Judge crushed 52 home runs for the Yankees, the most by a rookie in MLB history, breaking Mark McGwire’s record of 49 homers that had stood for 30 years. He was a long shot to even make the Opening Day roster after struggling during his first taste of the Majors in 2016, but he hit 10 homers in April and was off and running. Judge is up against American League finalists Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox and Trey Mancini of the Orioles.
On the opposite coast, Bellinger — who’s a finalist in the National League along with Josh Bell of the Pirates and Paul DeJong of the Cardinals — came up to join the Dodgers in late April, though he said himself he didn’t think he would join the club before September. He started hitting homers at a record-setting pace, finishing the year with 39 in 132 games to surpass the National League rookie mark of 38 round-trippers held by Wally Berger (1930) and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (1956).
If Judge and Bellinger both win, their combined 91 homers would be by far the highest total for a pair of Rookies of the Year. The current best is 67, which was accomplished by McGwire and Benito Santiago (18) in 1987. Behind them are Mike Piazza (35 dingers) and Tim Salmon (31) in 1993. And if they both win, it sets up a likely head-to-head duel for the overall top rookie in the Majors when the candidates for Best Rookie in the Esurance MLB Awards are announced.
Both Judge and Bellinger’s clubs rallied around their game-changing power, surging to the postseason and, in the Dodgers’ case, within a win of the World Series title. Both Judge’s Yankees and Bellinger’s Dodgers took the World Series champion Astros to a seventh game before faltering. With each mighty swing, both the American and National League Rookie of the Year Awards began to look more and more like foregone conclusions.
Here are more facts you should know about the potential history Judge and Bellinger could make by capturing the Rookie of the Year Awards.
If Judge and Bellinger are unanimously voted the Rookies of the Year, that would put them in star company. There have been 21 unanimous Rookies of the Year in MLB history: Corey Seager (2016 NL), Kris Bryant (’15 NL), Jose Abreu (’14 AL), Mike Trout (’12 AL), Craig Kimbrel (’11 NL), Evan Longoria (’08 AL), Albert Pujols (’01 NL), Scott Rolen (1997 NL), Nomar Garciaparra (’97 AL), Derek Jeter (’96 AL), Raul Mondesi (’94 NL), Piazza (’93 NL), Salmon (’93 AL), Sandy Alomar (’90 AL), Santiago (’87 NL), McGwire (’87 AL), Vince Coleman (’85 NL), Carlton Fisk (’72 AL), Willie McCovey (’59 NL), Orlando Cepeda (’58 NL) and Frank Robinson (’56 NL).
Only three times have both Rookies of the Year swept the first-place votes since the award was first given out in both leagues in 1949.
Unanimous Rookies of the Year in NL and AL
1997: Rolen, PHI (NL); Garciaparra, BOS (AL)
1993: Piazza, LAD (NL); Salmon, LAA (AL)
1987: Santiago, SD (NL); McGwire, OAK (AL)
Between them, those six players went on to combine for 42 All-Star seasons, 12 Gold Glove Awards and 20 Silver Slugger Awards in their Major League careers.
The Dodgers and Yankees top the list of MLB franchises with the most Rookies of the Year since the award’s inception in 1947 — when Brooklyn’s own Jackie Robinson became the inaugural Rookie of the Year. The Dodgers’ 17 winners are the Major League record, whikle New York’s eight are tied with the A’s for the AL record. The Dodgers have the reigning NL Rookie of the Year in Seager, but the Yankees haven’t had an AL winner since Jeter helped kick off their 1990s dynasty.
Most Rookie of the Year Awards by franchise
1. Dodgers: 17
2-T. Yankees: 8
2-T. A’s: 8
4-T. Braves: 7
4-T. Reds: 7
4-T. Orioles: 7
4-T. Twins: 7
The Dodgers’ Rookies of the Year: Seager (2016), Todd Hollandsworth (1996), Hideo Nomo (’95), Mondesi (’94), Piazza (’93), Eric Karros (’92), Steve Sax (’82), Fernando Valenzuela (’81), Steve Howe (’80), Rick Sutcliffe (’79), Ted Sizemore (’69), Jim Lefebvre (’65), Frank Howard (’60), Jim Gilliam (’53), Joe Black (’52), Don Newcombe (’49) and Jackie Robinson (’47).
The Yankees’ Rookies of the Year: Jeter (1996), Dave Righetti (’81), Thurman Munson (’70), Stan Bahnsen (’68), Tom Tresh (’62), Tony Kubek (’57), Bob Grim (’54) and Gil McDougald (’51).
Hall of Fame
The Rookie of the Year Award is, essentially, where the path started for these players, and some have taken it all the way to Cooperstown. Sixteen players who have won the Rookie of the Year Award went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And several more appear to be headed that way — players like Jeter, Carlos Beltran (1999 AL), Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki (2001 AL) and Trout.
The Dodgers have had two Rookies of the Year go on to make the Hall of Fame: Jackie Robinson and Piazza. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Yankees have not had anyone win a Rookie of the Year in pinstripes and then make the Hall.
The full roster of Rookies of the Year who are in the Hall of Fame: Jackie Robinson (1947), Willie Mays (’51 NL), Frank Robinson (’56 NL), Luis Aparicio (’56 AL), Cepeda (’58 NL), McCovey (’59 NL), Billy Williams (’61 NL), Tom Seaver (’67 NL), Rod Carew (’67 AL), Johnny Bench (’68 NL), Carlton Fisk (’72 AL), Andre Dawson (’77 NL), Eddie Murray (’77 AL), Cal Ripken Jr. (’82 AL), Jeff Bagwell (’91 NL) and Piazza (’93 NL).
How they got here
Bellinger and Judge took slightly different paths to the 2013 MLB Draft, with the Yankees taking Judge out of California State University, Fresno with the 32nd overall pick, and the Dodgers selecting Bellinger in the fourth round out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz. Judge would be the 46th player to win a Rookie of the Year Award after being drafted out of a college or university since the MLB Amateur Draft began in 1965, while Bellinger would be the 31st player to win after he was drafted out of high school. Nine players have gone from signing as undrafted free agents to winning the Rookie of the Year, with a majority doing so in the very first years of the Draft Era.
Path to Major Leagues for Rookie of the Year Award winners, since Draft was instituted in 1965
Drafted out of college/university: 45
Drafted out of high school: 30
Drafted out of junior or community college: 7
Signed as international free agent: 15
Signed as undrafted free agent: 9
Judge would be the 21st Rookie of the Year winner to hail from California, by far the most of any of the 50 states. Bellinger, meanwhile, would be the first to hail from Arizona. The Dominican Republic has produced the most international Rookie of the Year winners with seven.
Most Rookies of the Year by birthplace
1. California: 20
2. New Jersey: 9
3. Texas: 8
4-T. Alabama: 6
4-T. Missouri: 6
4-T. Ohio: 6
4-T. Pennsylvania: 6
Puerto Rico: 6 Rookies of the Year
International Rookies of the Year
Dominican Republic: 7
Should Judge claim the AL Rookie of the Year Award, he would become the 40th outfielder to be honored. That would snap a tie with pitchers (38) for the most Rookie of the Year Awards given to any single position, and Judge would be the first outfielder to be honored since Wil Myers of the Rays in 2013. Bellinger would be 13th first baseman to be named his league’s top rookie, the first since White Sox slugger Jose Abreu in ’14 and the first NL first baseman to win it since the Phillies’ Ryan Howard in ’05.
Most Rookie of the Year Awards by position
1-T. Outfielders: 38
1-T. Pitchers: 38
3. Shortstops: 19
4. First basemen: 12
5-T. Second basemen: 11
5-T. Third basemen: 11
7. Catchers: 9
8. Designated hitters: 2
Pitchers have been the rookies du jour in recent years, claiming seven of the 20 Rookie of the Year Awards given over the past decade, followed by four honorees from the outfield in that span. A Bellinger victory would quench a relative drought on the right side of the infield; Abreu is the only first baseman to win in the past decade, while no second baseman has claimed a Rookie of the Year since the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia in 2007 — the longest drought of any full-time position.
As stated above, the Rookie of the Year Award has been given to only two designated hitters: Eddie Murray of the Orioles in 1977 and Bob Hamelin of the Royals in ’94.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.