ROY watch: A new leader in the NL

September 29th, 2022

For the final time this season, a panel of voters has selected the top five Rookie of the Year Award candidates, and there’s a new name at the top of the National League list for the first time in four months -- Braves center fielder Michael Harris II has dethroned his teammate, right-hander Spencer Strider, atop our latest poll.

In the American League, meanwhile, Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez leads our poll for the fifth straight time. J-Rod received 30 first-place votes among our 32 voters, reflecting his continued excellence for Seattle and the likelihood that he will take home this year’s AL Rookie of the Year Award.

There’s also been some shuffling below the top spot in each league, as well as a couple of new names among the top five this time around.

The panel was asked to rank the top five Rookie of the Year candidates in each league based on what's happened so far and what they expect will happen over the rest of the 2022 season. Rookies received vote points on a 5-4-3-2-1 scale -- five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on, with 32 voters participating.

Here are the results. (All stats are through Wednesday.)


1. Julio Rodríguez, Mariners (30 first-place votes)

J-Rod continues to dazzle even after he burst onto the scene for the Mariners this spring and put on a show at this summer’s All-Star Home Run Derby in Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, the 21-year-old center fielder became the fastest player to reach 25 homers and 25 steals in his MLB career, and while it’s unlikely, he has an outside shot at joining Mike Trout as the only players to have a 30-30 rookie campaign. Rodríguez is on the injured list due to a lower back strain, but that hasn't dissuaded our voters.

2. Adley Rutschman, Orioles

Rutschman has played in 23 fewer games than Rodríguez, but he’s been so impressive that he’s No. 2 in our Rookie of the Year poll for the AL. The 24-year-old catcher began heating up at the plate in June and hasn’t looked back. Since June 9, he has an .873 OPS with 31 doubles and 13 homers in 91 games. He’s already drawing comparisons to Buster Posey with his excellence both at the plate and behind it for a Baltimore club that has been the surprise of the baseball world in 2022.

3. Steven Kwan, Guardians (1 first-place vote)

Kwan continues his rise in our balloting, moving up one spot on this list for the second straight poll. Cleveland’s left fielder got off to a blistering start in April and then slumped in May. But since then, he’s been tremendous at the plate and was named AL Player of the Week just last week, when he hit .438 with a pair of triples and a pair of homers. Defensively, Kwan leads all left fielders with 20 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs.

4. Bobby Witt Jr., Royals (1 first-place vote)

Rodríguez isn’t the only rookie with a 20-20 season or better -- Witt has launched 20 homers and stolen 28 bags to demonstrate the power-speed combo that made him the No. 1 prospect in baseball when he made his MLB debut on Opening Day for Kansas City.

5. Jeremy Peña, Astros

Peña struggled at the plate in July and August, but September has been his best offensive month since May. That, coupled with his excellence defensively -- he leads all AL shortstops with 16 defensive runs saved -- has the 25-year-old back in the top five of our poll.

Others receiving votes: Georgy Kirby, Joe Ryan, Jose Miranda, Félix Bautista, Jhoan Duran, MJ Melendez, Reid Detmers


1. Michael Harris II, Braves (19 first-place votes)

Harris leads all NL position player rookies with 4.9 WAR (FanGraphs), which is more than double what the rookie in second place has produced (the Cardinals’ Brendan Donovan, 2.4). Harris has helped fuel a Braves lineup that really turned things on in June to erase a 10 1/2-game deficit and catch the Mets atop the NL East standings.

2. Spencer Strider, Braves (12 first-place votes)

Strider’s fall from the top of this list into the second spot is more a reflection of Harris’ production than any drop in the right-hander’s performance. In fact, Strider only got stronger as the season went on. Already having proven to be a strikeout machine, the 23-year-old had a 1.80 ERA, a 45 percent strikeout rate and a 6.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in September before an oblique injury sent him to the injured list.

3. Brendan Donovan, Cardinals

Donovan, much like Kwan, is a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out often, and though he’s struggled so far this month, he had a big August to bolster his standing on this list. In 22 games last month, the 25-year-old utilityman hit .339 with a .403 on-base percentage. He’s been a Swiss Army knife for St. Louis defensively, appearing at first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield spots.

4. Oneil Cruz, Pirates (1 first-place vote)

Cruz generates headlines with his immense power and incredible speed for someone who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall. His mammoth homers and flashes of defensive brilliance at shortstop have left us awestruck. But he’s also improved at the plate quite a bit from when he debuted on June 20 -- after posting a .665 OPS through August, Cruz is hitting .293 with five doubles, two triples and six homers in September.

5. Seiya Suzuki, Cubs

Though he’s missed some time due to injury this year, Suzuki has had a solid rookie campaign for the Cubs, with a .769 OPS along with 13 homers and nine steals for Chicago. He’s had a great September at the plate, hitting .304 with three homers in 13 games this month.

Others receiving votes: Jake McCarthy, Nick Lodolo, Alexis Díaz, Joey Meneses, Christopher Morel, Juan Yepez, Nolan Gorman, Roansy Contreras