In the days after he announced himself to a national audience in his star-making performance at the Home Run Derby, even when a sore left wrist kept him out of the games after the All-Star break, it seemed impossible to think of anyone but Julio Rodriguez winning the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award.

His numbers were simply that good and would only get better.

Going into the All-Star break, Rodriguez had played in 91 of the 94 games, posting a .275/.337/.477 slash line with 18 doubles, two triples, 18 homers, 53 runs scored, 52 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He’d amassed 3.2 wins above replacement (WAR) per FanGraphs, which was almost double the next closest rookie — Bobby Witt Jr. — who posted a 1.7 WAR over that same period.

But it wasn’t just that Rodriguez was far and away the best rookie in the American League, which made him a lock for the award, it was also about what he was doing for the Mariners. He had taken over as their best player in the first half of the season at 21 years old.

But with three weeks remaining in the 2022 season, is Rodriguez still guaranteed to win the award?


There’s been a growing belief from the East Coast that Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman could be a better candidate.

When released its latest odds for the postseason awards Sept. 1, Rodriguez had 2/11 odds to win the award after being 10/1 to win it March 14. Rutschman was back down to 9/2 after being 16/1 in May and July.

Let’s take a closer look.

The deserved favorite: Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners

The Mariners outfielder dealt with wrist issues after the All-Star break and went on the injured list after taking a 97-mph fastball off his right wrist/hand that kept him out 12 games. He’s still played in 120 of the Mariners’ 137 games. He has a .270/.331/.477 slash line with 22 doubles, three triples, 23 homers, 74 runs scored, 68 RBI, 24 stolen bases, 36 walks and 137 strikeouts. He leads all American League rookies with 4.2 FanGraphs WAR and a 5.0 WAR on Baseball Reference. He is the first rookie to get 20 homers and 20 stolen bases since Marty Cordova in 1994.

Rodriguez amassed all of the numbers despite having a brutal April where he posted a .205/.284/.260 slash line with four doubles, nine runs scored, six RBI, seven walks and 30 strikeouts and included umpires ringing him up on an inordinate amount of called strike threes.

He leads all AL rookies in runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage and ranks second in games played, hits, RBI, on-base plus slugging percentage, stolen bases and weighted runs created.

He’s also been the best player on a Mariners team tied for the first AL wild-card spot and is on the cusp of ending the longest current postseason drought in North American men’s professional sports. Beyond the play on the field, he’s become the face of the franchise and one of baseball’s budding superstars.


He’s made baseball cool again for a generation of kids in the Northwest in a way that it hasn’t since the days of Ken Griffey Jr.

The surging contender: Adley Rutschman, C/DH, Orioles

There’s a reason why East Coast baseball writers, analysts and fans have been talking about Rutschman moving past Rodriguez for the award — he’s been on an unbelievable tear since mid-June. The switch-hitting catcher has been an on-base and doubles machine over the last two months, helping the Orioles remain in wild-card contention despite a roster that is less talented than the teams they are competing against.

Coming into Thursday, Rutschman, 24, has played in 89 games, posting a .270/.331/.477 slash line with 29 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, 58 runs scored, 32 RBI, 50 walks and 65 strikeouts in only 89 games and 268 plate appearances. He has a 4.0 FanGraphs WAR and 4.6 Baseball Reference WAR.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Rutschman was the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball coming into the season. But unlike Rodriguez and other rookie of the year candidates, he wasn’t on the opening-day roster. A triceps strain in mid-March sidelined him for much of spring training and his start to the season. After starting a rehab assignment on April 26 and getting more games at Triple-A Norfolk, he made his much-anticipated MLB debut May 21, notching a triple for his first MLB hit.

Like Rodriguez, there was a period of adjustment for Rutschman, who posted a .176/.256/.257 slash line with four doubles, a triple, eight runs scored, no RBI, six walks and 18 strikeouts in his first 20 games.

In his next 69 games, Rutschman has posted a .283/.395/.515 slash line with 25 doubles, 10 homers, 50 runs scored, 32 RBI, 44 walks and just 47 strikeouts. The Orioles are 43-26 over that span.


He leads AL rookies in doubles, on-base percentage, walk percentage (13.6) and weighted runs created-plus (136).  

If he can somehow lead the Orioles to the postseason? That’s a strong narrative for some voters.

Candidates for the top three: Steven Kwan, OF, Guardians and Bobby Witt Jr., 3B, Royals

Witt was the odd-on favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year award when the odds came out on March 14 at 3-1. He was locked into the starting third-base job for the Royals and was expected to play every day and amass big numbers.

But like his fellow rookies, Witt struggled to adapt to the MLB level initially. He posted a .221/.250/.312 slash line in his first 20 games with five doubles, a triple, no homers, five RBI, two walks and 20 strikeouts.

Coming into Thursday, he has a .247/.291/.438 slash line with 23 doubles, six triples, 20 homers, 69 runs scored, 70 RBI, 27 stolen bases, 27 walks, 116 strikeouts in 127 games and 533 plate appearances. His defensive struggles at shortstop and third base — 17 errors — have lowered his value numbers. He has a 2.1 FanGraphs WAR and 0.6 Baseball Reference WAR. He followed Rodriguez into the 20-20 club on Sept. 3 with his 20th homer. Witt leads all AL rookies in games played, plate appearances, triples, RBI and stolen bases and ranks second in homers and runs scored.

Kwan wasn’t even listed on the preseason rookie of the year odds and was 50-1 in April. A fifth-round pick out of Oregon State in 2018 and the 27th ranked prospect in the Guardians organization per Baseball America, Kwan has been an everyday outfielder for Cleveland. He’s posted a .289/.364/.376 slash line with 132 hits, 21 doubles, five triples, three homers, 67 runs scored, 37 RBI, 12 stolen bases, 51 walks and 50 strikeouts. His 2.8 FanGraphs WAR and 3.6 Baseball Reference WAR, which both rank third among AL rookies.

Don’t forget about this guy: George Kirby, RHP, Mariners

The Mariners right-hander has been the best rookie pitcher in the American League by a wide margin.

He’s made 20 starts this season, posting a 6-3 record with a 3.15 ERA. In 105 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 109 batters while issuing just 14 walks for a ridiculous 7.79 walk to strikeout ratio, which doesn’t just lead all AL rookies but is second best among all MLB starters with 100 innings.