The 22-year-old Baird was signed by the team as a homegrown player last January after featuring for Stanford University and winning three consecutive national titles.
He would go on to score eight goals and add five assists in 31 games for Salt Lake in 2018, starting 21 of those contests and helping the team reach the MLS playoffs.
Baird’s eight goals was the most among MLS rookies and finished tied for third among Salt Lake players behind Damir Kreilach and Albert Rusnak.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 5, 2018
The forward becomes the third homegrown player to win Rookie of the Year, following a similar path to Seattle Sounders’ forward Jordan Morris, who was also a collegiate national title winner at Stanford and won the award in 2016.
Andy Najar, who won with D.C. United in 2010, is the other homegrown player to win the award.
Baird is also the first Real Salt Lake player to have won the award.
Voting for the award is broken into three groups – current players, media and MLS technical staff.
The forward received an average of 43.88 percent of the total vote share for the award, with Orlando forward Chris Mueller finishing second with 18.62%.
Philadelphia Union defender Mark McKenzie, LAFC fullback Joao Moutinho and Seattle Sounders midfielder Alex Roldan rounded out the top five.
RSL tied Sporting KC 1-1 on Sunday in the first leg of their MLS playoff clash with the second leg set for Sunday.