Yankees All-Time Greatest Rookie Seasons

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Mandatory Credit: Getty Images.
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images. /

Thurman Munson

Selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1968 draft, Thurman Munson played in just one full minor league season before taking over the Yankees starting catcher job in August of 1969. With just 87 at-bats that year, Munson snuck in right under the bar to keep his rookie eligibility another season.

“The Walrus” broke out with one of the best seasons by a Yankees backstop in history in 1970, batting .302/.386/.415 (126 OPS+) in 526 plate appearances and 125 games behind the plate. With 5.5 wins above replacement according to Baseball-Reference’s metric, Munson had the most valuable rookie season of any position player in Yankees history.

At 23-years-old, Munson took home the American League Rookie of the Year award for the season and finished 19th in the AL MVP voting. The Yankees went 93-69 that season, their best record since 1964. The pieces that would lead to back-to-back World Series championships later in the decade were beginning to fall into place.

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In 1976, Munson was selected as the first Yankees captain since Lou Gerhig’s retirement in 1939. He played 11 seasons in pinstripes, making seven All-Star squads, three Gold Glove awards, and the 1976 MVP before his untimely death in 1979.