MLB Rookie of the Year Watch: Judge still in control of AL

By Joel Devick

Sports Blogger

@theozoneonline

 

American League

Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees

(Keisha Morrison, Flickr)

Despite an MLB-record strikeout streak that has climbed to 37 games, Aaron Judge has held onto the top spot in the American League for rookies this year by a sizeable margin with his hot first half of the 2017 campaign. Judge still holds the lead for the AL in homeruns with a whopping 37 dingers, and he’s proved his worth to the Yankees with a 5.2 WAR and 80 RBIs this season.

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

While not having as flashy of a season as his AL East counterpart, Benintendi has quietly put together a solid campaign for the division-leading Red Sox. Benintendi ranks third in hits among rookies and his Beantown teammates, and his 68 RBIs and .277 average isn’t too shabby either.

Yuli Gurriel, 1B/3B, Houston Astros

Giving a 33-year-old MLB first-timer the most chances at the plate among rooks is a bit of a cop out, but the consistent Cuban has held his own in a stacked Astros infield that includes MVP candidate Jose Altuve. Gurriel leads all AL rookies in hits and hits for extra bases, and is tied for first among rookies with more than 100 plate appearances in batting average with a solid .295 percentage.

 

National League

Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

The 21-year-old first baseman has absolutely raked this year with 34 homers and 79 RBIs off a .279 average and 101 hits. For a few weeks in June, Bellinger and Judge were racing to see how many home runs they could hit before the All-Star break at a torrid pace and were doing so in seemingly effortless fashion. Both have since cooled off, but unlike Judge, Bellinger has not suffered a crippling Home Run Derby hangover.

Paul Dejong, 2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals

While appearing in only a little over half of St. Louis’ games this season, Dejong has put up a .299 batting average, the best among all NL newcomers. He has a team-leading .910 OPS, as well. In what has been a disappointing Cardinals season since the Central Division has been so wide open, the middle infielder has been a welcome surprise.

Kyle Freeland, SP, Colorado Rockies

Not often do pitchers crack the discussion for rookie of the year, but Freeland’s steady form and veteran poise give the lefty a nod here. Freeland has been the best pitcher on an upstart Rockies team this year with a 3.71 ERA, 89 strikeouts and 11-8 record. The best part about Freeland’s rise is that his peers have made it with him. Four rookie pitchers have started more than 15 games this year for Colorado.

ozone@ocolly.com

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