1990 – David Justice, OF, Braves:
- This marked the beginning of a decorated career for Justice, who slashed .282/.373/.535 with 28 home runs in 504 plate appearances as a rookie. The Braves were only a 65-win team that season, but thanks in part to Justice, they became a powerhouse after that. The club made three World Series appearance, winning one Fall Classic (in 1995), with Justice on its roster. But the Braves traded Justice and Marquis Grissom to the team they knocked off, the Indians, prior to the ’97 campaign for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. Justice continued to succeed as an Indian, though they dealt him to the Yankees during the 2000 season. He went on to win his second title then. Although Justice’s numbers dipped as a Yankee and Athletic from 2001-02, he finished his career as a .279/.378/.500 hitter with 305 homers, 40.4 fWAR and three All-Star bids.
1991 – Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros:
- Acquired from Boston a year earlier in a trade the Red Sox would still like back, Bagwell got off to a terrific start – he hit .294/.387/437 with 4.3 fWAR as a rookie – and only improved from there. He’s now an Astros legend, a Baseball Hall of Famer and someone who put up a .297/.408/.540 line with 449 homers, 202 steals, 80.2 fWAR, four All-Star nods and an MVP through 2005.
1992 – Eric Karros, 1B, Dodgers:
- Compared to the first couple players on this list, Karros had a modest impact in his first year, when he batted .257/.304/.426 with 20 homers and 1.0 fWAR. But Karros still enjoyed a better career than most, as he swatted 284 HRs and hit .266/.325/.454 with 17.8 fWAR as a Dodger, Cub and Athletic through 2004.
1993 – Mike Piazza, C, Dodgers:
- The second straight Dodger to win and the second eventual Hall of Famer on this list, Piazza made an incredible impact from the get-go. He slashed .318/.370/.561 with 35 dingers and 7.4 fWAR in Year 1 – the first of 12 All-Star seasons. Also a former Marlin, Met (they retired his No. 31), Athletic and Padre, Piazza hung it up in 2007 as a .308/.377/.545 batter who smacked 427 homers and accounted for 63.7 fWAR.
1994 – Raul Mondesi, OF, Dodgers:
- Make that three consecutive Dodgers. Mondesi hit .306/.333/.516 with 16 homers and 11 steals in his first year, which proved to be the first of several above-average offensive efforts for him. Overall, he was a two-time 30/30 man who racked up 271 homers, 229 steals, recorded a .273/.331/.485 line, and collected 26.5 fWAR as a Dodger, Blue Jay, Yankee, Diamondback, Pirate, Angel and Brave from 1993-2004. Mondesi later became the mayor of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, but that ended with a prison sentence for corruption. In better news, his son Adalberto Mondesi looks as if he could be a long-term cornerstone for the Royals.
1995 – Hideo Nomo, SP, Dodgers:
- Hey, another Dodger, and the first NL pitcher of the decade to win the award. Nomo, a Japanese import who was the first player born there to play in the majors since 1965, was a sensation early in his MLB career. He spun 191 1/3 innings of 2.54 ERA ball with over 11 strikeouts per nine as a rookie. That proved to be Nomo’s best season, but he did put together a few more quality ones through 2008, and he tossed two no-hitters along the way. The former Dodger, Met, Brewer, Tiger, Red Sox, Ray and Royal logged a 4.24 ERA with 8.73 K/9 and 4.13 BB/9 in 1,976 1/3 innings in the bigs.
1996 – Todd Hollandsworth, OF, Dodgers:
- In order to win this award, it was apparently a requirement to play for the Dodgers. Hollandsworth hit .291/.348/.437 with 12 homers and 21 steals in his debut season, though his impact in the league wasn’t that great otherwise. He totaled 5.2 fWAR (1.2 as a rookie) with a handful of teams from 1995-2006.
1997 – Scott Rolen, 3B, Phillies:
- Rolen put an end to the Dodgers’ ROY reign Hall of Famer with a stellar first season, in which he was a .283/.377/.469 hitter with 21 homers and 4.3 fWAR. Rolen was largely an outstanding offensive player with the Phils, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds through 2012 – he batted a lifetime .281/.364/.490 with 316 HRs and 118 steals – and also a defensive maven. He wound up an eight-time Gold Glover and a seven-time All-Star who accrued 69.9 fWAR. Hall of Famer? He has a legit case.
1998 – Kerry Wood, SP, Cubs:
- Wood’s shining moment came in his fifth-ever start, May 6, 1998, when he struck out 20 Astros in a complete game shutout. Those 20 punchouts helped Wood to a whopping 12.58 K/9 that year, during which he registered a 3.40 ERA over 166 2/3 innings. But Wood missed the next season because of Tommy John surgery, and injuries regularly slowed him down throughout a career that ran through 2012 with the Cubs, Yankees and Indians. While Wood was a full-time starter in his first six seasons, he shifted to a relief role in 2005. He left the game with a 3.67 ERA, 10.32 K/9 and 23.9 fWAR across 1,380 frames. Not the Hall of Fame career it perhaps could have been had Wood stayed healthy, but still an impressive one.
1999 – Scott Williamson, RP, Reds:
- Williamson was a relief workhorse who peaked in his first season, when he fired 93 1/3 innings of 2.41 ERA pitching with 10.32 K/9 and 19 saves. Like Wood, however, injuries had a negative effect on his career. Williamson pitched for several other teams through 2007, and despite walking five batters per nine, he still put up a highly respectable 3.36 ERA with 10.45 K/9 in 439 1/3 lifetime innings.