Precocious Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna has slugged his way to a National League Rookie of the Year Award, while two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani took the top honors in the American League. While there were strong alternatives in both cases, these two players were the runaway favorites of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters. Juan Soto of the Nationals and Miguel Andujar of the Yankees were the respective runners up.
The 20-year-old Acuna burst onto the scene in 2018, launching 26 home runs and swiping 16 bags in 486 trips to the plate. He ended the season with a stellar .293/.366/.552 batting line. Already viewed as one of the game’s most exciting talents entering the 2018 campaign, Acuna now seems poised to take his place among the very best players in the majors.
It seemed at one point as if Juan Soto — who is even younger than Acuna — would run away with things in the NL. But Acuna went on a tear to end the season, helping lead his club to a stunning NL East title. Both of those players appear likely to clash in thrilling fashion well into the future in the division. (Things will presumably remain friendly, as the two seem to have hit it off on tour in Japan.) And it’ll also be fascinating to watch them each step into the box against third-place finisher Walker Buehler of the Dodgers, who had an exceptional debut season from the mound.
The trio of AL finalists was rather an exciting one as well. Ohtani, 24, staked out a position as the most fascinating baseball player on the planet by turning in high-end performances from the mound and the batter’s box. Primarily lauded for his promise as a hurler, Ohtani exceeded expectations with ten starts of 3.31 ERA ball with 11.0 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9. While his time on the bump was curtailed by a UCL surgery that ultimately required Tommy John surgery, Ohtani proved stunningly productive with the bat as well. Though he benefited from platoon usage, and was limited to DH usage, Ohtani actually bested Acuna and Soto in wRC+ (152 vs. 143 and 146, respectivey).
Andujar was the clear number two in the minds of voters, taking all of the five first-place votes that did not go to Ohtani. The 23-year-old’s output wasn’t quite as eye-popping as those of the others discussed in this post, but he did it over a full season. Andujar ended up popping 27 long balls with a .297/.328/.527 slash in 606 plate appearances, though his glovework did not receive glowing reviews. Unless things are shaken up by trade, he’ll presumably pair with fellow Yankees infielder and third-place AL ROY finisher Gleyber Torres for years to come.