Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger Unanimously Named Rookies of the Year

Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger Unanimously Named Rookies of the Year

Judge, a 25-year-old right fielder, started the season batting eighth and ended it as the A.L. leader in homers, runs scored (128), walks (127) and strikeouts (208), with a combined on-base and slugging percentage of 1.049, trailing only Trout in the A.L. Judge hit .284, drove in 114 runs and became the first Yankee to be rookie of the year since Jeter in 1996.

Jeter led the Yankees to a championship that season, and Judge came close this year, helping the Yankees reach Game 7 of the A.L. Championship Series, which they lost to Houston. Along the way, he won the All-Star Home Run Derby and inspired a wood-paneled cheering section at Yankee Stadium — the Judge’s Chambers, with fans wearing robes and waving foam gavels. A Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, even saw a game there in August.


Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit 13 home runs in June as part of a 39-homer season.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Judge’s season included a prolonged slump; he hit .179 from July 14 through the end of August, after batting .329 before the All-Star break. He was unflappable throughout, with a calm, humble demeanor and the assurance that he would recover. On his conference call with reporters Monday, Judge recalled a lesson from Carlos Beltran at spring training in 2016.

“I asked him, ‘How’s it been for you, going through the ups and downs each year, through injuries and stuff like that?’” Judge said of Beltran, who retired Monday after 20 seasons. “And he said: ‘Hey, you’ve got to realize that you could be hot in the first couple of months, or you could start off bad in the first couple of months, but you know what? It’s baseball, it’s all going to even out. So if you just stay as even-keel as possible, don’t try to ride the ups and downs, just stay positive with everything, your numbers, your results, and where your team wants to be will be there at the end of the year.’

“Hearing that from a veteran presence like that, who never pressed in any situation, was pretty cool to hear.”

Since the end of the season, Judge’s profile has continued to rise. Last week, Sony revealed him as the new cover star of its popular video game MLB The Show. On Monday, Pepsi announced an endorsement deal with him. Typically, Judge deflected attention from himself.

“There’s a lot of young faces who could be the face of M.L.B.,” he said. “If you look around, from a lot of the rookies we had this year, a lot of the younger guys in their early to mid-20s, and how they’ve impacted the game — we’ve got a special group here in Major League Baseball. How the playoffs went this year, the excitement around this game right now, it’s a special time to be in the big leagues.”

Bellinger, 22, joined the Dodgers in late April and helped the team to 104 victories, the most for the franchise since its move from Brooklyn in 1958. He drove in 97 runs and hit .267 with a .933 O.P.S., while splitting time between first base and the outfield.

Bellinger, the son of the former Yankees utility man Clay Bellinger, joined a long list of Dodgers to win the award. The Dodgers have now claimed 18 rookies of the year, including Robinson — the first — and shortstop Corey Seager, a unanimous winner in 2016. The Yankees, with nine, have the second-most rookies of the year.

For all their success, though, Judge and Bellinger were humbled at times in the postseason. In the Yankees’ division series victory over Cleveland, Judge went 1 for 20 and set a postseason series record for strikeouts, with 16. The record lasted less than a month, because Bellinger broke it in the World Series. He was 4 for 28 in the seven-game loss to Houston, with 17 strikeouts.

The BBWAA awards week continues with the managers of the year on Tuesday, the Cy Young winners on Wednesday and the most valuable players on Thursday. Judge is among the finalists for the A.L. M.V.P., with Houston’s Jose Altuve and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.

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