Hello folks, and welcome back to FanPost Friday. As we await the final Rookie of the Year award announcement on Monday and with Julio Rodríguez the clear favorite to win it, I decided to make today’s post dedicated to all the Mariners Rookie of the Year award winners throughout the years. Surely you know these fine gentlemen.
First up, Mr. Mariner himself, Alvin Davis.
Mariners fans didn’t have a whole lot to hang their hats on during the first seven seasons, but Alvin changed that in 1984 with a rollicking full season campaign that, stats-wise, would hold up very well in the modern era. He won the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year award ever and continued to be a cornerstone of the team through 1991 with his second best season coming in 1989 with 155 wRC+. He also mentored ascending star Ken Griffey, Jr. and countless other young players during his time with the team.
Next up, reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki.
Gregg Olson was the first reliever to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1989 and it didn’t happen again until Kaz won it in 2000. Since then, five relievers have won the award, which interestingly mirrors the evolution of the way pitchers are used in MLB.
Kazuhiro, of course, had a whole NPB career playing in Japan before coming to the Mariners, so his peak with the team was short, but extremely thrilling as anyone who remembers Dave Niehaus referring to Kaz’s filthy splitter as “the THANG” can attest to.
Over the course of the following season, the singular Ichiro Suzuki turned the baseball world upside down.
I mean, look at it. Are you kidding me?
Looking at Ichiro’s career stats is always a mind-boggling, fanning-yourself kind of experience, but man, that rookie season right there is something else. In 157 games, he walked 4.1% of the time. He only struck out 7.2% of the time. Go ahead and take a look at all the other ROY winner K% out there. Insane, right? (Shoutout to staff writer Connor for pointing out to me how funny it is that Ichiro led the league in IBB in 2002, an adjustment by the league that surely would not have taken an entire season to happen nowadays.)
Even more remarkable is that Ichiro was already the Michael Jordan of Japan after nine NPB seasons, and THEN he came to MLB and also had a Hall of Fame career in which he made the game adjust to HIM, not the other way around. I am forever out of words to describe how incredible of a baseball player Ichiro was and how special it is that he was a Mariner.
Moving on, some 19 years later, as Kyle Lewis made some noise in the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Obviously, 58 games gets a big ol’ asterisk, but it’s still an impressive performance at the plate along with some dynamite plays in center field. The fact that he came back at all from the significant knee injury he suffered in Everett in 2016 to play this well for even a short span of time is incredible. Sadly, the knee injuries compounded in 2021 and his future with the team looks grim currently, but we’ll always have a bright spot in an otherwise tragic and horrible year to look back on.
That brings us to the present. If you’ve been kinda busy/distracted/still trying to wrap your head around the postseason like me, maybe you haven’t looked at Julio Rodríguez’s final 2022 stat line. Take a gander at this beauty.
It became a running joke here at LL—“are we under-appreciating Julio Rodríguez?”—after Julio took about a month to adjust to MLB pitching and then never looked back. It’s true, folks. In 2022, we saw a superstar blossom before our eyes. The one we’d been waiting for. The homegrown, talented prospect the team identified as a teen in the Dominican Republic and invested in, carefully and cautiously developing him in the minors over the course of four and a half years, and now we’ve seen what he can do over the course of a full MLB season. A season that just so happened to include the team’s first postseason appearance in 21 years. Oh, and the historic and performance incentive-laden contract he signed in August guarantees we’ll get to see the majority of his playing career in Seattle, at the very least. The optimism I feel for Julio’s career is beautifully and joyfully intoxicating.
All right, let’s wrap things up with a PROMPT!
In the comments, give us your definitive, purely subjective ranking of Mariners ROY winners and where you’ll place Julio if/when he wins it. Don’t just rank them strictly by fWAR totals, give us your subjective rationals for your rankings.
Have at it, and let’s go Juliooooooooo!!!!