Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Ryan Mountcastle and Ian Anderson Join Gregg Jefferies as the Only Players to Garner Rookie of the Year Support in Two Different Seasons

Going into the 2021 campaign, Gregg Jefferies was the only player to garner Rookie of the Year support in two different seasons.  With his excellent stint as a late season call up in 1988, Jefferies drew a single second place vote to finish tied for sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year election.  Jefferies followed that up with a respectable full-length 1989 campaign and finished third on the NL rookie ballot, in the process becoming the first player to pick up votes in multiple seasons.  However, the special circumstances of the abbreviated 60-game 2020 campaign, set the stage for four players—Atlanta Braves pitcher Ian Anderson, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, and Miami Marlins pitcher Sixto Sanchez—to draw support on the 2020 Rookie of the Year ballot and still retain their rookie status for 2021.  After completing their solid 2021 campaigns and finishing a respective sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year vote and fifth in the NL vote, Ryan Mountcastle and Ian Anderson have now joined Jefferies as the only players to accomplish this unique feat.

Ryan Mountcastle
The Baltimore Orioles selected Ryan Mountcastle in the first round of the 2015 Amateur Draft with the thirty-sixth overall pick which the club had received as compensation for losing Nelson Cruz to free agency.  Originally drafted as a shortstop, Mountcastle was slid over to third base when he was promoted to Double-A Bowie for the 2017 season.  With his move up to Triple-A Norfolk for 2019, the organization abandoned playing him at the hot corner and decided to split him between the less defensively demanding positions of first base and left field.  While in Norfolk, Mountcastle showcased his power, finishing 2019 with 25 home runs and ranking among the International League leaders in multiple offensive categories.  After earning his late August call up, Mountcastle scorched opposing pitchers and finished 2020 with a 137 OPS+ while batting .333 with 5 home runs and 23 RBI in 35 games.  Mountcastle collected a sole third place vote on the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year ballot from Baltimore-based Associated Press writer Dave Ginsburg which put him in a three-way tie with Jesus Luzardo and Brady Singer for eighth in the election.

Perhaps due to his limitations on defense, Mountcastle ranked well out of the top-ten in the preseason prospect lists, only checking in at 28th on Baseball Prospectus’ index and slotting all the way down in 63rd on Baseball America’s registry.  While Mountcastle did not garner as high a ranking as many of the other potential Rookie of the Year candidates, with his ability to hit for power, it was not hard to imagine him being able to factor into the vote.  The 24-year-old slugger got off to a slow start in 2021, batting just .226 with a .628 OPS through the first two months of the season.  However, Mountcastle’s bat came alive in June as he clubbed nine home runs, hit .327, and posted a sensational 1.015 OPS while driving in 26 runs in 26 games.  Mountcastle received two awards for his outstanding June, being named AL Rookie of the Month as well as AL Player of the Week for a six-game stretch from May 31 to June 6 in which he went deep four times, collected 10 RBI, and batted .458 with an eye-popping 1.563 OPS.  His dominant month also included a June 19 game in Baltimore where he went 4 for 4, hitting home runs in each of his first three plate appearances before adding a single in his final at bat.  Mountcastle drove in four runs and scored three times but it wasn’t enough as the O’s bullpen coughed up a 7-4 lead, allowing the Toronto Blue Jays to cross the plate six times in the top of the ninth inning to lose, 10-7.  The youngster’s excellent June moved his batting average up to .263 and increased his OPS to .770.  Yet, when the calendar turned to July, Mountcastle began to struggle again.  Then, just as his bat started to heat back up with an eight-game hitting streak, he went on the 7-day injured list with a concussion after receiving a hard tag to the head from shortstop Wander Franco while attempting to steal second base during an August 6 game against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Mountcastle returned to the field on August 17 and got exactly one hit in each of the next five contests to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games.  Mountcastle’s hitting streak came in the midst of Baltimore’s 19-game losing streak which spanned from August 3 to 24.  Despite the concussion and the O’s losing streak, Mountcastle had an outstanding August, smacking 8 home runs and driving in 16 runs in just 19 games while dominating pitchers with a .357 batting average and 1.183 OPS.  Although Mountcastle’s bat cooled in September, he continued to blast round-trippers and on September 12 hit his 28th longball of the season to tie the O’s rookie home run record set by franchise icon Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982.  Four nights later, Mountcastle launched New York Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery’s pitch deep over Camden Yards’ center field wall to establish a new O’s rookie benchmark.

Mountcastle finished his official rookie season with 33 home runs, 89 RBI, a .255 batting average, .309 OBP, and .796 OPS.  The young slugger’s impressive longball total led all MLB rookies while his 89 RBI was just one shy of the rookie-leading mark set by Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis García.  Mountcastle saw the majority of his at bats come out of the clean-up spot and the two-hole in the batting order.  He spent the bulk of his time on defense at first base but also was used as the club’s designated hitter and occasionally played left field as well.  Mountcastle’s home run and RBI marks led the Orioles as he was one of the few bright spots for a club that scored the next-to-the least amount of runs in the AL and tied the Arizona Diamondbacks with an MLB-worst 52-110 record.  Despite his longball power, Mountcastle accumulated a surprisingly low 0.9 WAR, a mark that was brought down by playing less demanding positions and producing poor defensive numbers in his limited appearances in left field.  In addition, the huge disparity in his home and road splits took some of the bite out of his power numbers as 22 of his 33 home runs came at hitter-friendly Camden Yards where his .871 OPS was well above the .713 mark he attained on the road.  When park adjusted, Mountcastle’s impressive .796 OPS translated to a less illustrious 112 OPS+.  Moreover, strikeouts and plate discipline were constant struggles for the slugger as he whiffed 161 times while taking just 41 walks.  Although Mountcastle experienced his share of difficulties at the plate during the 2021 season, on the strength of his sensational hitting in June and August, he was able to paste his name all over the AL rookie leaderboard.  Mountcastle not only paced the junior circuit rookies in home runs, but also finished runner-up in RBI, runs scored, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, and total bases while ranking in the top-five in several other categories.

Mountcastle earned a pair of second place votes and four third place check marks on the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year ballot.  The power-hitter’s 10 points placed him sixth in the election.  Mountcastle received votes from each of the Baltimore BBWAA chapter representatives, collecting a second place tally from at-large writer Peter Schmuck and a third place check mark from’s Joe Trezza.  His remaining second place vote came from Boston BBWAA chapter representative Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic.  Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena secured 22 of 30 first place votes and amassed 124 points to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award.  By gathering support in both 2020 and 2021, Mountcastle joined Gregg Jefferies and Ian Anderson as the only players to accrue votes in multiple seasons.

Ian Anderson
Originally selected by the Atlanta Braves with the third overall pick of the 2016 Amateur Draft, Ian Anderson progressed through the minor leagues and earned his first major league call up midway through the abbreviated 2020 season in late August.  The young right-hander immediately announced his presence with an impressive debut, holding the New York Yankees to just one hit, a Luke Voit home run, across six innings of work to outpitch veteran Gerrit Cole and pick up the win in Atlanta’s 5-1 victory.  Anderson finished the season with a 3-2 record and a phenomenal 1.95 ERA to help lead the Braves to the NL East division title.  Anderson rode his regular season momentum into the playoffs where he won both Game Two of the NL Wild Card Series over the Cincinnati Reds and Game Two of the NLDS versus the Miami Marlins.  In each of his playoff victories, Anderson did not allow a run.  He then started Games Two and Seven of the NLCS on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers but did not factor into the decision of either contest.  Overall, Anderson went 2-0 with a minuscule 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 innings across four postseason starts.  Despite only taking the mound for six regular season starts, Anderson made the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year ballot with a sole third place vote from Philadelphia BBWAA chapter member Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times.  The single point Anderson collected from McCaffery’s vote put him in a three-way tie with Andres Gimenez and Sixto Sanchez for seventh place in the election.

Anderson came into the 2021 season as one of the favorites to win the NL Rookie of the Year, ranking as the number five prospect according to Baseball Prospectus and number eight for Baseball America.  The young hurler got off to an excellent start, posting a 2.48 ERA in April.  He concluded the month by picking up his first two victories of the year, throwing six and two-thirds scoreless innings on the road against the Yankees and tossing seven frames of one-hit ball at home versus the Chicago Cubs.  On May 15, Anderson grabbed his third win of the season with another outstanding road start, holding the Milwaukee Brewers hitless for six innings before allowing a single and a double to open the seventh.  While Anderson was able to display flashes of brilliance, he also struggled with consistency, owning a 5-5 record with a 3.56 ERA when he went on the injured list after experiencing shoulder soreness during a July 11 start against the Marlins.  The right-hander returned to the mound on August 29 and pitched five and two-thirds scoreless innings to earn the win at home against the first place San Francisco Giants.  Anderson’s struggles resurfaced in early September but he finished the regular season strong with a pair of crucial victories in his final two outings to help the Braves hold off the Philadelphia Phillies and win their fourth straight NL East division title.  In his penultimate start, Anderson pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on the road versus the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Anderson capped off his regular season by holding off the Phillies to a pair of runs across six frames to clinch the division crown in front of the Braves fans at Truist Park.

Anderson finished his official rookie campaign with a 9-5 record and a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts while averaging just under a strikeout per inning.  The opening outs were often the hardest for Anderson to get as he compiled an ugly 6.38 ERA in the first inning compared to an impressive 2.93 mark thereafter.  Anderson’s overall 3.58 ERA was second-lowest among NL rookies with more than 75 innings pitched.  Anderson’s nine victories tied Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutiérrez for the NL rookie lead.  The young right-hander also ranked among the NL rookie top-five in several other categories including strikeouts, innings pitched, and WHIP.  His 2.6 WAR trailed only Marlins hurler Trevor Rogers among NL rookie pitchers and slotted fifth overall for NL rookies.  For the second year in a row, Anderson carried the momentum of a strong regular season into the playoffs, throwing five scoreless frames at home against the NL Central champion Brewers to earn the victory in Game Three of the NLDS.  Atlanta once again faced the Dodgers in the NLCS with Anderson making a pair of starts at Truist Park.  The rookie hurler took the hill for Game Two and the pennant-clinching Game Six but did not factor into the decision of either contest.  Anderson’s next start came in Game Three of the World Series against the Houston Astros.  With the series even at one game apiece and moving back to Truist Park, Anderson pitched brilliantly, throwing five no-hit innings to earn the victory and swing the momentum back in favor of the Braves who ultimately captured the World Series championship in six games.  Had Houston been able to force a decisive seventh game, it is likely Anderson would have been called upon to make the start.  The 23-year-old further cemented his status as an excellent playoff pitcher, posting a 1.59 ERA across 17 innings during the 2021 postseason.  Anderson’s crucial NLDS and World Series victories improved his playoff record to 4-0.  Moreover, with a magnificent 1.26 ERA from his combined 2020 and 2021 playoff appearances, Anderson is one of just four pitchers to produce a sub-1.50 ERA through his first eight career postseason starts.

Anderson’s solid campaign secured him a trio of third place tallies on the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year ballot.  The young righty’s three points gave him a fifth place finish in the election.  Since award ballots are submitted prior to the start of the postseason, Anderson’s role in the Braves championship run was not factored into the election.  Two of Anderson’s votes came from Atlanta’s BBWAA chapter representatives, Charles Odum of The Associated Press and’s Mark Bowman, while the other check mark came from The New York Post’s Joel Sherman who represented the Milwaukee BBWAA chapter.  Reds second baseman Jonathan India picked up 29 of 30 first place votes and accumulated 148 points to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award.  By accruing votes in both 2020 and 2021, Anderson joined Gregg Jefferies and Ryan Mountcastle as the only players to draw Rookie of the Year support in two separate seasons.

Ke’Bryan Hayes
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Ke’Bryan Hayes in the first round of the 2015 Amateur Draft with the thirty-second overall pick which the club had received as compensation for losing Russell Martin to free agency.  Hayes was selected in the same draft as fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Mountcastle, with the Pirates calling his name four picks ahead of the O’s slugger.  Hayes is the son of former major leaguer Charlie Hayes who shared the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year ballot with Gregg Jefferies and finished tied with Andy Benes for fifth in the election after garnering a single second place vote.  The younger Hayes proved to be a stalwart on defense, winning the minor league equivalent of the Gold Glove Award in 2017, 2018, and 2019, thus becoming the first player since Ramón Conde in 1961 to win the honor in three consecutive seasons.  However, when Hayes earned his call up to Pittsburgh in the latter half the 2020 campaign, the slick-gloved rookie made his mark by standing out on offense.  In his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs on September 1, Hayes hit a solo home run and stroked an RBI double.  He continued swinging a hot bat for the remainder of the season, hitting safely in 20 of the 24 games he appeared in.  During Pittsburgh’s penultimate game of the year, Hayes went 5 for 5, scoring three runs and hitting a trio of doubles to help the club to an 8-0 victory against the Cleveland Indians.  By the end of the campaign, he had raised his average to an incredible .376 with a .442 OBP, 1.124 OPS, and 201 OPS+.  Hayes capped the season by being named NL Rookie of the Month for September.  In the 2020 Rookie of the Year election, Hayes was the only candidate among Anderson, Mountcastle, and Sanchez to pick up more than a single third place vote as he collected a second place tally from Los Angeles BBWAA chapter member Christina Kahrl of along with a pair of third place check marks from the two Pittsburgh-based voters, Will Graves of the Associated Press and Dejan Kovacevic of  The three votes gave Hayes five points and a sixth place finish in the election.

After going on an offensive tear during the final month of 2020, Hayes entered 2021 as one of the favorites to win top NL rookie honors and was classified as the number seven prospect by Baseball Prospectus and number fifteen by Baseball America.  Hayes kicked off his 2021 campaign by taking Cubs hurler Kyle Hendricks deep in his first plate appearance on Opening Day.  Unfortunately, during Pittsburgh’s second game of the season, he injured his left wrist and departed the contest early.  As a result, the second generation slugger went on the injured list and missed two months of the season.  Hayes returned to the field on June 3 and hit safely in each of his first ten games back from injury.  The next few weeks were highlighted by a series of multi-hit games in both late June and early July as Hayes entered the All-Star Break with a solid .787 OPS.  However, Hayes slumped at the plate during the second half, posting just a .632 OPS.  His season came to a premature end on September 29 when he was placed back on the IL with soreness in his left wrist.  With Pittsburgh sitting last in the NL Central and Hayes experiencing pain in a different part of his wrist than he had in April, the club decided to shut the third baseman down rather than risk further injury.  Hayes’ wrist had periodically hampered him following his first stint on the IL and undoubtedly played a role in his struggles at the plate.

Injuries limited Hayes’ official rookie campaign to 96 games and he finished the year with a .689 OPS which translated to a below league average OPS+ of 87.  Nevertheless, Pittsburgh showed their confidence in the youngster, primarily batting him out of the two-hole in the lineup before moving him to the leadoff spot in September.  Hayes hit 6 home runs and drove in 38 runs while batting .257 with a .316 OBP.  Hayes showcased his speed, going 9 for 10 in stolen base attempts.  Although Hayes was unable to rekindle the magic in his bat from 2020, he lived up to his reputation as an elite defender, leading NL third basemen with 16 Defensive Runs Saved.  In addition, Hayes’ .988 fielding percentage and range factor per 9 innings of 2.89 were both well above the respective .957 and 2.56 league averages for third baseman.  Hayes also ranked third among his NL hot corner peers with 28 double plays turned.  Largely due to his sterling defense, Hayes produced 2.4 WAR, the fifth-highest total for NL rookie position players and seventh overall among senior circuit rookies.  However, Hayes’ slick glovework was not enough to secure the 24-year-old any votes on the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year ballot.

Sixto Sanchez
Miami Marlins pitcher Sixto Sanchez also had the chance to join Gregg Jefferies, Ryan Mountcastle, and Ian Anderson as the only players to draw Rookie of the Year support in two different campaigns before a shoulder injury caused the hurler to miss the entire 2021 regular season.  Originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015 as an amateur free agent, Sanchez was acquired by the Marlins four years later as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade.  Miami promoted Sanchez in late August and he was able to deliver some big wins and help the club capture one of the wild card spots in the special 2020 postseason tournament.  One of Sanchez’s key performances was a seven-inning complete game victory in the first half of a September 13 doubleheader that the Marlins swept over his former club, the Phillies.  Sanchez finished the 2020 regular season with a 3-2 record and 3.46 ERA.  The young right-hander made a pair of postseason starts, throwing five scoreless innings but not factoring into the decision in Miami’s Game Two victory against the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card Series.  His next start was a rough outing versus the Atlanta Braves in Game Three of the NLDS in which he gave up four runs across three innings and took the loss.  Sanchez’s solid regular season earned the pitcher a single third place vote on the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year ballot from Arizona BBWAA chapter member David Venn of to put him in a three-way tie with Ian Anderson and Andres Gimenez for seventh in the election.

Sanchez entered 2021 as the top prospect among Anderson, Hayes, and Mountcastle, ranking number four according to Baseball Prospectus and number six on Baseball America’s list.  Unfortunately the Dominican-born hurler’s season seemed doomed from the start as his arrival to the club’s spring training camp was first delayed by a visa issue followed by a false positive on a COVID-19 test.  Sanchez was then sidelined by shoulder soreness and in early July was shut down for the remainder of the season after an MRI showed a small tear in his right shoulder.  On July 20, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder.  Following the surgery, Marlins general manager Kim Ng said the club is hopeful Sanchez will ready by Opening Day 2022.  Technically, since Sanchez did not exceed his rookie limits in 2020 or 2021, he will be eligible for the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year.

When Gregg Jefferies became the first player to garner Rookie of the Year support in two separate seasons, he did so under much different circumstances than Ryan Mountcastle and Ian Anderson.  During Jefferies’ 1988 call up, he made his first appearance of the year for the Mets on August 28 and was with the club through the end of the campaign which represented roughly one-fifth of the regular season.  Since Jefferies had spent fewer than 45 days on the Mets major league roster prior to September 1 and the 115 career at bats he had accumulated up until that point did not exceed the 130 at bat threshold, the young slugger’s rookie status stayed intact for 1989.  By contrast, Mountcastle and Anderson made their 2020 debuts on August 21 and August 26, respectively.  Thus their time on their club’s roster represented more than half of the barely two-month long campaign.  Had Mountcastle and Anderson appeared on their team’s roster for anything close to half of a normal 162-game regular season, they would have easily blown past the service time threshold and would not have had their rookie status intact for 2021.

However, when Jefferies accomplished the feat over the course of the 1988 and 1989 seasons, the circumstances under which he was operating were also different from prior eras.  At the time the Rookie of the Year Award was established in 1947, only first place votes were counted and it was not until a tie between Alfredo Griffin and John Castino in the 1979 AL vote that the 5-3-1 voting format of five points for first place, three points for second, and a single point for third was adopted for the following year’s election.  In addition, the 50-inning, 130-at bat, and fewer than 45 days of pre-September 1 service time did not become the standard thresholds until 1971.  Thus, it is possible that other players may have turned the trick before Jefferies had they been operating under the same criteria.  Regardless though, for three-plus decades Jefferies stood as the only player to garner Rookie of the Year support in two separate seasons and it took a unique set of circumstances for another player to achieve this result.

----by John Tuberty

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Cards: Gregg Jefferies 1988 Score, Ryan Mountcastle 2021 Bowman, Ian Anderson 2021 Bowman, Ryan Mountcastle 2021 Bowman-Rookie of the Year Favorites, Ian Anderson 2021 Bowman-Rookie of the Year Favorites-Mojo Refractor, Ke’Bryan Hayes 2021 Bowman-Rookie of the Year Favorites, Sixto Sanchez 2021 Bowman-Rookie of the Year Favorites

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