AL Rookie of the Year Race: June Update

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Last month, the AL Rookie of the Year race looked like one of the most open contests in recent memory. Hot starts from Joe Ryan, Steven Kwan, and Jeremy Peña propelled them into the mix with top prospects including Bobby Witt Jr, Spencer Torkelson, and Julio Rodríguez. Now, it’s time to see how the rookies are performing as the calendar has switched to June.

The Front Runner in Houston

When we looked at the AL Rookie of the Year contenders last month, there were quite a few names at the top. However, May saw a couple of candidates start to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The first had the envious task of replacing a face of a franchise in Houston.

When the Astros let Carlos Correa walk this past offseason, many wondered how successful would Peña be at replacing the franchise legend. Turns out, Peña was more than ready to take the starting job. So far this season, he is hitting .285/.331/.494 while clubbing 8 home runs and playing a very defensively solid shortstop. Peña has looked extremely comfortable in the big leagues and has helped propel the Astros to first place in the AL West.

Hot on the Tails in Seattle

If the AL Rookie of the Year race was actually a race, there is no doubt that the winner would be Julio Rodríguez. The Seattle Mariners’ centerfielder has certainly hit the ground running…literally! Rodríguez has been a demon on the base paths and currently leads the majors with 15 stolen bases.

While the Mariners have been a bit of a disappointment so far in 2022, Rodríguez has been one of the few bright spots for this team. If the rest of the lineup can start producing, Rodríguez’s ability to get on base and score from first on nearly any hit will add some potency to this Mariners’ offense.

The Top Pitcher

The Minnesota Twins knew they would need some players to step up this season if they wanted to wash away the disappointment of 2021. Perhaps the player that has stepped up the most this season is their talented right-hander Joe Ryan.

Ryan has certainly entered the AL Rookie of the Year race by averaging just under a strikeout per inning and pitching to a 2.28 ERA. Ryan has been fantastic in a Twins rotation that has struggled a bit recently to stay healthy.

Kansas City’s Next Star

Bobby Witt Jr. entered the season as the likely favorite in the AL Rookie of the Year race. As a highly regarded prospect, Witt finished his minor league career as the top-ranked prospect in all of baseball and was seen as a five-tool player.

Unfortunately, things in the majors have been a little harder on Witt. He is currently slashing .227/.269/.431, but he does have 6 home runs and 7 stolen bases. Meanwhile, Witt has split time at both third and shortstop, the latter of which has been a bit of a struggle for the rookie. Perhaps once he gets his feet under him in the field, he can find success back in the batter’s box.

The Dark Horses

Last month, we discussed how Steven Kwan was able to insert his name into the AL Rookie of the Year race. Unfortunately, things have not been as kind to the Guardians’ rookie and he finds himself slipping. However, if he can replicate his early-season numbers he can find himself back in the mix.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are still waiting on Spencer Torkelson to show why he was the top pick in the 2020 draft. Like most of Detroit, he has been plagued by a very disappointing start to his season.

Perhaps the most interesting name to watch, and the newest entry to the AL Rookie of the Year race, is the Orioles’ Adley Rutschman. Like Witt, Rutschman finished his minor league career as the top prospect in baseball. With a delayed start to his MLB season, Rutschman has quite a bit of work to do to catch up.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and tell us who you think will be named the AL Rookie of the Year!

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Stephen Leonardi is a passionate Yankees, Jets, Devils and Nets fans. He is an avid writer covering his favorite teams and interesting topics around his favorite sports.