Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson has been the clear-cut favorite for American League Rookie of the Year for much of the second half of the season. His club has gone from the laughingstock of the majors to the best record in the AL and Henderson has played a huge role in their success.
But when Henderson and Baltimore arrive at Fenway Friday for a three-game set against the Red Sox, he’ll be met by Triston Casas, a Sox rookie who has had a valuable season in his own right.
Henderson will enter the series batting .251/.326/.476 with an .802 OPS and 23 homers. He’s posted a 4.7 WAR according to Baseball-Reference while providing some solid defense at both shortstop and third base.
Casas hasn’t paid much attention to Henderson, though, or at least that’s what he says.
“I’ll see him in a couple of days,” Casas said from Tropicana Field Wednesday. “I’ll see where his numbers are at. I don’t know where his numbers are compared to mine. I know that he’s a really good player. I don’t know what our stats are like side by side, but I know that he’s a really good player, and if anybody’s going to win it, it should be him.”
After a slow start to the season, Casas has been the Sox’ best hitter in the second half. No, he doesn’t boast defense at Henderson’s level. Casas, while making improvements at first base, is still a minus-4 in defensive runs saved.
But Casas’ impact at the plate is noteworthy. He’s currently boasting .268/.369/.499 line with 23 homers and an .868 OPS, racking up 2.0 bWAR.
“Numbers don’t lie,” said manager Alex Cora. “Hopefully he’s in the top three.”
Yet much like “rookie” Masataka Yoshida, Casas hinted that he doesn’t care much about winning the award.
“Rookie of the Year was never something that I set out to do,” said Casas. “The only goal that I had this year was to play 150 games. I don’t think I’m going to reach that goal. That’s the only thing that I wanted to do. But I definitely think I have done well with the opportunity that I’ve been given.”
Casas has played in 125 games this season, and with 22 games remaining he will indeed miss that 150-game mark. Casas’ logic is that the more he plays, something he takes pride in, the better chance he has at reaching his own goals.
Rookie of the Year was never a part of the mix.
“I don’t know who determines Rookie of the Year,” Casas admitted. “It’s not me and it’s not Gunnar or any player in this locker room or any coach. So to say that I’d want Rookie of the Year would just mean that I want the recognition and acknowledgement of a third party or anyone else. That’s not what I set out to do when I started playing baseball.
“I just want to play the game the right way. And however the chips fall if I ever win an award or if I don’t it’s not going to change like what I think about myself.”
The Orioles arrive at Fenway with an 88-51 record. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The probable starters for the series are as follows: Kyle Bradish (10-6, 3.03 ERA) vs. Tanner Houck (4-8, 5.07); Jack Flaherty (8-8, 4.84) vs. Chris Sale (6-3, 4.46); Grayson Rodriguez (5-3, 4.91) vs. Brayan Bello (11-8, 3.61). The Red Sox are 3-3 so far against the Orioles this year, splitting in the two series the clubs played against each other.