Neither one needed much time to create a splash, and together they brought both Rookie of the Year awards back to Florida.
Fernandez stood out in a very deep National League class this season, and the precocious Miami Marlins pitcher received 26 of 30 first-place votes from a Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel in results announced Monday.
Myers won the American League prize after the Tampa Bay slugger put up impressive offensive numbers in barely half a season. The right fielder was chosen first on 23 of 30 ballots, beating out Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias and Rays teammate Chris Archer.
“Honestly, when I was called up that didn’t even cross my mind. As the season went on I could see I would have a chance,” Myers said on a conference call from his North Carolina home. “To be able to win is just a huge honor and I’m very excited about it.”
The two announcements marked the beginning of awards week in baseball. NL and AL Manager of the Year will be revealed today, with the Cy Young winners Wednesday and MVPs on Thursday.
Myers became the third Tampa Bay player in six years to be selected Rookie of the Year, joining Jeremy Hellickson (2011) and Evan Longoria (2008).
Fernandez easily topped runner-up Yasiel Puig, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Cuban players ran 1-2 in the NL race. The only previous Rookie of the Year winners from Cuba came in the AL: Jose Canseco in 1986 and Tony Oliva in 1964.
“It means a lot just to be compared to those guys,” Fernandez said. “I’m not sure I was even born when those guys were playing. But for sure I heard the names before and they did a lot of good things in baseball. … All the kids in Cuba play baseball.”
Puig received the other four first-place votes and amassed 95 points to 142 for Fernandez, who made the All-Star team at age 20. He went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts for a last-place club that finished 62-100.
Fernandez was shut down in September after 172⅔ innings to protect his precious arm. Still, his debut season was so superb that he’s one of three finalists for the NL Cy Young Award — though Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is a heavy favorite.
The 22-year-old Myers batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in only 88 games after he was called up from the minors June 18. He immediately added much-needed power to the middle of the Rays’ lineup, helping them reach the playoffs as an AL wild card.
Myers was rated one of baseball’s best hitting prospects when he was traded from Kansas City to Tampa Bay last December in a seven-player deal that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals.
“There were some mixed feelings in leaving Kansas City,” Myers acknowledged. “I don’t want to say they gave up on me. They made a move they thought would better their team and it did.”
Worked out well for Tampa Bay, too.
The Rays were 36-33 before Myers arrived this season and went 56-38 the rest of the way. They won a tiebreaker at Texas for the final AL playoff berth and beat Cleveland in the wild-card game before getting eliminated by World Series champion Boston in the division series.
Myers finished with 131 points in the balloting to 80 for the slick-fielding Iglesias, traded from the Red Sox to the Tigers just before the deadline in late July. Both teams ended up in the AL championship series.
Iglesias was listed first on five ballots. Archer and fellow pitcher Dan Straily of the Oakland Athletics each got one first-place vote.