Baltimore Orioles: Ronald Acuna Jr, Shohei Ohtani take home ROY awards
By Tim Smart
On Monday evening, the American and National League Rookie of the Year award winners were announced. It’s been 29 years since an Orioles player has taken the award home; will that change in the near future?
As the Orioles sit on the sidelines for the 2018 award season, the ownership group is seemingly doing the same. It’s now mid-November and the Orioles are still without a front office in place. We’re less than a month from the winter meetings and even though the hot stove is quite chilly at the moment, the Orioles aren’t helping themselves by waiting so long to put their new leadership group together.
But as the Orioles sit idle, at least from this point of view, the baseball world moves on. The BBWAA AL and NL Rookie of the Year award winners were announced on Monday evening and two deserving players came out on top.
In the American League, Los Angeles Angels pitcher / designated hitter Shohei Ohtani takes home the award after an exceptional two-way season. Ohtani was a monster at the plate, posting a .925 OPS with a 152 wRC+, 22 homers, 10 steals, and a 43.1% hard hit rate. And on the mound, Ohtani pitched to a 3.31 ERA, a 3.57 FIP and a 29.9% strikeout rate in 51.2 innings.
Ohtani did that damage while missing almost the entire month of June with a sprained UCL in his throwing elbow. Ohtani made just one pitching appearance after June 4th, and at the end of the 2018 season underwent Tommy John surgery to fix the elbow ligament. Ohtani likely won’t pitch again until the 2020 season, but it seems certain that the Angels will utilize him in the DH role as often as possible next season.
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In the National League, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr takes the honors after posting a line of .293/.366/.552 with 26 homers, 16 steals and a 143 wRC+. Unlike Ohtani who spent the entire season in the majors, Acuna played the first four weeks of the season in Triple-a Gwinnett so the Braves could tack on an extra year of team control on Acuna.
But once Acuna did get the call, he was electric in Atlanta. Acuna’s 3.7 fWAR was tied for first among all rookies with Washington’s Juan Soto and Tampa Bay’s Joey Wendle. And he did serious damage at the top of the Braves lineup, hitting eight leadoff homers, and he had a stretch in August where he homered in five consecutive games.
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On the Orioles side, it’s been 29 years since Greg Olson won the AL Rookie of the Year for the Orioles. In his 1989 season, Olson posted a 1.69 ERA with a 2.46 FIP and a 25.6% strikeout rate.
The two most notable Orioles Rookie of the Year award winners are Cal Ripken Jr.in 1982, and Eddie Murray in 1977. In ’77, Murray hit .283/.333/.470 with 27 homers. Ripken’s ’83 was similar; he hit .264/.317/.475 with 28 homers. Both Murray and Ripken helped lead those ’83 Orioles to a World Series championship, the franchise’s third, and most recent.
In addition to Olson, Murray and Ripken, three other Orioles have earned Rookie of the Year honors. Outfielder Al Bumbry won in 1973 with a .898 OPS and 11 triples. Outfielder Curt Blefary‘s .851 OPS and 22 homers won him the honors in 1965. And in 1960, shortstop Ron Hansen won with a .781 OPS and 22 homers; his season was enhanced by his above average defense.
What the Orioles need is for a few of the prospects in the system to make runs at the ROY award over the next couple years. There’s plenty of talent in the system right now; at least more than there has been over the past decade or so. It’s up to the Orioles to develop that talent. With any luck, we’ll be talking about DL Hall, Grayson Rodriguez and Ryan Mountcastle in this spot in the near future.