With the start of every new year, comes new baseball projections and the 2024 projections have already started rolling in, starting with the Rookie of the Year projections. Gunnar Henderson began last season as the #1 overall prospect in baseball and the overwhelming favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year. He lived up to the hype and won the award unanimously, becoming the first Baltimore Oriole to win the Rookie of the Year since Gregg Olson in 1989. After Henderson ended the O's 34 year drought, could the Orioles now produce consecutive Rookie of the Year winners?
It's possible for the Orioles to have a second consecutive Rookie of the Year winner in 2024
The Rookie of the Year has been awarded to the best rookies in baseball since 1947 when Jackie Robinson won the inaugural award. He was the only winner that year as it was given to the best rookie in all of baseball for the first two seasons before being broken down to the best rookie in each league in 1949.
Since then, 154 different players have been named Rookie of the Year, including 1976 and 1979 when three players were given the award (Butch Metzger and Pat Zachry tied for first in the National League in 1976 and John Castino tied Alfredo Griffin for the American League honor in 1979).
It should go without saying that no player has won the award more than once but it was mathematically possible at least once. Due to the shortened season in 2020, Ryan Mountcastle received votes in both 2020 and 2021, finishing eighth and sixth respectively.
Several teams have had consecutive Rookie of the Year award winners but the longest stretch of winners came from 1992-1996 when Erik Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Todd Hollandsworth all won for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers also are the last team to have consecutive winners when Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger each won in 2016 and 2017.
The last time it happened in the American League was when Kazuhiro Sasaski and Ichiro Suzuki won in 2000 and 2001 for the Seattle Mariners. The Orioles would like to be the next team with consecutive Rookie of the Year winners, and Jackson Holliday gives the team a strong chance.
According to a recent poll by MLB Pipeline, the same poll that projected Henderson to win in 2023, Holliday is the second most likely person to win the AL Rookie of the Year. Like Henderson, Holliday enters the season as baseball's top overall prospect. Holliday will however have to content with Texas Rangers phenom, Evan Carter, who enters the season as baseball's #8 prospect.
After posting a very productive September, the 21 year old helped lead the Rangers to their first World Series title by posting tremendous numbers in the heart of the Rangers lineup. He will be looking to replicate the success that Randy Arozarena had when he was the Rookie of the Year in 2021 after winning ALCS MVP in 2020. 36% of MLB executives voted Carter the favorite.
30% of executives voted Holliday as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. 70% of them also voted Holliday as the best hitting prospect, while Jackson Chourio was second with just 8% and Carter received 4% of that vote. Holliday also led with 28% of executives voting that he has the best baseball IQ and no other player received more than 7% of the vote.
Holliday also received votes for the best defensive prospect so it certainly appears that executives voted more for Carter based on the memory of his production last season than his skill set. Holliday has a good chance to make the Orioles opening day roster and will be able to get a full season to build his case. He will need all the time he can get to beat out Carter, but he could get just as much push for the award from one of his teammates.
Heston Kjerstad was another player who received votes in the Rookie of the Year poll. Like Carter, Kjerstad made his debut in September and was also quite memorable. He didn't get much time in the field, but Kjerstad is more known for his bat. A likely option to DH for the Birds in 2024, Kjerstad will have plenty of opportunity to show off his prodigious power in a very good Orioles lineup that should provide him with ample RBI chances.
Not playing in the field as much will likely hurt Kjerstad's chances but he is certainly capable of putting up very big offensive numbers. Athletes always seem to run a little faster or work just a little harder when they have competition close by. Hopefully Kjerstad and Holliday and push each other to be that much better next season to see who the top rookie is.