Jon Heyman: The AL Rookie of the Year is Ohtani, regardless of injury

The pick here for AL Rookie of the Year is Shohei Ohtani, who has been nothing short of amazing and historic.

Ohtani is very likely the underdog to Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar, who’s having a terrific but more typical, season. Andujar’s candidacy in some ways is more obvious, with an extra-base hit total moving up the leaderboard in Yankee history (though he won’t catch Joe DiMaggio – no shame there!).

Ohtani’s case is a little different, and relies on a look at the total picture, which is nothing short of remarkable. He missed significant time due to his UCL tear, he’s a part-time DH and was a once-a-week pitcher before having to take a break with the injury.

As Angels GM Billy Eppler said, “Trying to quantify him is going to be unique … But he’s impactful, no doubt.”

He’s unique, yes. But it should be far from impossible to calculate.

As Ken Rosenthal pointed out in a piece for The Athletic, Ohtani actually slightly leads Andujar in total WAR once the pitching numbers are added to the hitting numbers.

Really, that shouldn’t be so surprising. Ohtani has been brilliant in both roles, even though in some sense they’ve both been cameo roles, thanks to the unfortunate injury.

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Andujar (and Gleyber Torres, for that matter) and Ohtani have both been excellent for rookies. Andujar, the normal candidate, probably is the favorite due to the daily nature of his position, his team’s status as a contender, and possibly to some degree (a small) advantage as a New York player in a pennant race, which has helped him bridge Ohtani’s original publicity edge.   

But let’s not lose sight of this: Ohtani is doing things no one has done in a century, maybe ever.

“There’s a wow factor, whether he’s in the batters box or on the mound,” Eppler said. “I just sit back and enjoy watching him play.”

He’s an all-time talent, as Eppler knew while chasing him for years in Japan, and while Ohtani missed several weeks while attempting to do something no one’s done successfully in the big leagues in decades, he’s earned the honor.

He shouldn’t be penalized because he’d played in Japan’s top professional league. If anything, he gets points for making the adjustment so seamlessly at age 24.

He also gets points here for signing for a tiny fraction of his worth (by some estimates, one percent of it, or less). But that isn’t the reason he should be Rookie of the Year: He deserves it.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.