MLB: Recent Rookies of the Year – Where Are They Now?
Of all the success stories in baseball, only a select few brag ownership of the Rookie of the Year award. Let’s look back on recent Rookies of the Year to see whether their careers panned out after their freshman MLB seasons.
Unlike baseball’s other awards, which can be won at any point in one’s career, the Rookie of the Year award can only be won during during the first season of a ballplayer’s career. The winners are determined by the quality of their rookie season and how they adjust to the increased competition of the major leagues.
Many ballplayers, such as Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter, go on to historic careers after becoming the Rookie of the Year. The success of their rookie seasons sparked Jeter, Suzuki and countless other ballplayers into phenomenal careers.
On the other hand, the Rookie of the Year award does not always ensure future success. For many Rookies of the Year, their freshman season proved to be the peak of their career. Those ballplayers never rekindled the success of their rookie years.
As Corey Seager and Michael Fulmer take home the award in their respective leagues, there is no guarantee they will mature into successful ballplayers. However, the past five seasons provides a wide variety of award-winners. The following slide show details each Rookie of the Year since 2011 and shows how their careers are panning out.
Jeremy Hellickson – 2011 AL Rookie of the Year
After not qualifying in 2010, Jeremy Hellickson beat out Mark Trumbo as the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year. The Tampa Bay Rays set Hellickson on his path to the major leagues by selecting him in the fourth round of the 2005 amateur draft.
Unlike his fellow Rookies of the Year, Hellickson spent more time in the minor leagues before debuting on August 2, 2010. In the first start of his career, Hellickson held the Minnesota Twins to three hits, two runs and struck out six through seven innings. His victorious debut marked the first of four wins in 2010 as Hellickson finished the year 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA.
Hellickson picked up where he left off and pitched the best season of his career on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. The right-hander worked to a 13-10 record and a 2.95 ERA through 29 starts. Regardless of losing his start in the 2011 ALDS against the Texas Rangers, the BBWAA recognized Hellickson’s rookie success.
Unfortunately, 2011 marked the peak of his career thus far as Hellickson struggled through the following five seasons. He finished his time in Tampa Bay 23-26 with an ERA as high as 5.17 in 2013. After signing a one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Accepting a one-year qualifying offer from the Phillies not only extends Hellickson’s career through 2017, but gives him another chance to bounce back to his rookie form.
Craig Kimbrel – 2011 NL Rookie of the Year
Once one of the most untouchable closers in baseball, Craig Kimbrel won the Rookie of the Year award in 2011. He was drafted in the third round of the 2008 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves. The same team that drafted Kimbrel called him up on May 7, 2010. In his debut, he pitched a scoreless inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up one hit and striking out two. However, he only appeared in 21 games and did not qualify for the Rookie of the Year award until the following year.
Stemming from his 2.10 ERA and 46 saves, Kimbrel became the NL Rookie of the Year with 130 votes. After his award-winning season, Kimbrel shone brightest with the Braves. Through his five-year stint in Atlanta, Kimbrel went 15-10 with a 1.43 ERA, appearing in four All-Star Games. He averaged roughly 37 saves per season, topping out at 50 in 2013.
His reputation as being one of the game’s most dominant closers began to fade after the Braves traded him away. Pitching for the San Diego Padres in 2015 and the Boston Red Sox in 2016, Kimbrel’s ERA rose from 2.58 to 3.40. Moreover, he failed to post more than 40 saves in the last two seasons. While his job as the Red Sox closer is still secure, Kimbrel is searching for a comeback season with success similar to his rookie campaign.
Mike Trout – 2012 AL Rookie of the Year
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Mike Trout 25th overall in the 2009 amateur draft. Two years later, he debuted on July 8, 2011, but only played in 40 games. The following year he qualified for the AL Rookie of the Year award by playing in 139 games, batting .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI. En route to his award-winning season, Trout set career-highs in runs (129) and stolen bases (49).
Since 2012, Trout built his reputation of being one of the best players in baseball. Over the last five seasons, the center fielder hit 168 home runs, 497 RBI and owns a .306 career batting average. With his .287 batting average, 115 runs and 36 home runs, Trout won the American League MVP award in 2014.
By appearing in five consecutive All-Star Games, Trout achieved one of baseball’s rarest accomplishments. Starting with a single in 2012, the talented center fielder hit for the cycle through his first four All-Star Games. Furthermore, Trout restarted the cycle with a single to lead off the 2016 All-Star Game for the American League.
Despite another disappointing season for his team, Trout’s name is in the running for the 2016 American League MVP award. He batted over .300 for the third time in his career, finishing the season with a .315 batting average, 29 homers and 123 runs.
Bryce Harper – 2012 NL Rookie of the Year
Bryce Harper’s potential for greatness predated his debut and stretched back to the amateur draft. In fact, he is one of two Rookies of the Year in the last five seasons to be a No. 1 overall draft pick.
Two years after the Washington Nationals snagged Harper in the 2010 amateur draft, he debuted on April 28, 2012. Playing the role as the Nationals’ starting left fielder, Harper played in 139 games, batting .270 with 22 home runs. Unlike Mike Trout, who won by a landslide, Harper narrowly best Wade Miley as the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year.
Even during Harper’s “slumps”, the outfielder managed to post impressive numbers. Although he only hit 13 home runs in 2014, he maintained a .273 batting average. Since then, Harper played the best season of his career in 2015, in which he hit .330 with 42 homers and 1.109 OPS. As a result, Harper earned his third All-Star appearance and won the National League MVP award.
By the fifth season of his career, pitchers began to fully understand the threat Harper presented at the plate. In fact, during a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs, Harper was walked six times in one game, including one hit by pitch. This made him the first ballplayer in over 100 years to reach base safely seven times without recording an at-bat.
Only time will tell how Harper will continue his success since starting his career as the Rookie of the Year.
Wil Myers – 2013 AL Rookie of the Year
Wil Myer’s road to becoming the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year took many twists and turns. Once the Kansas City Royals picked him in the third round of the 2009 amateur draft, Myers spent the next six seasons working toward his debut. Following his trade to the Tampa Bay Rays, Myers broke into the major leagues on June 18, 2013.
Through 88 games, Myers posted a .293 batting average with 13 home runs and 53 RBI. At the end of the season, Myers won the AL Rookie of the Year award with 131 votes, beating Jose Iglesias and teammate Chris Archer.
However, Myers’ success did not pan out exactly the way his freshman season promised. Playing under 90 games with the Rays and San Diego Padres, Myers failed to hit higher than .255 and slumped with only 14 combined homers in 2014 and 2015.
And yet, Myers showed signs of improvement once he became the Padres’ full-time first baseman in 2016. By posting a .286 batting average in the first half, Myers earned his first career All-Star Game appearance. Not to mention, he competed in the Home Run Derby in front of his hometown fans at Petco Park.
Despite a drop in his numbers in the second half, Myers finished the season on a high note. He hit 28 home runs, scored 99 runs and batted .259 as a hopeful reassurance that he is destined for future greatness.
Jose Fernandez – 2013 NL Rookie of the Year
Jose Fernandez took home the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013. Selected by the Florida Marlins in the 2011 amateur draft, Fernandez burst into the major leagues two years later. Posting a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts, Fernandez rightfully earned the Rookie of the Year award.
Unfortunately, plaguing injuries haunted Fernandez, who made only 19 starts over the next two seasons. He underwent Tommy John surgery that ended his 2014 campaign and held him off the mound until July of 2015. Moreover, a biceps strain towards the end of 2015 placed him on the disabled list from early August until mid-September. Regardless, the Cuban right-hander went 10-3 overall with a 2.44 ERA in 2014 and 2.92 ERA in 2015.
Fully recovered, Fernandez pitched his way to his second All-Star Game appearance in 2016. Through 29 starts, he went 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA, setting a franchise record for single-season strikeouts with 253. By striking out Alex Gordon on August 24, Fernandez passed Ryan Dempster’s 213 strikeouts for a new record-setting mark.
However, what appeared to be the start of a phenomenal career was cut short by the young pitcher’s sudden death. He defected from Cuba at 15 years old and escaped to Florida on a makeshift boat. On September 25, 2016, he and two friends died in a boating accident. Despite the presence of alcohol and cocaine in his blood stream, his death shocked the baseball world.
Jacob deGrom – 2014 NL Rookie of the Year
When you hear of a ninth round draft pick, your mind does not instantly think, “potential Rookie of the Year.” Yet four years after the New York Mets selected Jacob deGrom in the 2010 amateur draft, that’s exactly what happened.
After debuting on May 15, 2014, deGrom qualified for the award by the end of the season. Through 22 starts and 140 innings pitched, the right-hander went 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts. In the voting, deGrom finished as the only National League rookie with 100-plus votes and won the Rookie of the Year award with 142.
The following year, en route to his first postseason appearance, deGrom showed overall improvement from his rookie season. On top of making the All-Star team, deGrom went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA in 30 starts. Furthermore, he set career highs in strikeouts (205), innings pitched (191) and brought his number of walks down from 43 to 38.
Although he struggled against the Kansas City Royals, deGrom helped push the Mets to the World Series. He earned two wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, giving up only two runs and striking out 20 in 13 innings pitched. Likewise, he held the Chicago Cubs down in his single start in the NLCS. Chicago only mustered four hits and two runs against deGrom as he struck out seven for the win. Despite losing his only World Series start, deGrom finished seventh in the voting for the 2015 Cy Young Award.
While the first two years of his career showed incredible promise, deGrom stumbled through 2016. On top of finishing the season 7-8, deGrom was one of many in the Mets rotation to fall to injury. In fact, on September 21 the team announced his season-ending shoulder surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve.
Regardless of his injury and frustrating 2016 campaign, deGrom is due to recover in time for Spring Training, where hopefully his injury will not haunt him this upcoming year.
Jose Abreu – 2014 AL Rookie of the Year
Jose Abreu joins Jacob deGrom as an unlikely candidate for the Rookie of the Year award. In 2013, the Chicago White Sox signed Abreu to a six-year deal as a free agent after he defected from Cuba. Abreu did not disappoint the franchise that gave him a chance.
Abreu posted the first two hits of his career in his debut on March 31, 2014. The 27-year-old rookie went 2-for-4 with one RBI as the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins. Abreu kept hitting his way to 36 home runs, 107 RBI and an incredible .317 batting average. Not only did his name appear in the running for the Rookie of the Year award, but Abreu finished fourth in the AL MVP voting and received the Silver Slugger award at first base. Moreover, Abreu became the Rookie of the Year by a landslide, beating out Matt Shoemaker by over 100 votes.
Although his stats have never quite been the same since his rookie season, he has put up successful numbers since his freshman year. Regardless of his decrease in homers from 36 in 2014 to 25 in 2016, Abreu maintained a batting average over .290 over the last two seasons. Not to mention the first baseman stuck out nearly 20 times fewer in 2016 than he did in 2015. Only time will tell if this young stud can continue his major league success, igniting from his breakout rookie season.
Carlos Correa – 2015 AL Rookie of the Year
Under the tutelage of veteran second baseman Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa became the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year. While fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor made a run at the award, Correa beat him out with 124 votes.
Like Bryce Harper, Correa was the No. 1 overall selection by the Houston Astros in 2012 amateur draft. An incredibly successful career in the minor leagues deemed Correa worthy of being called up on June 8, 2015. Then 20 years old, Correa notched his first career hit and RBI in his debut against the Chicago White Sock. From there, the rookie sensation batted .279 with 22 homers through the first 99 games of his career.
At the end of the regular season, Correa solidified his case for the Rookie of the Year in the postseason. Although he was hitless in the Wild Card Game, Correa batted .250 against the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. Before the Astros lost to the soon-to-be World Series champions, Correa hit two home runs and drove in four.
Despite Houston missing out on the postseason in 2016, Correa put up an impressive sophomore season. Once again, the shortstop batted over .270 with 20 home runs and 96 RBI. Furthermore, the chemistry between him and Altuve fueled one of the highest quality middle infields in the major leagues. Needless to say, the 2015 Rookie of the Year is on the right track for a phenomenal career.
Kris Bryant – 2015 NL Rookie of the Year
Over the course of two seasons, Kris Bryant went from a first round draft pick to become the young face of the Chicago Cubs. Not only did the third baseman win the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year award, but he is one of the leading candidates for the 2016 NL MVP award.
Hoping to turn their luck around, the Cubs selected Bryant as the second overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft. Two years later, the Cubs reached the postseason for the first time since 2008 as Bryant became the Rookie of the Year. Through 151 games in 2015, Bryant batted .275 and hit 26 home runs. Although the Cubs fell short in the postseason, Bryant’s success earned him the Rookie of the Year by 80 votes.
Since becoming Rookie of the Year, he only improved during his sophomore season. Not only did he help the Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908, Bryant’s name leads the discussion for the National League MVP award.
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On top of batting .292 with 39 home runs, Bryant posted career highs in runs, hits and RBI. Furthermore, his strikeout total decreased from 199 in 2015 to 154 in 2016. His regular season success leaked into the postseason, where he batted .269 and contributed two home runs in Chicago’s championship run. His joy and leadership qualities only buffer his already impressive case for the NL MVP award.