It took a historic season for the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger to deny Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong in the race for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
DeJong finished second to Los Angeles' Bellinger, who garnered all 30 first-place votes en route to winning the award from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. DeJong pulled in 15 second-place votes and 11 third-place votes while tallying 56 points.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR VOTING
Cody Bellinger, LAD
Paul DeJong, STL
Josh Bell, PIT
Rhys Hoskins, PHI
German Marquez, COL
Manuel Margot, SD
Kyle Freeland, COL
Luis Castillo, CIN
Ian Happ, CHC
Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell finished third after getting 10 second-place votes and two third-place votes for 32 points.
"I just try to maximize every opportunity I get," DeJong said on MLB Network, moments before the winner was announced. "It was kind of 'next guy up.' Step right into the Cardinals' system and produce. It's that culture. It doesn't matter how much time you have -- when you're on the field, you're out there competing and playing hard."
DeJong's case for consideration was built not only on the offensive production he provided, but also on the stabilization he gave the Cardinals at a key defensive position. A team receiving underwhelming production at shortstop found its answer in DeJong, who became the first member of the organization's 2015 Draft class to ascend to the Majors when he was called up in late May.
Within a month, DeJong had taken over as the starting shortstop. He never lost the job.
DeJong's impact only grew, too, as the Cardinals eventually turned to him in their search for a three-hole hitter. He ended up batting third 51 times, more than any other player on the team.
DeJong's production warranted such a prominent spot in the lineup. He hit the first of his 25 home runs in his first Major League at-bat, and he became the first rookie to lead the Cardinals in home runs since Albert Pujols, who was the Cards' last Rookie of the Year in 2001. DeJong's 25 homers in his first 108 games ranked second among all NL rookies in '17, as did his 52 extra-base hits. Only Bellinger eclipsed DeJong in both categories.
"You take 25 home runs at 24 years old and then add [the] 13 [he hit in Triple-A] to it, that's rare air for a seasoned veteran, let alone a 24-year-old shortstop who is in his second full [professional] season," manager Mike Matheny said. "That goes beyond surprising for me. That goes to amazing. ... The mental toughness of handling that position, hitting third in the order, being so young in the game, I don't know if you could ask any more of a young player than what he did."
Even though DeJong did not make his debut until May 28, he co-led NL rookies in doubles (26), ranked second in slugging percentage (.532), third in total bases (222), fourth in home runs, fourth in RBIs (65), fourth in hits (119), fifth in runs (55) and eighth in game-winning RBIs (5). In comparing DeJong's final statistics to his fellow finalists, it's worth noting he accrued all these numbers in significantly fewer games (108) than Bell (159) and Bellinger (132).