Are Yankees, Red Sox set for showdown over Rookie of the Year award?

If everything continues on this trajectory, they should finish 1-2.
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Right-hander Luis Gil entered spring training as a candidate for the final spot on the New York Yankees' roster, armed with a electric fastball, an otherwordly changeup, and surprising rookie eligibility after making six starts (29 1/3 innings) in 2021. The expectation was that he might just miss enough bats to be a viable sixth starter/back-end bullpen candidate, as long as he could eventually figure out where his fastball was going.

Those expectations have ... changed.

After Gil's eight innings of one-run ball in Anaheim on Wednesday night, he's officially moved not just to the forefront of the Rookie of the Year conversation, but he's also in line to receive Cy Young votes and potentially start the All-Star Game. When the Yankees asked Gil to fill Gerrit Cole's roster spot, this isn't exactly what they meant, but they doubtlessly do appreciate the initiative.

Gil still has to complete the next four months of action to earn his hardware, and will undoubtedly face stumbling blocks along the way (the odd start where his walks catch up with him, the team's rest mandates, Cole's potential return). But by doing the little things like leading all of Major League Baseball in hits per nine innings (4.1!), he's likely placed himself atop most current ballots, ahead of Oakland closer Mason Miller (another sensation) and ... sigh ... Wilyer Abreu of the Boston Red Sox.

AL Rookie of the Year leaderboard: Yankees' Luis Gil, Red Sox Wilyer Abreu earn top two spots

Acquired for Christian Vazquez, so that worked out. Inserted into the lineup in Alex Verdugo's stead, so that worked out. 2.1 bWAR and 140 OPS+ deep as we exit the month of May, Abreu has more than earned his plaudits.

Of course, this race could end up becoming a three-headed AL East monster, with Gil, Abreu, and Baltimore's Colton Cowser looking like the early summer trio of front-runners (unless, again, the league wants to controversially reward both Oakland and a closer).

Abreu has a significant jump on Cowser's WAR, as the slugger represents the Orioles' surprising best chance to enter the conversation following Jackson Holliday's stumbles and early demotion.

It's always the crew you least suspect, isn't it? As of June, this appears to be Gil's award to lose and, if he does so, it's quite likely that a forgotten member of the Red Sox outfield picture, via Houston, will be the one to nudge him out.