There is not a whole lot to unpack in this discussion of the 2017 Rookie of the Year Awards: The Baseball Writers' Association of America voters definitely got it right. New York's Aaron Judge and Los Angeles' Cody Bellinger had historic rookie seasons. Judge set the American League (and Major
There is not a whole lot to unpack in this discussion of the 2017 Rookie of the Year Awards: The Baseball Writers' Association of America voters definitely got it right. New York's Aaron Judge and Los Angeles' Cody Bellinger had historic rookie seasons. Judge set the American League (and Major League) rookie record for home runs with 52. Bellinger set the National League record with 39.
Judge led the AL in runs and walks, played excellent defense and powered the Yankees to a stunning playoff-bound season when most experts thought the Bronx Bombers were at least a year away from becoming a serious contender.
:: NL Rookie of the Year voting totals ::
Bellinger finished in the NL's top 10 in slugging percentage, home runs, extra-base hits and intentional walks, even though he spent the first three weeks of the season in the Minor Leagues. He played excellent defense, and his callup turned the Dodgers from a very good team into a dominant one.
This vote was a layup. Judge and Bellinger became just the fourth pair to win the award unanimously. That hasn't happened in 20 years, 1997, when Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Rolen swept the first-place votes. Bellinger and Judge will go face-to-face for Best Rookie in the Esurance MLB Awards, which do not make a distinction for leagues.
Those will be handed out on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
Judge and Bellinger were so good that they overshadowed some players who, in other years, would have made for excellent Rookie of the Year choices. In the NL, St. Louis' Paul DeJong wasn't called up until the end of May, and it seemed like the Cardinals just viewed him as a stopgap measure with an injury to Kolten Wong. But DeJong crushed a long home run off Greg Holland in his first plate appearance, and he just kept on hitting, smacking 26 doubles and 25 homers in 108 games.
:: AL Rookie of the Year voting totals ::
In the AL, Boston's Andrew Benintendi was the consensus preseason favorite for the award, and because of Judge's emergence it's easy to think that Benintendi had a disappointing rookie season. It's true that he went into a massive slump in May and June, hitting .170 for a month, and he only hit two home runs after Aug. 22. But even with that, Benintendi did hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and play good outfield defense. His future is as bright as ever.
Special mention should be given to Baltimore's Trey Mancini, a 25-year-old who made his first Opening Day roster in something of a surprise, and then hit .293 and slugged .488 over the full season.
But, certainly, this was the year of Judge and Bellinger -- and both began the season with very different expectations. Judge -- at 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds -- is quite possibly the largest everyday player in baseball history (it depends how you judge such things). At that size, nobody was sure how he would adjust to Major League pitching, particularly the great breaking balls. In a brief 2016 trial, he hit just .179 and struck out in half of his at-bats.
From the start of 2017, however, Judge made it clear that this year would be different. He crushed 10 home runs in April, several of them massive ones, and New York began to fall for him. Judge had 30 home runs by the All-Star break, but what was even more remarkable, considering his long swing, was that he was hitting .329.
Judge slumped after that; his average dropped to .273 in mid-September. And then he had a remarkable last two weeks, hitting 11 home runs in the final 16 games as the Yankees almost took the AL East away from Boston. It led to a record-breaking and mind-blowing season with 52 homers, 114 RBIs and 128 runs.
• DYK: Judge, Bellinger forever linked in history
Bellinger, meanwhile, began the year with the expectation that he would spend most of it in the Minors. He was one of baseball's best prospects, yes, and he had a good Spring Training. But Bellinger had played only three games in Triple-A before this season. And the Dodgers had five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez at first base.
Then Bellinger crushed the ball for Triple-A Oklahoma City for three weeks, and Los Angeles had some injury issues. The Dodgers called Bellinger up on April 25. He began playing in left field -- before the year was out he would play left, right, center and first base.
In his fifth big league game, Bellinger clubbed two home runs against Philadelphia. Six days later, he hit two home runs at San Diego. Then in June, Bellinger really got going. He was the fastest player in Major League history to 21 home runs (51 games), the fastest to 22 home runs (52 games) and the fastest to 24 home runs (57 games).
Bellinger slowed down a bit and was only the third fastest to 30 home runs. In the end, he hit 39 homers, slugged .581 and drove in 97 runs despite missing out on 30 games. And manager Dave Roberts says the best part of Bellinger's game might be his defense.
So, yes, the BBWAA voters certainly got it right. Many fantastic things happened in the 2017 baseball season, but it might just be remembered as the year Judge and Bellinger broke out.
Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.