NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Aaron Judge was rewarded for his record-breaking season Monday with the American League Rookie of the Year award.
The Yankees slugger was a unanimous choice for the honor, as was Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger in the National League voting. The awards are voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Judge broke Mark McGwire’s major league record for home runs by a rookie with 52, many of them jaw-dropping, tape-measure shots. He led the American League in homers, runs scored (128) and walks (127) while batting .284 for a Yankees team that fell one win short of the World Series.
The 25-year-old did battle through a lengthy slump following the All-Star break — in which he broke the major league record for consecutive games with a strikeout. But he bounced back with a strong September, hitting .311 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs during a playoff chase.
Judge becomes the ninth Yankee to win Rookie of the Year and the first since Derek Jeter received the honor in 1996. Other Yankees to win the award, which began in 1947, were Gil McDougald (1951), Bob Grim (1954), Tony Kubek (1957), Tom Tresh (1962), Stan Bahnsen (1968), Thurman Munson (1970) and Dave Righetti (1981).
Now the question is whether Judge can also take home the AL MVP, which will be announced Thursday. He and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve are widely considered the front-runners.
The Red Sox’s Fred Lynn (1975) and the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki (2001) are the only players who have won Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.
“Obviously it was an amazing, remarkable year that no one would have predicted,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “When you drop 52 — I think he really should have had 53, one that instant replay didn’t protect. … It should be a higher number. It was just an incredible year.”
The Yankees entered this season with marginal expectations by their standards, but the prodigious power of Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez transformed them almost overnight into an exciting young team with tremendous potential. They made the postseason as a wild card.
“It’s exciting times right now to be wearing pinstripes,” Judge said. “To come up through the minor leagues with a lot of these guys, watch them develop, and now to see what they’re doing at the major league level is really impressive.”
Like Judge, Bellinger set the rookie home run record in his own league, hitting 39 — a feat made more impressive by the fact that he was not called up to the majors until late April. The 22-year-old, who split time between first base and the outfield, batted .271 with 97 RBIs for the National League champions.
“The future is bright in L.A.,” Bellinger said. “I know that I’m excited, as well as the other teammates. Obviously, we didn’t have the end goal this year, but we’re going to try and take it to the next level next year.”
Bellinger made his big league debut in late April. By the time he turned 22 on July 13, he had 25 home runs. The 6-foot-4 first baseman is an appropriate counterpart to the powerful Judge. They even hit from opposite sides of the plate: Judge is a righty and Bellinger swings left-handed.
“He’s not just a guy that went up there and hit home runs,” Judge said. “He was a guy that played high-caliber first base for them. He could go out there and roam center field, left field, right field, wherever they needed him. To have that type of versatility and produce the numbers he did is something that you don’t find too often.”
It’s the second year in a row a Dodger won Rookie of the Year. Last season, Corey Seager received the award.
The Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi finished second in the AL voting while the Orioles’ Trey Mancini was third.
In the NL voting, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong was second while the Pirates’ Josh Bell finished third.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)