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Outfielders Julio Rodríguez, Michael Harris II are MLB’s rookies of the year

Julio Rodríguez got all but one vote in the American League. (Stephen Brashear/AP)

Two of baseball’s youngest outfielders earned rookie of the year honors Monday night, when the Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez and the Atlanta Braves’ Michael Harris II were announced as the winners in the American League and National League, respectively.

Harris and Rodríguez, both 21, tied for third among major league center fielders in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.853), trailing only the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge (1.111) and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout (.999). Rodríguez finished third among center fielders with 28 home runs. Only Judge (62) and Trout (40) had more.

Rodríguez, who spent the entire season as the Mariners’ center fielder, earned 29 of 30 first-place votes. The other went to the Baltimore Orioles’ Adley Rutschman, who was called up in May but still finished second among major league catchers in FanGraphs’ calculation of wins above replacement.

“Being able to win that rookie of the year award is very cool,” Rodríguez said. “You only have one chance to do it in your career, and to be able to win it, it feels pretty good.”

Harris’s closest competition came from a teammate, right-hander Spencer Strider. Harris received 22 first-place votes, with Strider receiving the other eight. Strider, 24, rode an explosive fastball to a 2.67 ERA and averaged nearly 14 strikeouts per nine innings over 131⅔.

“I was just waiting for them to say a name, and I was kind of expecting Spencer. I feel like we were one and two,” Harris said. “It was kind of surprising to just hear my name after coming up middle of the season. … I didn’t really expect this.”

Rodríguez is one of the game’s brightest emerging stars, a player heralded as likely to be the centerpiece of a Mariners renaissance long before he became the fifth player in franchise history to be the rookie of the year. He finished second to Juan Soto in his first Home Run Derby. He became the third rookie in history to hit 25 homers and steal 25 bases.

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He helped lead the Mariners to their first postseason appearance since he was less than a year old — albeit in the largest playoff field ever in a full season. And he is under contract through at least the 2029 season after signing a 12-year deal that reportedly includes options for either side to pick up along the way and incentives that could boost the contract’s value to more than $400 million.

Atlanta called up Harris from Class AA in late May, giving him four months to establish himself in an experienced lineup just a year removed from a World Series title. He nearly compiled a 20-20 season, settling for 19 homers and 20 stolen bases in 114 games. The Atlanta-area native became the latest to sign for the long term with the five-time defending NL East champions when he signed an eight-year deal worth $72 million in August.

“I thought I at least had another year down in the minors — at least,” Harris said. “… But I always told myself whenever I got the opportunity to have my name called I would do everything I could and make all of the adjustments to make sure I would stay.”

Thanks to new provisions negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement, Rodríguez earned the Mariners an extra draft pick after the first round. Rodríguez was a top-100 prospect when the Mariners named him to their Opening Day roster; the players union had been eager to incentivize teams to put promising rookies on the roster to start the season instead of waiting until the optimal moment to extend their years of team control.

“Whenever they said, ‘Okay, we’re just going to play you; if you can do it, we’re going to take you on,’ I was really grateful for that opportunity,” Rodríguez said.

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The CBA also calls for second-place finishers Strider and Rutschman to be awarded a full year of service time despite being called up midseason and includes provisions for each winner to receive part of a pre-arbitration bonus pool meant to compensate young players more proportionately to their contributions than MLB minimum salaries allow. Any pre-arbitration player who finishes in the top five in MVP or Cy Young voting or in the top two for rookie of the year honors receives part of a $50 million pool.

Harris and Rodríguez, of course, agreed to deals that guarantee them far more money than is guaranteed to most players who win this award. So did Strider, who agreed to a six-year deal worth $75 million as part of Atlanta’s plan to sign all of its promising young players for the long term. Rutschman, the No. 1 draft pick in 2019, made the minimum this season. His career earnings, at least for the moment, will increase dramatically because of the change.

MLB will announce its managers of the year Tuesday, followed by its Cy Young winners Wednesday and its MVPs on Thursday.

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