Welcome to the first MLB Pipeline Rookie Hot List of 2023. This is the April edition of MLB.com’s monthly look at the rookies on a roll around the Major Leagues.
Friendly reminder, of course: as always, this is not about who’s going to win Rookie of the Year. It’s not about who’s the best prospect, though those factors can be a tiebreaker when there’s a close call.
It’s simply about who’s hot -- rookie players who have put up the best performances since the start of the season. There’s something of a bias toward playing time, so a player with twice as many at-bats or innings (or appearances, for a reliever) will get the nod over one with a slightly better slugging percentage or ERA in fewer opportunities.
This month’s honorable mentions include Alec Burleson, Brent Honeywell, Garrett Mitchell, and Esteury Ruiz. All stats are as of the end of games on Tuesday, April 19.
On with the list…
1. James Outman, OF, Dodgers: Outman is playing regularly and producing across the board, leading qualified rookies in OPS while ranking second in RBIs and third in home runs. Unlike some names lower on this list, he doesn’t have a big-time prospect pedigree, but as the old saying goes, if you hit, they’ll find a place for you.
2. Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros: And here we get to our first name on the list with quite the lofty prospect credentials. Brown entered the year as a top-50 overall prospect and he has lived up to that. In three starts, he’s amassed 17 strikeouts against six walks, and in each of his last two starts, he’s gone seven innings without allowing an earned run. Brown has yet to allow a homer on the season.
3. Spencer Steer, 3B, Reds: It was a close call between Steer and Outman for the top hitter on our initial list, but Steer fell just short due to a little less playing time and smaller counting stats. He’s still been outstanding, with a .424 on-base percentage that leads qualified rookies. Steer has more walks than strikeouts, which is tough for anybody these days, never mind a rookie.
4. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs: Carroll entered the year as Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect, and he’s made us look very good. About the only thing he hasn’t done so far this year is walk much. His four homers are tied for the rookie lead, his seven steals are second among rookies, and his 11 runs and .523 slugging rank in the top-5. Carroll debuted strong last year and is keeping it up.
5. Kodai Senga, RHP, Mets: Yes, Senga was a star in Japan. As a result of his experience at the top level there, MLB Pipeline did not rank him as a prospect. He is, nonetheless, a rookie, and a good one. Senga followed up two excellent starts with a rough one in his third outing, but his overall numbers remain strong, and he has struck out at least six batters every time he’s taken the mound.
6. Drey Jameson, RHP, D-backs: The relatively undersized (listed at 6-feet, 165 pounds) right-hander burst onto the scene with four outstanding starts last year, and he’s kept it up. He began the year in the bullpen, recording two wins and a save in three appearances, and now is being stretched out as a starter. He had a bit of a tough time his last time out, but he still sports a 2.25 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 16 innings.
7. Logan O’Hoppe, C, Angels: If there’s a ranking on this list that may annoy some people, it’s probably this one. O’Hoppe shares the rookie home run lead with four, and the RBI lead with 11. And he’s a catcher. That’s not too shabby. He just falls a bit short of some of his competitors when it comes to on-base percentage and playing time. But he’s having a heck of a year and will likely appear on this list again.
8. Taj Bradley, RHP, Rays: Bradley is the first of two consecutive entries who’d rank much higher with a few more innings. He entered the year as Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect, but did not crack the Rays rotation. However, with the injury to Jeffrey Springs, he’s now in the starting five, and he’s showing what he can do. Bradley has an eye-popping 17 K's against two walks in 10 1/3 innings over two starts.
9. Peyton Battenfield, RHP, Guardians: Ho-hum, another product of the Cleveland pitching development machine. Battenfield has a much lower ERA than Bradley does, but his ratios are a little less jaw-dropping. If you think they should be flipped, that’s defensible. Either way, he’s been excellent in a limited sample for Cleveland, despite not really appearing much of anywhere on prospect lists.
10. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers: Jung has hit at pretty much every level, and what do you know, he’s hitting in the Majors. His .284/.342/.463 line is more than solid, and he’s tied for the rookie lead with 12 runs scored. He had a bit of a rough go in a cup of coffee last year, but early in 2023, Jung is looking like the guy the Rangers always hoped he would be since they took him eighth overall in 2019.