NEW YORK – Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez and Atlanta’s Michael Harris II had a lot in common – perhaps too much.
The 21-year-old center fielders were runaway winners in Rookie of the Year voting on Monday after seasons of power and speed that led to lucrative long-term contracts but ultimately concluded with early postseason eliminations.
They both made jumps from Double-A straight to the majors.
“I feel like the whole season was unrealistic,” Harris said. “I was just going day to day and I guess living the dream. But now that the season’s over, I guess I can actually look back and think about how crazy of a year it was and how fast it went.”
Rodriguez hit .284 with 28 homers, 75 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in helping the Mariners reach the postseason for the first time since 2001. He won the American League honor by receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes and one second for 148 points from a Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel.
“I went through some shaky times at the beginning of the year, but I was able to stick to myself, trust myself,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez made the Mariners’ opening-day roster and hit .205 in April, then rebounded to earn a spot in the All-Star Home Run Derby, where he hit 81 long balls and lost to Juan Soto in the final.
“All the doubts I had throughout the year,” Rodriguez said, “I know it’s going to serve me well along my career.”
Harris batted .297 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs and 20 steals after making his debut on May 28. He was voted the National League award, getting 22 firsts and eight seconds for 134 points from a different BBWAA panel.
“He definitely had a great season. We definitely had similar numbers, too,” Rodriguez said. “He’s an exciting player, young talent. And he’s not afraid. I love his game.”
Rodriguez and Harris both had their first big league multihomer games each other on Sept. 11, with Rodriguez hitting a tying drive in the ninth in a game Seattle won when Eugenio Suarez went deep off Kenley Jansen later in the inning.
“That was a series I won’t forget,” Harris said. “I look forward to playing against him many times in the future.”
Seattle advanced past Toronto in the new wild-card round, then was s wept by eventual champion Houston in the Division Series. Defending champion Atlanta lost a four-game Division Series to Philadelphia.
Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman was second in the AL with 68 points, getting the other first-place vote, 18 seconds and nine thirds.
Cleveland left fielder Steven Kwan was third with 10 seconds and 14 thirds for 44 points. Kansas City infielder Bobby Witt Jr. had seven points, and Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena finished fifth with two points.
Voting was conducted before the postseason; Pena was voted MVP of the AL Championship Series and World Series.
Atlanta pitcher Spencer Strider was second with the other eight first-place votes on the NL side and 21 seconds for 103 points. Cardinals utilityman Brendan Donovan was third with 22 third-place votes and 22 points.
Rodriguez, the only rookie at this year’s All-Star Game, became the fifth Seattle player to win the honor after first baseman Alvin Davis in 1984, right-handed reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki in 2000, right fielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 (when he also was voted MVP) and center fielder Kyle Lewis in 2020.
Harris, who hadn’t played above High-A before this year, is the ninth Braves player to win the award, joining shortstop Alvin Dark in 1948 and outfielder Sam Jethroe in 1950 during the Boston Braves era and then catcher/infielder Earl Williams in 1971, third baseman Bob Horner in 1978, outfielder/first baseman David Justice in 1990, shortstop Rafael Furcal in 2000, reliever Craig Kimbrel in 2011 and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. in 2018.
Teammates finished 1-2 in the NL voting for the fourth time and first since Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman was second to Kimbrel.
Rodriguez is excited about a planned offseason parade in his hometown in the Dominican Republic. He became the fourth Dominican-born player to win the AL honor after Alfredo Griffin shared with John Castino in 1979, and Angel Berroa won in 2003 and Neftali Feliz in 2010.
Rodriguez and the Mariners agreed in August to a $209.3 million, 12-year contract starting next season that would be worth $469.6 million over 17 years if he wins two MVP awards.
Harris and Braves reached a $72 million, eight-year deal starting in 2023 that could be worth $102 million over 10 seasons.