We just began a series that examines how the Rookies of the Year from each decade panned out. Naturally, after going from 2000-09 in the National League, we’ll stay in that decade and turn our attention to the AL…
2000 – Kazuhiro Sasaki, RP, Mariners:
- Sasaki was a star in his homeland of Japan before immigrating to the majors and signing with Seattle, where he continued to keep runs off the board at an impressive rate. The right-hander put up 62 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball with 37 saves as a rookie. While Sasaki only played through 2003, he enjoyed a nice major league career in which he posted a 3.14 ERA with 9.75 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 129 saves and two All-Star appearances over 223 1/3 frames.
2001 – Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners:
- Back-to-back Mariners, both from Japan. Ichiro, who beat out then-Indian C.C. Sabathia for ROY honors, was among the driving forces on an incredible M’s team that won 116 regular-season games. Not only was he the top rookie in his first season, but the exhilarating Ichiro took home the MVP, won his first of two batting titles and made his first of 10 All-Star teams with a .350/.381/.457 line, 56 stolen bases and 6.0 fWAR. Ichiro didn’t spend his entire career in Seattle – he also was a Yankee and Marlin – but things came full-circle when he wrapped up his playing days as a Mariner in 2019. He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes.
2002 – Eric Hinske, 3B, Blue Jays:
- Hinske peaked in Year 1 with a .279/.365/.481 showing, 24 homers and 4.8 fWAR. He did play through 2013 with a few other teams, but he didn’t register especially valuable production after his first season. However, Hinske did end up as a .249/.332/.430 hitter with 137 HRs and 11.2 fWAR, so he had a better MLB career than most.
2003 – Angel Berroa, SS, Royals:
- Hideki Matsui, Rocco Baldelli and Mark Teixeira were also among the AL’s top rookies that year, but they all lost out to Berroa. Those three ultimately had far better overall careers than Berroa, though. While Berroa was a .287/.338/.451 batter who totaled 17 HRs, 21 steals and 2.7 fWAR in his rookie season, he never came close to matching that output again. Berroa, also a Dodger, Met and Yankee through 2009, was a minus-0.1 fWAR player for the rest of his career, and he said goodbye as a .258/.303/.374/ hitter.
2004 – Bobby Crosby, SS, Athletics:
- Another sign that ROY voting isn’t an indicator of long-term success: Zack Greinke finished fourth in that year’s balloting. Crosby was productive that season and the next, during which he combined for 6.4 fWAR, but was nowhere near as valuable thereafter. He posted a combined 0.1 fWAR with the A’s, Pirates and Diamondbacks into 2010, the last season he appeared in the majors.
2005 – Huston Street, RP, Athletics:
- The second consecutive winner for Oakland, Street beat out runner-up Robinson Cano by logging a sterling 1.72 ERA and converting 23 of 27 save opportunities. It was the beginning of a strong career for Street, who managed a 2.95 ERA with 324 saves from 2005-17 as an Athletic, Rockie, Padre and Angel. Notably, Street was part of the 2008 blockbuster that saw him, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith go to Colorado in exchange for Matt Holliday.
2006 – Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers:
- Future Hall of Famer No. 2 on this list. The fireballing Verlander pitched to a 3.63 ERA across 186 innings in 2006, when the Tigers lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, yet his production has trended way upward since then. Now a member of the Astros, with whom he has won two pennants and a World Series, the 37-year-old is the owner of a 3.33 ERA with 9.07 K/9 and 2.57 BB/9 in 453 starts and just under 3,000 innings. Verlander’s an eight-time All-Star, someone who has pitched three no-hitters, won two AL Cy Youngs (including last season) and taken home an MVP. He’s also 27th all-time in pitcher fWAR (72.0).
2007 – Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox:
- Pedroia may also have a Hall of Fame case, though injuries have ruined a tremendous career over the past few seasons and could prevent the 36-year-old from making his way back to a major league diamond. Nevertheless, Pedroia will go down as one of the most accomplished Red Sox players ever. It all began in Year 1 with a .317/.380/.442 line and 3.7 fWAR. Pedroia was on his first of three World Series-winnings teams then. He’s also now a four-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glover and a one-time MVP who has slashed .299/.365./439 with 140 homers, 138 steals and 46.6 fWAR in the bigs.
2008 – Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays:
- We’re on a good run now. Longoria batted .272/.343/.531 with 27 homers and 5.6 fWAR as a rookie to help the Rays to their only AL pennant. He’s now a franchise icon who largely thrived in Tampa Bay through 2017, though the team traded him to San Francisco after that. Longoria’s production has dropped off lately, but there’s no denying he has had a wonderful career. The 34-year-old is a three-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner who has batted .267/.335/.474 with 297 HRs and 51.1 fWAR.
2009 – Andrew Bailey, RP, Athletics:
- The decade concluded with three A’s winning this award. Bailey earned it with 83 1/3 innings of 1.84 ERA ball and 26 saves, and he continued to hold his own over the next couple years. However, injuries took their toll after that, and Oakland traded Bailey to Boston in 2011 in a deal that delivered Josh Reddick to the A’s. That worked out for the A’s, but Bailey wasn’t often healthy or effective as part of the Red Sox from 2012-13. He went on to pitch for Yankees, Angels and Phillies from 2015-17, though he also couldn’t revisit his A’s form with any of those teams. That said, Bailey had a more-than-respectable career, in which he logged a 3.12 ERA with 9.05, 2.99 BB/9 and 95 saves, and earned two All-Star nods.