Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) narrowed down the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year finalists to three players: Shohei Ohtani, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar.
Despite two players from the New York Yankees on the list, Ohtani from the LA Angels has the inside track to win the AL Rookie of the Year. Voting for individual awards is made by two members (from the Baseball Writers Association of America) from each American League city. The winner will be announced next week.
Ohtani (Pitcher/DH, LA Angels)
Shohei Ohtani has the inside track to win the AL Rookie of the Year. The two-way wunderkind from Japan finished with a 4-2 record as a pitcher with a 3.31 ERA over 51.2 innings. In only 367 plate appearances, Ohtani slugged 22 homeruns with a .285 batting average.
Ohtani spent time on the disabled list with a sprained elbow (torn UCL). Although he was cleared to return, the staff rested Ohtani’s arm and played him exclusively as a DH. With a spot start in September, Ohtani reached a milestone that he shares with Babe Ruth. Ohtani became the first player to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs in a season since Babe Ruth achieved the feat for the Boston Red Sox in 1919.
In Japan, Ohtani started his professional career at the age of 18 with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League. By his second season, he was a rare two-way player as a starting pitcher and designated hitter.
In his career in Japan, Ohtani finished with a 42-15 record as a pitcher and he hit 48 home runs with 166 RBIs.
In December 2017, Ohtani officially headed to the MLB when he made a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Although Ohtani was a productive two-way player in Japan, there was no guarantee he’d continue at the pro level in the States.
However, the 24-year old Ohtani impressed the Angels organization in Spring Training. Not only did he made the team as a starting pitcher, Ohtani was slated in the lineup as a DH. Ohtani’s skills at the plate as a left-handed hitter were so good that the Angels did not want to waste his offense. Ohtani was inserted into the Opening Day lineup as a DH.
Torres (Shortstop, NY Yankees)
Two more young Yankees are recognized once again for their excellence on the field, which is not a surprise considering the Baby Bombers were loaded with young talent. Last year, Aaron Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year and teammate Gary Sanchez was the runner up.
Gleyber Torres, a 21-year old infielder from Caracas, Venezuela, began the season in the Yankees AAA farm club in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. As a highly-touted prospect, many scouts ranked Torres as the #1 overall shortstop in the minors.
As a late-April call up, the Yankees inserted Torres into the lineup at second base. The Yankees dubbed the rookie their good luck charm because they won eight consecutive games after Torres’ call up.
Torres finished the season with a .271 batting average, but it was his power that turned heads in New York City. Torres hit 24 home runs and contributed to the Yankees breaking the record for most homers in the season.
Andujar (Third Base, NY Yankees)
Miguel Andujar, a 23-year old infielder from the Dominican Republic, almost came out of nowhere. Whereas Gleyber Torres was on the radar for many major league scouts, Andujar almost slipped past everyone.
Andujar started the season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees called him up in early April. Early in the season, Andujar got extra-base hits in seven consecutive games, which put him on a list with the legends Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. They are the only players under 24-years old who achieved that feat.
That was not the first and last time Andujar heard his name mentioned in the same breath as Hall of Famers. Andujar tied Fred Lynn for most doubles by a rookie with 47. Shoeless Joe Jackson is also fifth on that list.
Andujar finished the season hitting .297, while adding 27 home runs. As a doubles machine, Andujar led the Yankees in doubles.
Defense is Andujar’s sole weak point. In the playoffs, manager Aaron Boone lifted Andujar in late innings for a defensive replacement.