in the voting totals, making for an interesting split between the two.
NL Rookie Of The Year: Reds SS Jonathan India (8 Votes)
Others Receiving Votes: N/A
The case for the NL ROY is just about the easiest case to defend in a long while. India’s 3.9 fWAR is a full point above his nearest competition (Dylan Carlson of the Cardinals) He’s a significantly better defender than Carlson at a more important position defensively, has the highest OPS among rookies with more than 400 PA, the highest wRC+ among the same group as well.
In Essentially every category offensively, India leads the NL Rookies. Some quotes from other writers about their reasoning for India as their choice include, “Hitting at the top of the lineup, India was a big reason for the Reds’ resurgence in the second half. Overall, he hit .269/.376/.459 (113 OPS+) with 21 homers, 69 RBIs, 12 steals, and an MLB-leading 23 HBPs.”
In discussing oddsmakers’ favorites, one other writer said, “Some oddsmakers have India as a ridiculous -1350 favorite to win ROY. That tells you this race was and is over. India was a legit spark (21 homers, .835 OPS, 3.9 WAR) as the Reds took a big leap forward. His stiffest competition is a middle reliever (Trevor Rogers), and two partial-season mashers (Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom). That doesn’t sound like much competition to me. This should be a unanimous pick.”Consider that a correctly called shot, because this vote was not even close.
AL Rookie Of The Year: Rays OF Randy Arozarena (3 Votes)
Others Receiving Votes: Orioles 1B Ryan Mountcastle (1 Vote) Cleveland RP Emmanuel Clase (1 Vote) Rangers OF Adolis Garcia (1 Vote) Astros SP Luis Garcia (1 Vote) Rays SS Wander Franco (1 Vote)
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum from the simple unanimous vote that was the NL vote, the AL ROY debate went in so many different directions that the winner, Arozarena, did not even achieve a plurality of the votes. Arguments could be made for any of these players pleading their case for the award, but in the end it goes to the newly minted Mr. October, and certified stealer of home plate.
Arozarena took the MLB by storm as he broke numerous postseason records en route to the World Series last season with the Rays, and MLB fans league-wide were curious to see if that success would be repeated over a full season or if he was just a flash in the pan. Arozarena posted a 131 wRC+ over 141 games in 2021, along with an OPS residing well above league average at .815.
He established himself as a do it all type of player, finding himself included alongside elite names like Shohei Ohtani and Cedric Mullins as one of the ten players with 20 HRs and 20 SB on the season. Don’t take my word for it on why Arozarena should win, as I was not one of the writers to vote for him. Instead, here are some of the cases on his behalf from another member of the OTH staff.
“It’s a legitimate four-horse race between Adolis Garcia, Luis Garcia, Randy Arozarena, and Wander Franco, but last year’s playoff MVP is this year’s ROY. Wander shined brighter, but Arozarena played a whole season so that’s why I give him the nod. Putting up a 20-20 campaign with 4.2 bWAR helps too.”
When it came to the others receiving votes, there were a multitude of candidates that received a nod. I personally advocated for the shortstop sensation Wander Franco, who it could already be comfortably argued is a top 10 player at his position. The former #1 overall prospect played only 70 games this season, effectively tanking his chances due to lack of sample size, but I’d argue that should be overlooked. Franco put up 3.5 bWAR in just 70 games, putting himself on a pace for roughly 8 bWAR in a full season, MVP level stuff. Effective in nearly all facets of the game, Franco is a star in the making and I’d bet the house on him finishing top 10 in AL MVP voting next season.
Ryan Mountcastle’s name was also floated, with a writer stating, “Power numbers are stellar considering a very slow start, total lack of lineup protection/spot in the order as well as age. Showed signs of being the foundational run producer that Orioles need to build around and keep healthy. Other 1st year performers were good, Mount was great on an awful O’s squad.” Mountcastle finished with a slash line of .270/.309/.487, good for an OPS of .796 on the season.
Also nominated was Emmanuel Clase, the reliever in Cleveland who seemed to live on the pitching ninja Twitter account mostly in part to his ridiculous ability to combine speed and movement. The lone Clase defender on the staff stated his case for the reliever, saying, “Clase had a 1.29 ERA and 24 saves while racking 74 strikeouts in 69.2 innings (9.6 K/9). Plus, he throws a 102 MPH cutter”.
The AL West, more specifically Texas, and even more specifically the Garcia last name, was home to the final two vote-getters. a Luis Garcia advocate stated, “ For a pitcher that made the jump from Low-A to the big leagues and had double-digit wins in his first full season, Deserves the award.” While attaching wins as a stat of relevance may be hard to swallow, there’s no doubting the Astro’s impressive rookie campaign. With a bWAR approaching 3 and an ERA below the 3.50 mark, Garcia is a good shout. His divisional counterpart Adolis Garcia was a noted ROY name mentioned frequently before the All-Star break, but he would cool down slightly in the second half of the season. That didn’t stop him from receiving one vote though.
“This is a guy who didn’t even start the year on the major league roster and played his way into an All-Star Game appearance. He is the definition of making most of the opportunity given.” This quote is certainly a good sum-up of the season Garcia had, as he was a name that rose out of what felt like nowhere to become a terror in the batter’s box to all that had to face him. Even more confounding, this was Garcia’s 28-year-old season, he’s no youngster in the league. His season next year will certainly be an interesting story to follow.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images