The individual awards are being handed out this week for Major League Baseball, and things got kicked off this evening with the Rookies of the Year being announced. It was a historic year for this award in that we saw one rookie in each league come in and completely dismantle the competition, leaving zero doubt as to who would win in each league. Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the Yankees took home the trophies, and the only bit of drama in the night was whether or not they’d do so unanimously. Sure enough, Judge did.
Although those two did the celebrating, Andrew Benintendi did win a runaway contest for runner-up in the American League. He received 23 of 30 second-place votes along with six third-place votes. The Red Sox left fielder was the prohibitive favorite to win the award coming into the year, but unfortunately Judge decided to turn into a legitimate superstar and home run machine, leaving anyone else little opportunity to make a run at the award. Finishing second to Judge is nothing to be ashamed about on Benintendi’s part.
That being said, for as solid of a year as Benintendi had, it was somehow a bit of a disappointment for the rookie. We had, of course, gotten a decent taste of who he was as a player in 2016 when he first came up, and the only reason he was rookie eligible in 2017 in the first place was because of an injury he suffered in August of 2016. The hype machine started up for Benintendi immediately following the end of last season, and it continuously grew through the offseason and into the preseason when he was damn close to being the unanimous number one prospect in all of baseball. The sky was the limit, and he was so polished that it was hard to envision any failure.
In hindsight, it’s clear that our expectations for the outfielder probably got a little out of control. He didn’t light the world on fire and we did see some struggles from the former number seven overall pick, but he stayed near the top of Boston’ lineup all year long and finished up with a slightly above-average 103 OPS+. That was combined with strong defense in left field and gave him a solid baseline for his career. Despite the ballooning expectations, this was a solid first step in Benintendi’s career, and we all know the upside is greater than this. He was no match for Judge in 2017, but this is going to be a fascinating battle to watch for years to come. Oh, and for what it’s worth, the third place finisher Trey Mancini also calls the American League East home.
You can check out the full voting breakdown as well as every ballot here.