Kyle Lewis, Devin Williams Win Rookie of the Year Awards
On Monday night, their perseverance was rewarded.
Lewis unanimously won the American League Rookie of the Year award and Williams was named National League Rookie of the Year in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Lewis, the 25-year-old Mariners center fielder, received all 30 first-place votes after batting .262/.364/.437 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs while playing highlight-reel defense in center field. He finished either first or second among all MLB rookies in runs, hits, home runs, RBIs, total bases and walks.
Williams, the 26-year-old Brewers reliever, received 14 of 30 first-place votes after going 4-1, 0.33 in 27 appearances. He allowed only eight hits and one earned run all season and struck out 53 of the 100 batters he faced, the highest strikeout percentage in MLB history by a pitcher with at least 20 innings in a season. He became the first reliever to ever win the award without recording a save.
Lewis, the BA College Player of the Year in 2016, suffered a gruesome knee injury on a collision at home plate barely a month after the Mariners selected him 11th overall in the draft. He suffered a setback when he tried to return in both 2017, including being pulled from the Arizona Fall League, and needed a cleanup procedure in 2018. He entered 2019 having never played more than 86 games in a season.
But he managed to stay healthy in 2019 and made his major league debut with a bang in September, homering in each of his first three career games. He carried it into 2020 and became the fourth Mariners player to win Rookie of the Year, joining Alvin Davis (1984), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).
“I always believed I would find a way back,” Lewis told the Seattle Times. “I think naturally doubt kicks in sometimes when you’re dealing with things. You can’t see the future, you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes it got dark, but I tried to just keep it day by day.”
Williams, a second-round pick of the Brewers in 2012, failed to advance past the Class A levels in his first four seasons and missed all of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery. After posting a 5.82 ERA in 14 starts for high Class A Carolina when he returned in 2018, he thought long and hard about quitting baseball.
"I was going home after the ’18 season and I didn’t even want to go to instructs, honestly,” Williams told Baseball America in September. “I was thinking about just finding a different career path.”
A move to the bullpen rejuvenated his career in 2019. He rose from Double-A to Triple-A, was selected to the Futures Game and received his first big league callup in August. He posted a 3.95 ERA in 13 appearances, setting the table for his award-winning 2020.
White Sox center fielder Luis Robert finished second in American League voting with 27 second-place votes and 83 total points and Astros righthander Cristian Javier finished third with 11 third-place votes and 11 points.
Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm and Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth finished tied for second in National League voting. Bohm received nine first-place votes and Cronenworth received six, but both finished with 74 points based on second and third-place votes.