MLB’s AL, NL Rookies of the Year bonded by threads

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Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll have been impacting Major League Baseball for so long now, it’s almost hard to believe they’re still, technically, rookies.

It’s far easier to believe that Henderson, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop, and Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Carroll were each chosen unanimous rookie of the year winners in their respective leagues on Monday.

In balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Henderson, 22, claimed the American League honor after hitting 28 home runs, producing an .814 OPS and playing stellar defense at shortstop and third base for the Orioles, who broke a seven-year playoff drought and won the AL East just two years after losing 110 games.

Carroll, 23, made his major league debut just two days earlier than Henderson — Aug. 29, 2022 — and uplifted his franchise in a similar fashion to snag National League top rookie honors.

He batted .285 with 25 home runs, 68 stolen bases and an .868 OPS for the Diamondbacks, who won 84 games, earned a wild-card berth and advanced to the World Series, although BBWAA balloting was completed before the playoffs began.

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Carroll also led the NL with 10 triples and 65 extra-base hits. Henderson? He had nine triples and 66 extra-base hits, tied for 11th in the AL.

Both players’ pro careers have unfolded almost exactly as their teams hoped: A late August 2022 debut, late enough to retain their rookie status in 2023 – and ensure their clubs earn an extra first-round pick by virtue of winning rookie of the year, thanks to MLB and the MLBPA’s prospect promotion incentive.

Both produced an award-worthy year that helps their clubs to the playoffs. Though they’re entirely different players — the 5-foot-10 Carroll a speedy, gap-to-gap hitter with a fair amount of pop, the 6-3 Henderson a power-hitting shortstop with a rocket arm — they’ve been in almost professional lockstep for the past 15 months.

All this comes just five years after they were teammates and opponents on the summer 2018 elite prospects circuit, competing with and against each other in various Perfect Game and Under Armour showcases. The two exchanged jerseys when Baltimore played at Arizona late this season, and now they’ll be linked by more than just threads.

‘Hats off to him,’ says Henderson of Carroll on a Monday night teleconference. ‘He’s just been unreal and it’s been really fun to watch. And I look forward to competing with him for many years to come.’

Says Carroll of Henderson’s jersey joining his collection: ‘Those are the kinds of guys I want on my wall – guys who play the game the right way and respect the game. I feel like that’s who he is.’

Their paths have diverged in one sense, however.

Carroll and the Diamondbacks agreed to an eight-year, $111 million extension in spring training, a deal that could keep Carroll in Arizona through 2031 if the club picks up his option.

Henderson and the Orioles have not had any reported contract extensions, although owner John Angelos has noted the difficulty his franchise may face in retaining catcher Adley Rutschman — the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2022 — Henderson and other young players.

For now, Henderson will go year-to-year with his contract, which may prove lucrative in the long run — certainly if he progresses beyond what was an award-winning first full year. The $750,000 bonus he receives from the pre-arbitration bonus pool will more than double his $723,000 2023 salary.

Henderson received all 30 first-place votes — two from each AL city — to become the first Orioles player to win rookie of the year honors since reliever Gregg Olson in 1989; he’s the seventh Oriole to win it.

Cleveland Guardians right-hander Tanner Bibee earned 20 of 30 second-place votes to finish second, well ahead of fellow finalist Boston Red Sox first baseman Tristan Casas. Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung, whose team eliminated both Henderson’s Orioles and Carroll’s Diamondbacks to win the World Series, finished fourth.

Carroll held off second-place finisher Kodai Senga, the New York Mets right-hander who received 22 of 30 second-place votes. Los Angeles Dodgers power-hitting outfielder James Outman received five second- and five third-place votes to place third, while Colorado’s Nolan Jones was fourth.

Carroll entered the season as the heavy favorite to win the award, and had his eyes on the organizational prize all along – the extra pick awarded after the first round of the 2024 draft. He hopes to see that come to fruition – just as his sterling rookie season did.

‘That’s probably what brought the most weight to chasing something like this for me,’ says Carroll. ‘Not for the personal fame or attention, but for that ability to benefit my team. I’m hoping to be here long enough where that draft pick is a star player alongside me for the Diamondbacks.

‘To be able to reward the front office’s belief in me this year – that’s really special to me.’

This post appeared first on USA TODAY