Rookie of the Year Watch: 2022 American League at the Break
We have reached the mid-point of the 2022 season and now the American League Rookie of the Year watch is on. There are clear favorites and contenders. Who are the candidates for the award at season’s end? The breakdown will be done in tiers from favorites to contenders to sleepers.
2022 American League Rookie of the Year Favorites
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
Rodriguez is the second-youngest player in the American League. As the only rookie selected to the 2022 All-Star Game, he ranks in the American League Top 10 in various offensive stats. Rodriguez currently second in the junior circuit at the All-Star Break in stolen bases. The Seattle Mariners are one of the most exciting teams to watch in baseball due to the play of Rodriguez. He is a central figure in the Mariners’ uber-hot run towards the All-Star Break and will be a big factor down the stretch.
Jeremy Peña, SS, Houston Astros
Taking over for Carlos Correa, who bolted for the Minnesota Twins, is one thing, but making an impact like that of Correa in his rookie season, that is another. Peña is a very exciting player to watch on the field and at the plate and has been a central figure on why the Astros are near the top of the Major League food chain. Peña currently ranks fifth in the American League in Defensive WAR. If he improves at the plate, he may give Rodriguez a run for his money for Rookie of the Year honors.
Joe Ryan, SP, Minnesota Twins
Being named as the Opening Day starting pitcher for any team as a rookie carries a lot of weight. Joe Ryan has proven to the Twins and the rest of baseball that he is a force to be reckoned with. Ryan entered the All-Star break first in innings pitched and wins among American League rookies. Despite the departure of pitching coach Wes Johnson to LSU, Ryan is a major reason why the Twins are in first place. If the Twins are in the playoff race, expect the rookie to be their go-to for do-or-die situations.
2022 American League Rookie of the Year Contenders
Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles
Already drawing comparisons to Joe Mauer, Adley Rutschman is a player that has helped the Baltimore Orioles with a historic turnaround when it comes to wins and losses. Getting off to a very slow start offensively certainly doesn’t help his chances to win the award but things can change. Assuming Orioles reach the postseason, the voters will certainly have to give him some consideration. Putting the ball in play certainly is not a problem for Rutschman. He is fourth among rookies in baseball in doubles.
Reid Detmers, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Heading into the All-Star Break, Reid Detmers is one of only three pitchers in the American League with a shutout to his credit. Detmers and the Angels got off to a very hot start the season. The Angels and Detmers have since struggled. If Detmers can find ways to change things up in the middle innings, there is a chance he and the Angels will turn things around and make a run for the Wild Card race.
Steven Kwan, LF, Cleveland Guardians
Named as the April AL Rookie of the Month, Steven Kwan has shown baseball that he has the potential to be among the sport’s rising stars. Kwan’s performance on the field and at the plate has certainly given the Guardians a boost towards the top of the American League Central and maybe a wild card berth. Entering the All-Star Break, Kwan ranks sixth in the American League in triples and second in outfield assists.
Bobby Witt, Jr., SS/3B, Kansas City Royals
Coming into 2022, no rookie had more hype than that of Bobby Witt, Jr. Even with a slow start, Witt has significantly improved. He leads rookies or is near the top of the AL in multiple offensive categories. In any other year, Witt certainly would be the talk of baseball. That said, the sport has a funny way of making headlines. If Witt can improve his batting average, he could find his way at or near the top by season’s end.
Jhoan Duran, RP, Minnesota Twins
Every time Duran gets on the mound, the Twins find themselves in an improved situation to win a ball game. The Dominican right-hander has a 6.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 2.48 ERA. When Duran gets ahead in the count, is one of the toughest pitchers to challenge. The question for Duran is whether he can make some adjustments once hitters get more familiar with his arsenal.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are having a rough season but one of its bright spots is the play of the 2020 first overall draft pick Spencer Torkelson. While his offense needs improvement, his defense has the attention of the Tigers and many in baseball. Torkelson is fourth in the American League in total zone fielding runs as a first baseman. He also leads the league assists at first. He trails only Paul Goldschmidt among first basemen in the majors in fielding percentage. His defensive play is definitely worthy of gaining a Gold Glove in his rookie season.
A.J. Puk, RP, Oakland Athletics
While the Oakland Athletics have made plenty of news for all the wrong reasons this season, one of their bright spots has come out of the bullpen with A.J. Puk. Through the break, Puk has posted a 2.41 ERA with 40 strikeouts and a 0.965 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings pitched in 33 total games. With his numbers, the Athletics may have to trade Puk at the deadline as his value increases.
Jake Burger, 3B/2B, Chicago White Sox
Drafted 11th overall in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Jake Burger has been in the rebuilding plans of the Chicago White Sox and it is certainly starting to pay off. Burger’s hitting has been rather respectable, but he has plenty of work to do on the field and at the plate to impress. Among rookies in the American League, he is ranked in the Top 15 in most offensive categories. With the White Sox in the Wild Card race, Burger’s defense will be key on their chances.
Brock Burke, RP, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers have a ways to go if they want to find themselves in the middle of the playoff race, but one of their bright spots has been the performance of left-handed reliever Brock Burke. Entering the All-Star break, Burke carried a 1.17 ERA with 48 strikeouts alongside a 0.979 WHIP. Burke’s performance has been the subject of trade talk teams at the top of the standings looking for relief help. On the road, the numbers and his performance tend to go more in his favor.
Felix Bautista, RP, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles not only have Rutschman, they have a strong right-handed reliever in Felix Bautista. In 39 games, Bautista has 44 strikeouts on top of a 1.72 ERA and a WHIP of 0.979. Before the 10-game win streak, Bautista was one of the trade rumors. That has now come into question as the Orioles make a push for a shot at a playoff berth. Bautista is fifth among rookies in baseball in WAR with a 1.4 posting at the break.
Jose Miranda, 1B/3B, Minnesota Twins
The Twins rookie class is certainly making an impact on their team’s postseason aspirations. Jose Miranda is no different. Miranda’s offense has the Twins talking. He is fourth among American League rookies in total RBI and eighth in doubles. Continued improvement may help the Twins secure a lengthy run in the postseason. If his batting average jumps up, Miranda just might go from sleeper to contender.
Julio Rodriguez, Jeremy Peña, Carlos Correa, Joe Ryan, Wes Johnson, Adley Rutschman, Joe Mauer, Reid Detmers, Steven Kwan, Bobby Witt, Jhoan Duran, Spencer Torkelson, Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Puk, Jake Burger, Brock Burke, Felix Bautista, Jose Miranda