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Judge or Bellinger? Duo up for MLB Best Rookie

History-making phenoms among six-player field for honor
MLB.com @DougMillerMLB

Rookies in MLB in 2017 didn't just make a one-season splash. They made history.

First-year phenoms were strong in both leagues, and in almost every ballpark every night, as the game continues to skew younger and the skillsets seem to blossom earlier and earlier. By the end of the 162-game regular-season grind and an October for the ages, it was time to honor these players for their achievements, which were nothing short of incredible.

Rookies in MLB in 2017 didn't just make a one-season splash. They made history.

First-year phenoms were strong in both leagues, and in almost every ballpark every night, as the game continues to skew younger and the skillsets seem to blossom earlier and earlier. By the end of the 162-game regular-season grind and an October for the ages, it was time to honor these players for their achievements, which were nothing short of incredible.

VOTE NOW: Esurance MLB Awards

Six players rose above the rest in earning nominations for the Esurance MLB Award for Best Rookie, and each one did something remarkable in 2017. Ridiculous power-hitting shows were put on by front-runners Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, plus midseason callups Matt Olson of the A's and Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies.

Complete 2017 Awards coverage

Meanwhile, Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was as strong as they come for Boston all year, and Cuba native Yuli Gurriel became a key performer in the middle of the lineup for the World Series-champion Astros.

What more can be said about Judge? He's the favorite for the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) American League Rookie of the Year Award -- perhaps unanimously so -- and figures prominently in most AL Most Valuable Player Award discussions after a rookie season in which he set a rookie record with an AL-leading 52 home runs while slashing .284/.422/.627, leading the AL in runs (128) and walks (127) and ranking second in RBIs (114), on-base percentage (.422) and slugging percentage (.627). He joined Ted Williams (1939) as the only rookie with at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 100 walks.

"A great year," Yankees teammate CC Sabathia said. "The best rookie season I've ever seen -- I think all of us have ever seen."

But then there was Bellinger, who had a very Judge-like season in the National League. Bellinger, at age 21, didn't even make the Dodgers' Opening Day roster. But he was called up on April 25 and he -- and the Dodgers -- never looked back.

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Rookie - Cody Bellinger

Bellinger set the NL rookie home run record with 39, while also driving in 97 runs in 132 games. He set a Dodgers rookie record with a .933 OPS, and his team went 91-41 in games in which he played.

Olson achieved a lot in a short period of time, too. The 23-year-old only had 189 at-bats at the Major League level in 2017, but he hit 24 homers and slashed .259/.352/.651.

Video: Esurance MLB Awards: Best Rookie - Matt Olson

Hoskins put up a similar first season, not making it to the big leagues in Philadelphia until Aug. 10, but mashing 18 homers and driving in 48 runs in a mere 170 at-bats, while putting up an OPS of 1.014.

Video: Esurance MLB Awards: Best Rookie - Rhys Hoskins

Benintendi was expected to be a key cog in Boston's excellent offense and athletic outfield, and he never disappointed. He hit 20 homers, drove in 90 runs, stole 20 bases and scored 84 runs, with an on-base percentage of .352.

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Rookie - Andrew Benintendi

Gurriel, who had starred on the international stage for a decade prior to joining MLB, lived up to the billing, hitting 18 homers, driving in 75 runs and hitting two homers in the World Series, while driving in eight runs in the postseason during his team's run to the World Series title.

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Rookie - Yuli Gurriel

The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor MLB's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: Media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members.

The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American and National Leagues from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.

Voting led off with seven categories on Sept. 18 at mlb.com/awards, serving as the grand entrance of a program that unveiled nominees for Best Call, TV/Radio; Best Major Leaguer, Postseason; and Best Postseason Moment following the Fall Classic's final out. The ninth inning of voting began around BBWAA Awards, which opened when the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winners were unveiled Monday. Voting for Best Executive began Nov. 9, and voting for the final three categories begins at 7 p.m. ET on the following dates:

Best Manager: Tuesday
Best Pitcher: Wednesday
Best Major Leaguer: Thursday

MLB Awards season culminates Friday, when winners are announced live on MLB Network and MLB.com starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.