It's unanimous: Judge, Bellinger are top rookies

From relatively anonymous to understandably unanimous. That’s the story of the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger.

Judge and Bellinger, who spent 2017 breaking rookie home run records and leading their teams to October, were unsurprisingly named the winners of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in the American League and National League, respectively, on MLB Network on Monday night. Also unsurprisingly, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters were unanimous in their support of these two stalwarts, who became the 22nd and 23rd winners of the rookie prize to be listed first on every ballot.

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This marks the first time since 1997 (Scott Rolen and Nomar Garciaparra) and the fourth time overall that both Rookie of the Year winners were selected unanimously.

Cody Bellinger, LAD 30     150
Paul DeJong, STL   15 11 56
Josh Bell, PIT   10 2 32
Rhys Hoskins, PHI   1 9 12
German Marquez, COL   2 4 10
Manuel Margot, SD   1 2 5
Kyle Freeland, COL   1   3
Luis Castillo, CIN     1 1
Ian Happ, CHC     1 1
Name, team 1st 2nd 3rd Pts.

Known to prospect-watchers but not to the common fan, Judge and Bellinger were anything but can’t-miss candidates for these honors when 2017 started. Judge hit .179 and struck out in half of his 84 at-bats in an initial big league trial at the end of 2016, with opposing pitchers taking advantage of the 6-foot-7, 282-pound right fielder’s large strike zone. Bellinger was not certain to crack the deep Dodgers’ 25-man roster at any point before September roster expansion.

But Judge and Bellinger adjusted and amazed. Judge broke Mark McGwire’s 1987 rookie record for home runs with 52 and Ted Williams’ 1939 rookie mark for walks, with 127. He also struck out more times than any rookie in history (208) yet nonetheless finished with the second-highest OPS (1.049) by a rookie in history (only Shoeless Joe Jackson’s 1.058 mark in 1911 was higher). According to FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement calculation, Judge, at 8.2, was the most valuable player in baseball, rookie or otherwise.

Along with the Astros’ Jose Altuve and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, Judge is a finalist for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, which the BBWAA will announce on Thursday.

Bellinger got his callup to the bigs on April 25, when the Dodgers had a need with Adrian Gonzalez ailing. Though only expected to stay with the club a few days, Bellinger quickly earned himself a permanent place in the starting lineup. His 39 home runs set a new rookie record in the NL, and his .581 slugging percentage with the fifth-highest in the NL this year.

The massive contributions of Judge and Bellinger overwhelmed what, in most years, would have qualified as a deep and dynamic field of candidates for the award. The Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi and the Orioles’ Trey Mancini were the other finalists in the AL, and the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong and the Pirates’ Josh Bell were finalists in the NL.

No teams have provided more Rookie of the Year winners than the Yankees and Dodgers. Bellinger is the Dodgers’ 18th Rookie of the Year, joining teammate Corey Seager, who won it last year. Judge is the Yankees’ ninth winner and first since Derek Jeter in 1996.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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