Tigers’ Michael Fulmer named AL Rookie of the Year
Corey Seager won the NL Rookie of the Year award unanimously.
Michael Fulmer took the AL honor — and that vote wasn’t all that close, either.
Seager and Fulmer were announced as the winners Monday night, when votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were made public. Seager’s victory was almost a foregone conclusion after he hit .308 with 26 home runs and 72 RBIs this year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fulmer, on the other hand, had to hold off a late challenge from New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit 20 home runs in only 53 games.
Fulmer’s season-long contributions for Detroit won out. The right-hander went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 26 starts for the Tigers. He ended up receiving 26 of 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA, outdistancing Sanchez by a total of 142 points to 91.
"I’m really happy and blessed to receive this award," Fulmer said on a conference call. "I knew that both Gary and Tyler (Naquin) had outstanding years, and I hope to play against them for a long time."
Naquin, a Cleveland outfielder, finished third in the AL race.
Seager received the maximum 150 points in the NL vote. The Los Angeles shortstop finished well ahead of Washington outfielder Trea Turner (42) and Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda (37).
Seager is the 17th Dodgers player to earn Rookie of the Year honors — easily the most of any team — but the franchise hadn’t had a winner since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996.
"It’s obviously awesome to win it in general, but to bring it back to L.A. — it hasn’t been there for a while, and they’re known as an organization for winning all those Rookie of the Years with Tommy Lasorda and all them," Seager said. "So it’s pretty cool to be able to be connected to all the guys that came before you."
The Dodgers, of course, had the first Rookie of the Year when Jackie Robinson won in 1947. They also had four winners in a row from 1979-82 and five in a row from 1992-96.
Seager was the second player in a row to win NL Rookie of the Year unanimously. Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs did it last year. Seager joins a list of Dodgers Rookie of the Year winners that includes luminaries like Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Mike Piazza (1993).
A first-round draft pick by the Dodgers in 2012, Seager made his big league debut in 2015, hitting .337 in 27 games. He came into this season with high expectations and produced a phenomenal year. He is one of three finalists for Thursday’s NL Most Valuable Player announcement, joining Bryant and Washington’s Daniel Murphy.
Seager indicated that accolades like this were the furthest thing from his mind coming into the season.
"I didn’t expect to win anything," he said. "It’s a tough game, you don’t take anything for granted, you don’t expect anything to be given to you."
Fulmer is the fifth Tigers player to win Rookie of the Year, joining Justin Verlander (2006), Lou Whitaker (1978), Mark Fidrych (1976) and Harvey Kuenn (1953). Verlander is now a mentor to Fulmer in the Detroit rotation.
"I remember back in spring training where I was kind of nervous to come up to him," Fulmer said. "I watched him — ever since he was a rookie, he was one of my favorite pitchers in the game."
Detroit acquired Fulmer in 2015 from the Mets in the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to New York. Fulmer made his big league debut this April and lifted the Tigers with a sensational stretch leading up to the All-Star break. From May 21 through July 6, he went 7-1 with a 0.63 ERA.
Sanchez made his own bid with his torrid hitting down the stretch, but that wasn’t enough to close the gap on Fulmer.
"What he did this year was unbelievable — for him to hit 20 home runs in 53 games," Fulmer said. "It’s really cool to see guys like that, see young guys do that. Just to be nominated with him is a big honor."