How many recent Rookie of the Year runners-up have had better careers than the winner?


How often over the last couple of decades has the Rookie of the Year runner-up gone on to have a better career than that year's winner?

With Alec Bohm placing second in the National League to Brewers reliever Devin Williams, we took a look back at the last 20 years of Rookie of the Year voting, all 40 winners and runners-up.

It felt like this would have been closer than it was. Of the last 40 winners, at least 29 have outplayed the second-place finisher throughout the rest of their careers.

And of the 11 runners-up who eventually outperformed the winners, only five were clear-cut.

Those five were:

  • Freddie Freeman, who finished second to Craig Kimbrel in 2011.
  • Elvis Andrus, the 2009 runner-up to Andrew Bailey.
  • J.A. Happ, also a 2009 runner-up to Chris Coghlan.
  • Joey Votto, who finished second to catcher Geovany Soto in 2008.
  • And Hideki Matsui, who was second to Royals shortstop Angel Berroa in 2003.

The other seven were closer calls. 

  • Juan Soto was second to Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2018. Both are superstars but many would lean Soto's way.
  • Gary Sanchez has his warts, but he's done more than 2016 winner Michael Fulmer, who has had injury issues and a 4.60 ERA since.
  • Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa, both free agents a year from now, are very close but Lindor has the edge for durability. Lindor finished second to Correa for 2015 AL Rookie of the Year.
  • Robinson Cano, the 2005 runner-up to closer Huston Street, has had a clearly superior career but was also busted for PEDs in 2018, which taints his legacy.

The 2002 Rookie of the Year race was probably the most boring of the last two decades. The winners were Philly legend Eric Hinske and starting pitcher Jason Jennings. The runners-up were Rodrigo Lopez and Brad Wilkerson, who had slightly better careers.

The biggest subsequent career gap between a winner and runner-up over the last 20 years? Bryce Harper over Wade Miley in 2012 sticks out. So does Jacob deGrom over Billy Hamilton in 2014, Kris Bryant over Matt Duffy in 2015, and Ryan Howard over Willy Taveras in 2005.

The best combined year for winners and runners-up was 2001, when Ichiro beat CC Sabathia and Albert Pujols won over Roy Oswalt.

Here are the last 20 years, with the runner-up in parentheses:

2020: Kyle Lewis (Luis Robert) and Devin Williams (Alec Bohm/Jake Cronenworth)

2019: Yordan Alvarez (John Means) and Pete Alonso (Mike Soroka)

2018: Shohei Ohtani (Miguel Andujar) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (Juan Soto)


2017: Aaron Judge (Andrew Benintendi) and Cody Bellinger (Paul DeJong)

2016: Michael Fulmer (Gary Sanchez) and Corey Seager (Trea Turner)

2015: Carlos Correa (Francisco Lindor) and Kris Bryant (Matt Duffy)

2014: Jose Abreu (Matt Shoemaker) and Jacob deGrom (Billy Hamilton)

2013: Wil Myers (Jose Iglesias) and Jose Fernandez (Yasiel Puig)

2012: Mike Trout (Yoenis Cespedes) and Bryce Harper (Wade Miley)

2011: Jeremy Hellickson (Mark Trumbo) and Craig Kimbrel (Freddie Freeman)

2010: Neftali Feliz (Austin Jackson) and Buster Posey (Jason Heyward)

2009: Andrew Bailey (Elvis Andrus) and Chris Coghlan (J.A. Happ)

2008: Evan Longoria (Alexei Ramirez) and Geovany Soto (Joey Votto)

2007: Dustin Pedroia (Delmon Young) and Ryan Braun (Troy Tulowitzki)

2006: Justin Verlander (Jonathan Papelbon) and Hanley Ramirez (Ryan Zimmerman) 

2005: Huston Street (Robinson Cano) and Ryan Howard (Willy Taveras)

2004: Bobby Crosby (Shingo Takatsu) and Jason Bay (Khalil Greene)

2003: Angel Berroa (Hideki Matsui) and Dontrelle Willis (Scott Podsednik)

2002: Eric Hinske (Rodrigo Lopez) and Jason Jennings (Brad Wilkerson)

2001: Ichiro (CC Sabathia) and Albert Pujols (Roy Oswalt)

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