The year was 1989. More than 30 years ago, the reliever Gregg Olson was elected the AL Rookie of the Year in the 'Why, not?' season. After that, a lot of promising rookies who finished in the top 3 of the voting like Trey Mancini, John Means and Adley Rutschman.
But, similar to life, all droughts will come to an end. After a great 2023 season, his first full season in the majors, Gunnar Henderson is the 2023 AL Rookie of the Year. The phenom infielder, a Silver Slugger winner one week ago, finished his campaign on a high note.
Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson wins AL Rookie of the Year
Henderson won the award unanimously, collecting all 30 first place votes. He becomes the 13th AL Rookie of the Year to win unanimously, with Kyle Lewis in 2020 being the last unanimous winner. He's also the first Orioles winner to do so unanimously.
The 42nd overall pick from 2019 MLB Draft had a tough start. His first hit of the season came in the fourth game (with his first Home Run, too) and he finished May with a .201 batting average, 5 Home Runs, 14 RBI, .332 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging percentage. His approach was so patient in some moments where Birdland wondered if Gunnar would turn it around.
Well, since June 2nd, this is how Henderson finished the regular season. A .276/.322/.535 slash line. 23 home runs. 68 RBI. 112 hits. 72 runs scored. Eight stolen bases.
What a turnaround season, Gunnar! He changed his approach to be aggressive and smash baseballs a lot. One of his bombs went to the OPACY Warehouse in a scene of the ages, because Gunnar is special. A 6.2 bWAR and 4.6 fWAR were strong contributions to the Orioles 101-win season and the AL East crown. The 22-year-old kid is the real deal.
Overall, he finished his season with 28 Home Runs, second-most by an Orioles rookie in a full-season. The power and the glove are elite. The shortstop and hot corner are safe with him.
The other AL ROY in Baltimore history (and for Immaculate Grid purposes): Gregg Olson (1989), Cal Ripken (1982), Eddie Murray (1977), Al Bumbry (1973), Curt Blefary (1965) and Ron Hansen (1960).
He likely won't be the last one either. With the #1 farm on baseball, they'll have more to come in the foreseeable future. Have you heard about Jackson Holliday?
All stats from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.