MLB’s 2022 rookie class is expected to be one of the best ever, and the six nominees for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award are paragons for exactly why.
Do you like ultra-versatile infielders? We have one on this list.
How about a receiver that looks like the total package? Or a flamethrower that turns bats into sawdust? They are here too.
In short, this culture has it all. It may even hold the next face of the whole sport.
Here’s a look at each of the six finalists’ cases before the AL and NL winners were announced LIVE on MLB Network.
Without Kwan, the Guardians wouldn’t have come close to having so many successes from one team in 2022.
Heading into spring training, Kwan was an outfielder who had received rave reviews from Cleveland’s player development system. Guardians manager Terry Francona jokes that he tried to find someone to tell him Kwan shouldn’t be on the opening day list because he was young and inexperienced, but he can not. During the opening days of the regular season, Kwan stole the national show, seeing 116 pitches before his first swing and miss, the most by a player to start a career since at least 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
His first (and only) test came in May, when he battled for three weeks, but the way he responded to those hurdles proved he was more than ready for his big league career. , finding a way to not only get back on track but continue to improve for the rest of the season. He became the permanent fixture at the top of Cleveland’s roster, setting the tone for the team’s patient approach to the plate. He hit .298 with a .773 OPS (124 OPS+), 25 doubles, seven triples, 52 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and 62 walks with just 60 strikeouts in 147 games.
His consistency transferred from the batter’s box to left field, where he became a reliable defender, whether it was life-saving diving plays, assists or throwing himself into the stands to make a catch. MLB proved what Cleveland already knew in early November when it awarded Kwan a Gold Glove for his efforts. — Mandy Bell
Where to start? What about statistically? The 21-year-old was the only All-Star rookie this year and paced freshmen in virtually every offensive category, including homers (28), wins over replacement – both by Baseball-Reference (6.0) and FanGraphs (5.3) — slugging percentage (.509), OPS (.853), wRC+ (146) and total bases (260). He ranked second in RBIs (75), runs scored (84) and stolen bases (25) and third in hits (145).
Rodríguez has also racked up an entire season’s volume, having worked his way up the opening day roster by wowing just about everyone with the best spring training of any player on the roster. Mariners. Although injuries to his right wrist and lower back sidelined him for a period and he was limited to 132 games overall, Rodríguez was still among the best rookie outfielders, but those in the entire match. On Thursday, he was named the winner of the AL Silver Slugger Award, along with Aaron Judge and Mike Trout.
Steven Kwan was outstanding, played more games (147) and impacted nearly every one of them with his incredible flair on the court and striking ability, and Adley Rutschman almost single-handedly lifted the Orioles after his arrival, but he didn’t debut until May 21. Both are strong contenders, but Rodríguez should be the unanimous winner. — Daniel Kramer
The switch-hitting receiver’s 5.3 fWAR ranked first on the O’s and was tied with Rodríguez for best among all rookies this year. Without Rutschman, Baltimore probably wouldn’t have come close to its 83-79 record (which was a 31-game improvement from the previous year).
Rutschman’s offensive stats were impressive, especially for a backstop. He hit .254/.362/.445 with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs. The 24-year-old’s 35 doubles were the most in a season by a catcher or rookie in Orioles history — records previously held by Javy Lopez (33 in 2004) and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. ( 32 in 1982), respectively.
But Rutschman’s impact went far beyond what he did with his bat. His 18 defensive points saved ranked second among MLB catchers behind only Jose Trevino of the Yankees. Rutschman has also been a big help for Baltimore pitchers — FanGraphs ranked him the second-best pitcher this season, tied with Texas’ Jonah Heim and behind only Trevino.
Oh, and Rutschman wasn’t even in the big leagues until May 21, six weeks after opening day. It didn’t take long, however, for him to look like one of the Majors’ best receivers and emerge as a leader for the Orioles in their turnaround season.
How much better were the O’s once Rutschman arrived? They went 16-24 before his debut, then 67-55 after his recall. There haven’t been many players this year who have had such a big impact on a team, especially not as a rookie. — Jake Ril
Donovan became the first rookie in the Cardinals’ storied history to win a Gold Glove and he needed just one week in Major League Baseball to pull off a modern-day feat that showed off his formidable versatility. defensive. That said, Donovan is expected to finish a distant third in voting for the top rookie award behind Braves stars Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II, but being a runner-up is still a great nod to the first season that Donovan, 25 years, had in Saint-Louis.
Despite starting the season at Triple-A Memphis, Donovan became only the third modern-era rookie to play at least six games at six different defensive positions, according to Elias Sports. In his first week in the majors, Donovan started at shortstop, third, second and first base — a first for any AL/NL rookie since 1900, per Elias. In the end, Donovan went in 854 MLB 1/3 innings over six positions and committed just eight errors. It earned him the first Rawlings NL Utility Gold Glove and made him the only Cardinals rookie to earn a defensive honor.
Donovan’s excellence continued on the plate where he showed incredible patience and maturity. He led NL rookies in walks (60) and on-base percentage (.394) while ranking second in hits (110) and runs (64). His biggest moment of the season came on September 22, when he scored a Grand Slam to help the Cardinals snap a three-game losing streak and beat the Padres. Four nights later, the Cardinals clinched the NL Central crown. — John Denton
Despite only making his MLB debut on May 28, Harris led all NL rookies with a 5.3 bWAR. Brendan Donovan of the Cardinals ranked second with a bWAR of 4.1.
Harris only had one full professional season before making the smooth transition from Double-A to Majors. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .297 with 19 home runs, 20 stolen bases and an .853 OPS. He homered before becoming the second NL rookie to record 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season (Chris Young of Arizona in 2007 is the only one to do so).
Along with bolstering the Atlanta roster with his power and speed, Harris quickly showed why he could be a future Gold Glove Award winner. He missed most of the first two months of the season, but still finished fifth among all center backs with eight defensive points saved and ranked eighth among that group with eight over-average strikeouts.
Harris was five games into his career when the Braves began a 14-game winning streak that propelled them to a fifth straight NL East crown. Atlanta went 79-35 with Harris in the lineup. That equates to a pace of 112 wins in 162 games. — Mark Bowman
Strider entered 2022 with just one full Minor League season under his belt. But that didn’t stop him from recording 200 strikeouts faster than any other NL or AL pitcher in any season.
Strider reached 200 strikeouts in exactly 130 innings. Randy Johnson previously set the record when he needed 130 2/3 innings to score 200 strikeouts in 2001. Gerrit Cole was second, needing 133 1/3 innings to hit the mark in 2019 .
Although Strider did not switch from reliever to starter until May 30, he became the first Braves rookie in the modern era to produce a 200-strikeout season.
Strider went 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 31 appearances (20 starts). He limited opponents to a .517 OPS and produced a 38.3% strikeout rate, which ranked first among all MLB pitchers who went at least 130 innings.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft, Strider entered this year having finished just 96 1/3 innings above college level. But he experienced few pitfalls in the big leagues. He dominated as a reliever for the first two months of the season, then really shone, producing a 2.77 ERA over 20 starts. He built a .988 WHIP and struck out 38.1% of the batters he faced as a starter. — Mark Bowman
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