Casas finishes third for AL Rookie of the Year

November 13th, 2023

BOSTON -- A dramatic in-season surge by in which he turned into one of the most dangerous hitters in the game wasn’t quite enough for the left-handed-hitting first baseman to win the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award.

While the trophy went to Baltimore phenom Gunnar Henderson, that should not diminish the strong first season from Casas, who finished third with 25 points (six second-place votes and seven third-place votes).

Casas was vying to become the seventh Rookie of the Year in Red Sox history and first since Dustin Pedroia in 2007.

The way Casas rebounded so strongly from a rough start was reminiscent of what Pedroia did in ’07.

On May 1, Casas had a batting line of .128/.281/.282 in 96 plate appearances.

“Any time I can get my name mentioned in the same sentence as Dustin Pedroia, I think I'm doing something right,” said Casas in July.

Just like with Pedroia 16 years earlier, the Sox stayed patient with Casas and let him solve his issues at the Major League level.

From June 1 until his season ended on Sept. 14 due to a nagging right shoulder injury, Casas was as big a force as the Red Sox had in their lineup, putting together a line of .299/.397/.556 with 18 homers. He had an eye-popping 1.034 OPS after the All-Star break.

Among AL Rookies with at least 400 at-bats, Casas finished first in OPS (.857), slugging percentage (.490) and on-base percentage (.367) while finishing second in homers (24), second in walks (70) and fourth in RBIs (65).

Casas stood out not just among rookies, but among his more seasoned teammates, leading the club in walks, OBP and OPS while finishing second to Rafael Devers in homers.

Not only that, but Casas became the first qualified rookie for the Red Sox to lead the team in OPS since Fred Lynn in 1975. His OPS was the highest for a qualified Sox rookie since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. Lynn and Garciaparra both won Rookie of the Year in those seasons.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Casas as a rookie was his advanced batting eye. According to Elias, Casas is only the fourth Boston rookie to lead the club in walks. That small club includes Joe Foy (1966), Ted Williams (1939) and Marv Olson (1932).

Casas also had the advanced stats to prove his season was no fluke, as he ranked in MLB’s 75th percentile or higher in xwOBA (92nd, .371), walk rate (93rd, 13.9), xSLG (89th, .500), barrel rate (86th, 13.1), chase rate (86th, 22.1), hard-hit rate (80th, 46.6), and average exit velocity (77th, 91.1).

Pedroia is a regular watcher of Red Sox baseball from his home in Arizona and reveled in watching the way Casas bounced back.

“You get thrown into an environment as a young player and there’s a lot of expectations,” Pedroia said. “At the big league level, it’s hard. There’s not a level higher. To have patience with a young player, obviously you take a hit in the short term but in the long term you get so many gains as an organization. That’s what happened.

“Did everybody know he was going to hit? Yeah. Did they know it was going to take a month, two months, a year? You don’t know. You don’t know how many at-bats it’s going to take for a young player to be himself. To see what he’s doing is outstanding.

“The game is about adjustments and being able to adjust to the other team making adjustments to you. The faster you make adjustments, the better you’re going to be. I saw him making adjustments not only game to game but pitch to pitch.”