Everyone agrees — Kyle Lewis was the American League’s Rookie of the Year. Unanimously. Nice to find something these days that all can agree on, even it was a 60-game season.
All 30 voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America said he deserved the Jackie Robinson Award. He’s the the 12th to run the table, and first for the Mariners. White Sox CF Luis Robert came in second with 27 second-place votes and Astros pitcher Cristian Javier was third with 11 third-place votes.
Lewis is the fourth Mariner to win the award, joining Alvin Davis (1984), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001). Lewis, who turned 25 July 13, is the second-youngest for Seattle, behind only Davis (23 in 1984), and ahead of Suzuki (27 in 2001) and Sasaki (32 in 2000).
The National League winner was Brewers reliever Devin Williams, who won with 14 first-place votes.
“It just means a lot,” Lewis said via video conference from his family home in Georgia. “Seeing my family and the road of highs and lows in the minor leagues, the highs and lows of major leagues, success, struggle and injury and all that.
“My family was around and seeing them so proud, and you know, so nervous watching the TV. A lot of those things piled up.”
Lewis led the Mariners in batting (.262), home runs (11), runs (37) and walks (34), becoming the second player in MLB since 1969 to lead his team in all four categories, joining Mark McGwire’s 1987 rookie campaign with Oakland.
Lewis led AL rookies in FanGraphs WAR (1.7), runs scored (37), walks (34), total bases (90), times on base (88), on-base percentage (.364), slugging percentage (.437, home runs ( 11-tie), and OPS (.801). He led all MLB rookies in runs scored, walks, total bases, times on base and on-base percentage, while also ranking among rookie leaders in games ( 58-tie), RBI (2nd, 28), at-bats (2nd, 206), hits (54, 2nd-tie), multi-hit games (2nd, 15) and average (3rd, .262).
Born in Snellville, GA, where he attended Shiloh High School, then Mercer University in Macon, Lewis is the fourth Georgia-born player to win the award, joining award namesake Robinson (1947, born in Cairo, GA), Jerome Walton (1989, born in Newnan, GA) and Buster Posey (2010, born in Leesburg, GA).
Since 2000, the Mariners are one of four teams in baseball to have had three winners of the award, with Sasaki, Ichiro and Lewis joining Oakland (Bobby Crosby-2004, Huston Street-2005 and Andrew Bailey-2009); Florida (Dontrelle Willis-2003, Hanley Ramírez-2006 and Chris Coghlan-2009) and Atlanta (Rafael Furcal-2000, Craig Kimbrel-2011 and Ronald Acuña Jr.-2018).
Lewis jumped off to a fast start, including homering off Justin Verlander in his first at-bat of the season.
In 36 games through August 31, he hit .328 with 29 runs, 2 doubles, 8 home runs, 21 RBI, 21 walks and a .945 OPS (.418 OBP/.527 SLG). Among AL rookies, he ranked first in runs, hits, batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, and was second in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage.
Overall, he ranked second in the AL with a .328 batting average through the end of August, while leading the AL in runs scored.
He had two separate 10-game hitting streaks: July 24-Aug. 2 and Aug. 16-27. His streaks were the longest by a Mariners player this season. He was one of only two players in the majors this year to tally two separate 10-game hitting streaks, joining Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson.
Lewis made several defensive highlights in center field, headlined by a grand-slam robbing catch vs. Oakland’s Ramón Laureano on Sept. 14. He also robbed Jason Castro of a home run Aug. 4, making a leaping catch at the center field wall. He made another jumping catch at the wall Aug. 18 at Dodger Stadium, robbing Justin Turner to keep the score tied 0-0 in the 4th inning.
The other unanimous choices: Carlton Fisk, Mark McGwire, Sandy Alomar Jr., Tim Salmon, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, José Abreu, Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez. There have been 13 unanimous winners in the National League.
Lewis is up for nomination for the 2020 All-MLB Team. Fans can vote once every 24 hours for the best players to help determine this year’s honors. The link for fans to vote is https://www.mlb.com/fans/all-mlb-team. First and second teams will be announced in early December on MLB Network. Voting ends at 11 a.m. Friday.