Oct 15, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez (44) strikes out swinging in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during game three of the ALDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With loved ones gathered around him Monday night, Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez hugged everybody within reach once the announcement came. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America had voted Rodríguez the American League Rookie of the Year after a dominant season that helped put the Mariners back in the playoffs since 2001.

“I have all of the people here who supported me and made this happen,” Rodríguez said during an MLB Network broadcast. “It doesn’t happen without them.”

Rodríguez (and his supporters) made a lot happen in 2022. Already awarded with a Silver Slugger as one of the AL’s three-best hitting outfielders — along with the top MLB rookie awards from Baseball America, Baseball Digest, The Sporting News and possibly others lost in a heaping avalanche of praise — Rodríguez won the Jackie Robinson AL Rookie of the Year trophy with 29 of a possible 30 first-place votes.

Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, whose pivotal work helped Baltimore improve by 31 victories and surprisingly contend for a playoff spot until the final two weeks of the regular season, finished second with one first-place vote. Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan, whose leadoff prowess and defensive skills helped Cleveland win the AL Central and reach the second round of the playoffs, finished third.

Michael Harris II of the Atlanta Braves comfortably won National League Rookie of the Year. His teammate, right-hander Spencer Strider, took second place.

The rookie selections kick off BBWAA awards week, with the managers getting the spotlight next. Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Buck Showalter of the New York Mets, and Brian Snitker of the Braves are the NL finalists.The AL finalists include Terry Francona of the Guardians, Brandon Hyde of the Orioles and Scott Servais of the Mariners.

Rodríguez, an elite athlete with an effervescent nature as a 21-year-old, batted .284/.345/.509 with 28 home runs, 25 stolen bases, 84 runs scored and 40 walks in 132 games. He not only spurred a renewed Mariners enthusiasm, but he also helped Seattle end a 21-year postseason drought by qualifying as a wild card.

A spirited attitude helped Rodríguez stay positive after a slow start. He batted .206/.284/.260 with zero homers in April, but once the calendar turned to May, he shifted into overdrive. He slugged .525 with 19 homers from May 1 to mid-August, though injuries (notably a bad back) slowed him late in the summer. With the Mariners pushing for the playoffs, Rodríguez batted .394/.456/.747 with seven homers in his final 19 games.

Rodríguez improved his defensive ratings in center field as the season continued, finishing tied for 13th in Total Runs Saved at Fielding Bible among outfielders who logged at least 1,000 innings. He missed the tail end of the regular season trying to manage his back pain but returned for the playoffs.

Rodríguez’s victory was nearly unanimous, but the other finalists put up great seasons that could have won the award at another time. Rutschman, the first overall pick in 2019, batted .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers and 65 walks and handled the most-improved pitching staff in the league.

Considered a minor prospect by most analysts, Kwan batted .298/.373/.400 with 89 runs scored, 38 extra-base hits, 19 stolen bases and 62 walks to go with Gold Glove defense in the outfield. Cleveland reached Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the New York Yankees with Kwan batting .429/.455/.619 in the series.

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