J-Rod’s debut season culminates in AL ROY Award

‘Oh my, we might be winning something,’ says 21-year-old after Mr. Mariner delivers news

November 14th, 2022

SEATTLE — He boldly played his way onto the Opening Day roster with a Spring Training performance that these parts haven’t seen in years. He added credence to the Mariners’ decision to include him with a historic first season. He was Seattle’s best player in the year that it ended the longest active playoff drought in North American sports. All the while, he emerged as one of the young faces of the game.

And on Monday, Julio Rodríguez received the most rewarding validation yet for his epic 2022 when he was named the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award winner.

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Seattle’s star center fielder won the honor as voted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and he welcomed the news while seated next to his parents, becoming the fifth player in Mariners history to win the award, joining Kyle Lewis (2020), Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Alvin Davis (1984).

Rodríguez received 29 of 30 first-place votes for a total of 148 points, with Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman receiving one first-place nod and a total of 68 points. Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan received 44 total points.

“There were just so many things that I didn’t know about being in the big leagues,” Rodríguez said. “I feel like it definitely served as a learning experience, and I’m happy that I went through everything I went through in 2022, because it’s definitely going to build up a good foundation for 2023.”

With an All-Star nod and an AL Silver Slugger Award also under his belt, Rodríguez became the ninth position player to earn all three honors in the same season.

In a special moment bridging the club’s past and present, Davis — a special assignment instructor with Seattle and a mentor to Rodríguez since his Minor League days — revealed the news in a ceremony on MLB Network. Rodríguez also shares a special bond with Suzuki, making Monday’s win even more symbolic in the context of the franchise’s history.

“As soon as I saw A.D., I was like, ‘oh my, we might be winning something,’” Rodríguez said. “But it was amazing because everybody knows how good of a guy he is, and just having him, one of the Mariners greats, delivering that message was really special.”

Julio Rodríguez on ROY Award
Rodríguez is the eighth Dominican-born player to claim the Rookie of the Year Award in either league, along with Neftali Feliz (2010), Hanley Ramirez (2006), Angel Berroa (2003), Albert Pujols (2001), Rafael Furcal (2000), Raul Mondesi (1994) and Alfredo Griffin (1979). His hometown of Loma de Cabrera will host a parade later this winter much like they did for Furcal. Throughout his upbringing from the town of roughly 20,000 and to superstar stratosphere, Rodríguez has never forgotten where he’s from.

The 21-year-old Rodríguez, whose birthday isn’t until Dec. 29, led all rookies in virtually every offensive stat, including home runs (28), Wins Above Replacement — by both Baseball-Reference (6.0) and FanGraphs (5.3) — OPS (.854), wRC+ (146) and total bases (260). He ranked second in slugging percentage (.509), RBIs (75), runs scored (84) and stolen bases (25) and finished third in hits (145).

Rodríguez became the first player with at least 25 homers and 25 stolen bases in his debut season, and he was also the fastest (125 career games) to reach those feats, surpassing Mike Trout (128), who was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2012 and has since won the AL MVP Award three times. Rodríguez and Trout were both named AL Silver Slugger Award winners last Thursday, along with Aaron Judge, in the outfield.

Rodríguez, who was named the Mariners’ MVP by the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA at the end of the season, has also been recognized as the Baseball America Major League Rookie of the Year, The Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year and the Players Choice Awards AL Outstanding Rookie in 2022.

“I feel like all the learning experiences I had, all the doubts that I had throughout the year, I feel like that’s whenever I learned the most, on the down parts,” Rodríguez said. “That rough start at the beginning, when I maybe was not doing so good, I feel like all those things that happened the first year, that kind of opened my eyes. I’m going to take all that and I know it’s going to serve me well along my career.”

As for the Mariners, they benefited in another way from including Rodríguez on their Opening Day roster, receiving a Draft pick after the first round, an incentive in the new CBA to motivate teams to include their best young talent and discourage service-time manipulation.

Of course, none of that matters after Rodríguez signed a record extension in August that could keep him in Seattle for good. Monday’s award could be the first of many for the Mariners’ cornerstone.