Julio Rodriguez, Michael Harris II earn Rookie of the Year honors

Julio Rodriguez, Michael Harris II earn Rookie of the Year honors

Julio Rodriguez was voted the American League Rookie of the Year on Monday after lifting the Seattle Mariners back to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

Fellow center fielder Michael Harris II of the Atlanta Braves joined him later in the night by winning the National League Rookie of the Year award.

The 21-year-old All-Star outfielder made a smashing debut in spring training. He survived a slow start — six hits in 44 at-bats — before surging to break Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s record for fewest number of games to reach 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases.

Despite spending two stints on the injured list costing him 21 total games, Rodriguez broke Trout’s record by three games (125) and ended the season with 28 home runs, 25 steals and was named one of three outfielders to earn the AL Silver Slugger Award. He finished hitting .284 with 75 RBIs and 40 walks.

Rodriguez’s power and speed has drawn comparisons to Mariners Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. Yet Griffey did not win the award in 1989, finishing third while Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Gregg Olson won it.

MLB Network’s broadcast compared Rodriguez’s productive rookie season with center fielders who won Rookie of the Year, such as Trout, Carlos Beltran and Willie Mays.

“It’s amazing to be even mentioned with players like that,” Rodriguez said in an interview on the awards show. “Guys that really left their mark on the game. I feel special just being mentioned along guys like that.”

Rodriguez led MLB rookies in home runs (28), total bases (260), slugging percentage (.509), on-base plus slugging percentage (.853), Wins Above Replacement (6.0). He was second in runs scored (84), RBIs, extra-base hits (57) and stolen bases.

He becomes the fifth Seattle Mariners player to win the award, joining first baseman Alvin Davis (1984), pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000), outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and outfielder Kyle Lewis (2020).

Harris received 22 first-place votes and eight second-place votes from the BBWAA voters to finish with 134 total points. He beat out Braves teammate Spencer Strider, a right-handed starting pitcher who collected the other eight first-place ballots and 103 total points. St. Louis Cardinals utility player Brandon Donovan finished third (22).

The Braves called up Harris in the last week of May, and he went on to man center field for Atlanta for 114 games. He made only two errors in 257 defensive chances while slashing .297/.339/.514.

Harris led all NL rookies in hits (123), RBIs (64) and extra-base hits (49) while tying for most home runs (19) and placing second among NL rookies in stolen bases (20).

Harris grew up a Braves fan in the Atlanta area — living in DeKalb and Henry counties — and was flattered to join a list of the Braves’ previous Rookie of the Year winners, including Ronald Acuna (2018), Craig Kimbrel (2011), Rafael Furcal (2000) and David Justice (1990).

“It’s crazy,” Harris said on MLB Network. “Being in Atlanta, growing up here and just even being able to stay with the home team and playing for a team I grew up rooting for and going to games for all the time. It’s a really crazy moment, but I definitely didn’t have this on as one of my goals.”

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