While it might have surprised some people when Julio Rodríguez made the Opening Day lineup for the Mariners in 2022, once he did, he immediately became a strong contender for American League Rookie of the Year honors, which he won handily. Over in the National League, no one could have seen Michael Harris II jumping from Double-A to the big leagues, let alone walking away with the Rookie of the Year Award.
So predicting who will win the 2023 rookie awards is understandably a tough chore. We recently made our own choices -- among many predictions -- on the MLB Pipeline Podcast. But what does the baseball world think?
We asked front-office officials -- from general managers to farm directors, from scouting directors to analytics specialists -- a host of questions in the 2023 MLB Pipeline Poll. Among many topics -- which will be discussed in a week-long series -- we asked them to give their picks for 2023 Rookie of the Year in each league.
Here are the results:
66% - Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs
9% - Francisco Álvarez, C, Mets
Also received votes: Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Reds; Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers; Matt Mervis, 1B, Cubs; Bobby Miller, RHP, Dodgers; Jared Shuster, LHP, Braves; Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies; Miguel Vargas, 3B/OF, Dodgers; Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals.
Carroll is the clear front-runner after holding his own during his big league debut last year. What made that even more impressive was that he had missed nearly all of the 2021 season following shoulder surgery. He made very quick work of the Minor Leagues in '22, posting a 1.035 OPS, mostly between Double- and Triple-A before the D-backs called him up.
The tools are all definitely there, as he’s one of the best pure hitting prospects in the game, with 70 speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. And there’s plenty of power for him to tap into. He hit 24 homers in 93 Minor League games in 2022 and might exceed earlier expectations in this department.
And he definitely has opportunity. Carroll was likely going to get a shot to stick in the big leagues anyway this season, but with Daulton Varsho traded, Carroll will likely be the D-backs’ center fielder on Opening Day, perhaps hitting atop the lineup from Day 1.
Álvarez is the only other prospect to get more than 3% of the vote. The power is legit -- he’s hit 51 homers over his last two Minor League seasons -- and most think it will play in the big leagues. His path to regular playing time isn’t quite as clear-cut as it is for Carroll.
Only five players received votes in this one:
Volpe is the only player in the group who has yet to reach the big leagues with the other four having made their debuts last season. Henderson, the runaway favorite, has the most playing time under his belt.
Like with Carroll, Henderson has a clear path to an Opening Day assignment, most likely at third base (though he’s fully capable of playing shortstop). And he also held his own once he got called up by Baltimore as a 21-year-old who began the year in Double-A.
Henderson, taken in the 2019 Draft -- one round after the Orioles nabbed Adley Rutschman with the No. 1 overall pick -- made impressive adjustments from his first full year in '21 to his second, learning to be more selective. That helped him tap into his power more and the left-handed hitter is just scratching the surface. He runs well, and if you combine his overall stats between the Minors and the big leagues, the MLB Pipeline Hitting Prospect of the Year had a 20-20 season.
Brown and Casas got the same number of votes. Brown certainly was impressive down the stretch in the big leagues last year and the Astros liked him enough to give him time out of the bullpen in the postseason. There’s no question about the pure stuff, with a fastball that touches 99 mph and has excellent life and an easily plus curve leading a four-pitch mix. Questions about command, not to mention a crowded big league rotation, could mean a role in the bullpen, though. Casas should be the starting first baseman for the Red Sox and has legit power, but will Justin Turner take away some ABs against lefties?
Those voting for Volpe believe he’ll work his way into the Yankees’ lineup sooner rather than later, even if he’s not there on Opening Day. Even with a slow start to his 2022 season, Volpe has back-to-back 20-30 seasons in the Minors, and he went 20-50 in '22 while finishing in Triple-A. It’s not entirely clear where he’d play on the Yankees infield, but look for him to hit enough to force the front office’s hand in New York.
Jung came up last year and hit five big league homers in just under 100 at-bats, though he struggled a bit with his approach. He should have every chance to be the Rangers’ Opening Day third baseman.
The fact that Carroll and Henderson were the clear choices of big league executives begs one question: Who do they like better between the two? Stay tuned to future installments in this series to find out the answer.