One guy won the midsummer Home Run Derby, then became the first rookie to win the full-season home run derby outright. The other went third deck at Minute Maid Park amid compiling the highest OPS ever for a rookie with at least 300 trips to the plate.
What Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez did in 2019 was historic, and their efforts were rightly recognized Monday night with runaway wins in the National League and American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Alvarez was a unanimous selection in the AL (the 11th such selection in the history of this award), while Alonso was listed first on 29 of the 30 ballots in the NL.
“Holy expletive,” Alonso said with a laugh after the MLB Network made his selection official.
These two engendered that kind of response a lot in 2019. And while neither the 22-year-old Alvarez nor the 24-year-old Alonso was readily pegged as a Rookie of the Year favorite going into the season, by the time the ballots were cast at the end of the regular season, they were locks.
“I’m very happy, very thankful to my family, to the team, to everybody who has supported me, to everybody in Cuba,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I appreciate all the help everybody has given me during the season, especially my teammates and all the fans.”
Said Alonso: “This is a hell of an honor. I just really feel blessed. I’ve got to say thank you to the New York Mets for giving me the opportunity right out of Spring Training and believing in me from day one. I’d also like to say thank you to my teammates, because without such an awesome group of guys to facilitate my development, I wouldn’t have put together the season I did.”
In the AL, Orioles starter John Means finished second and the Rays’ Brandon Lowe finished third. In the NL, Braves starter Mike Soroka received the only other first-place vote and finished second, while Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. finished third.
This was the first of four BBWAA announcements on MLB Network this week. The AL and NL Manager of the Year will be announced on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, the Cy Young Award winners will be revealed on Wednesday at 6 p.m., and the grand finale of the MVP honors comes Thursday at 6 p.m.
Alvarez didn’t debut until June 9, but in just 87 games, he hit 27 home runs with 78 RBIs. He hit .313 with a .412 on-base percentage and .655 slugging percentage. Among those with at least 300 plate appearances, the only players with a higher OPS than Alvarez’s 1.067 mark were MVP finalists Christian Yelich (1.100) and Mike Trout (1.083).
Though he made 74 of his 83 starts as the Astros’ DH in 2019, Alvarez said he hopes to have a more consistent presence in the corner outfield in 2020.
“DH was just part of last year,” he said. “Next year, I’m more focused on being an outfielder.”
Alonso, meanwhile, made the Mets’ Opening Day roster and then made the 2019 season his personal Home Run Derby. He won the actual Derby at Cleveland’s Progressive Field during the All-Star festivities, then broke the rookie home run record set by Aaron Judge (52) in 2017. In addition to leading the Majors, his total of 53 also shattered the Mets’ previous single-season franchise record, which had been set at 41 by Todd Hundley in 1996 and matched by Carlos Beltrán in 2006.
“Making the club out of spring was a really special moment, and I just wanted to build off each little moment of success,” Alonso said. “I didn’t want to prove that I could just be a regular big league ballplayer; I wanted to prove I could be a really good one. Hard work and dedication pays off.”
In addition to the heroics on the field, Alonso made an instant connection in the community and clubhouse. He donated 10% of his $1 million in Home Run Derby winnings to non-profit organizations, and he also bought customized spikes for his teammates to wear in commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Here are some more noteworthy numbers for the 2019 Rookie of the Year Award winners:
• Had a 173 OPS+ (or 73 percent better than league average) and 178 weighted runs created plus (or 78 percent better than league average). In Major League history, the only rookie with at least 300 plate appearances to post a higher OPS+ or wRC+ was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson for the 1911 Cleveland Naps (193 OPS+, 184 wRC+).
• His 51 RBIs in his first 45 career games were the most ever for a player in that span, surpassing the 47 RBIs for Ted Williams in his first 45 games in 1939. His seven homers in his first 12 career games were an Astros franchise record.
• Alvarez barreled the ball in 10.3% of his plate appearances, according to Statcast, tying for the seventh-highest rate in MLB (min. 300 plate appearances).
• On Sept. 9, he became just the second player -- and the first Astros player -- to hit a home run to Minute Maid Park’s third deck.
• He became the third Astros player to win the Rookie of the Year honor, joining Jeff Bagwell (1991) and Carlos Correa (2015).
• He led all Major League rookies not just in homers, but also in games played (161), RBIs (120), runs scored (103), walks (72), Win Probability Added (4.49) and Wins Above Replacement (5.0 per Baseball Reference, 4.8 per FanGraphs). The 5.0 bWAR was the 10th-highest among NL position players.
• He barreled the ball on 15.8 percent of batted balls that produced a result. That was the fourth-highest rate of any player with at least 300 batted ball events.
• Alonso joined Judge (2017) as the only rookies to win the Derby in the event’s history. His total of 57 homers that night was the third-most in the event’s history.
• The 118.3-mph home run he hit on April 11 was tied for the second hardest-hit ball tracked by Statcast in 2019. The only harder-hit ball was a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. single on May 11 that was measured at 118.9 mph.
• He became the sixth Mets player to win the Rookie of the Year Award, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Jacob deGrom (2014).
American League results
- Yordan Alvarez, HOU: 30 (1st place) -- 150 points
- John Means, BAL: 16 (2nd), 5 (3rd) -- 53
- Brandon Lowe, TB: 6 (2nd), 9 (3rd) -- 27
- Eloy Jiménez, CWS: 4 (2nd), 8 (3rd) -- 20
- Cavan Biggio, TOR: 2 (2nd), 1 (3rd) -- 7
- Luis Arraez, MIN: 1 (2nd), 2 (3rd) -- 5
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR: 1 (2nd), 2 (3rd) -- 4
- Oscar Mercado, CLE: 3 (3rd) -- 3
National League results