2017 Rookie Class Provides Game Bright Future
It was no small duty to narrow down this year's rookie class to a handful of standouts. The Players were tasked with selecting an Outstanding Rookie in their respective league, with the top-three vote getters being named finalists. The rookie class set a record with 10 of them hitting 20-or-more home runs (previous high was six rookies), and highlighted by new rookie home run records being set in the National League by Cody Bellinger and the American League by Aaron Judge.
From the American League, Andrew Benintendi from the Boston Red Sox, Aaron Judge from the New York Yankees and Trey Mancini from the Baltimore Orioles were selected as finalists.
The finalists from the National League include Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cody Bellinger from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Paul DeJong from the St. Louis Cardinals.
For the seventh consecutive year, Players Choice Award winners will be announced exclusively on MLB Network on Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 8 - 9:30 pm ET.
The Players Choice Awards benefit the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the collective charity created and administered by the players themselves. Players Choice Award winners in all categories will designate charities to receive grants totaling $260,000.
The winners of the 2017 Players Choice Awards as Outstanding AL Rookie and Outstanding NL Rookie will receive $20,000 grants for the charity of their choice.
Benintendi, 23, hit .271 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs. He led all rookies with 20 steals, while ranking third with 155 hits and 84 runs. Just the third Red Sox rookie to record a 20-home run/20 stolen base first year, he joined Ellis Burks in 1987 and Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. He starred in the field as well, recording 11 outfield assists in left field, which ranked sixth and led all rookies in the majors among outfielders. Benintendi was Boston's first round pick (seventh overall) in 2015.
Judge, 25, put together one of the most impressive displays of power for a rookie in baseball history. He set the MLB rookie record with 52 home runs and a Yankee Stadium-record with 33 home runs at home. Judge's blistering first half was highlighted by a .329/.448/.691 slash line. He started for the AL in right field at the All-Star Game and won the Home Run Derby. Judge, a first round selection of the Yankees in 2013, finished the season with an 8.1 WAR (Baseball-Reference), the second-highest among all position players in 2017 and highest rookie WAR since Mike Trout in 2012. In 155 games, Judge hit .284 with 52 home runs, a league-high 128 runs and 114 RBIs.
Mancini, 25, batted .293 with 65 runs scored, 24 home runs and 78 RBIs, while splitting time between the outfield and first base for Baltimore. Among rookies, Mancini ranked second in batting average and third in on-base percentage (.338). His 159 hits were second in Orioles' rookie history, behind Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in 1977 (173 hits). Mancini was drafted by Baltimore in the eighth round of the 2013 draft out of Notre Dame.
Bell, 25, played every day for the Pirates at first base. The switch-hitter batted .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs in 159 games, setting an NL record for most home runs by a switch-hitting rookie and tying a Pirates' rookie record with Jason Bay's 26 blasts in 2004. Bell was a second round draft pick by the Pirates in 2011.
Bellinger, 22, helped power the Dodgers to a National League championship. Called up in late April, he hit .267 with 87 runs scored, 39 home runs – an NL rookie record – and 97 RBIs in 132 games. He was an NL All-Star, becoming the first Dodgers' position player to make an All-Star team as a first-year player. Bellinger was a fourth-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2013.
DeJong, 24, hit .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBIs in 108 games as the Cardinals' primary shortstop. Called up on May 28, DeJong instantly delivered for St. Louis, hitting a home run in his first major-league at-bat, while leading the club in home runs for the season. DeJong was a fourth-round selection by the Cardinals in 2015 out of Illinois State University.
Now in its 26th year, the Players Choice Awards annually honor the outstanding player, rookie, pitcher and comeback player in each league, as well as an overall Player of the Year and Marvin Miller Man of the Year awards, which are selected by players in both leagues.
Balloting for the 2017 Players Choice Awards, which are being presented by MLB The Show and sponsored by Majestic Athletic, was conducted in all Major League clubhouses on Sept. 19, under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.
The Players Trust raises funds and attention for issues affecting the needy and promotes community involvement, and it has recognized the outstanding on-field and off-field performances of Players Choice Awards winners by contributing more than $4 million to charities around the world. For additional information, please visit www.PlayersTrust.org.