With Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll taking home their league's respective 2023 Rookie of the Year Awards, it's time to turn our attention to 2024.
On this week's MLB Pipeline Podcast, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo drafted 10 players whom they believe could take home the hardware next season. Last year's version of this draft proved quite prescient, with Henderson and Carroll going off the board first, but don't expect the league's top two prospects to win again -- that's only happened twice in the past two decades.
Here's a round-by-round breakdown of their picks:
Callis: Evan Carter, OF (TEX No. 1/MLB No. 8)
Carter amassed 1.6 bWAR in 23 games at the end of the regular season before playing postseason hero with a .300/.417/.500 slash line. Despite turning just 21 in August, he already feels like a proven commodity.
"We saw what he did down the stretch. I think the one issue he's going to have to overcome is he hasn't done a lot of damage against lefties. I think he's the obvious pick, for me, in a group of not-a-lot-of-obvious guys."
Mayo: Jordan Lawlar, SS (AZ No. 1/MLB No. 10)
The sixth overall pick in the 2021 Draft is an excellent defender, which is an easy ticket to playing time. Plus it doesn't hurt that he slashed .278/.378/.497 between Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno last season before a September promotion.
"I'm going to take the other rookie-eligible [player] who was on a World Series roster. He obviously didn't have the impact that Evan Carter had down the stretch or in the postseason -- he didn't play much -- but you have to think that third base will be his next year. He got his feet wet, and he will get every opportunity to play every day."
Callis: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP
Due to his age, Yamamoto won't be eligible for MLB Pipeline's prospect lists, but he's certain to play the whole season in the Majors, which can't be said for many top prospects. The right-hander has been nothing short of dominant in Japan, winning two of the last three Pacific League MVP awards and the last three Eiji Sawamura Awards -- the Nippon Professional Baseball League equivalent of the Cy Young Award.
"We don't know which team is going to sign him, but [Yamamoto is a] longtime star pitcher in Japan. I think his ERA is 1.72 in seven years over there. He has stuff. He has command. He's still young. There are adjustments you need to make when you come over, but we saw Kodai Senga came over for the Mets and was one of the better rookie pitchers this year."
Mayo: Nolan Schanuel, 1B (LAA No. 1/MLB No. 98)
The Angels shocked the baseball world when they promoted their 2023 first-round pick to The Show after just 22 games in the Minors. And he completely held his own in 29 Major League games with a .275/.402/.330 slash line.
"I think the impact is going to come. He showed it in college over two years. His approach is ridiculous. He's walked more than he struck out. It's a small sample, but I think that approach will allow him to get to that power. I kind of like that he didn't try to sell out for it because that's not who he is. Opportunity, he's going to be playing every day at first base right from the get-go."
Callis: Brooks Lee, SS (MIN No. 2/MLB No. 18)
Only two prospects -- Jackson Holliday and Dylan Crews -- have a better hit tool than Lee (65), whom the Twins drafted eighth overall in 2022. He's continued to hit at every stop in the Minors and may quickly force his way into a Minnesota lineup that is filled with talented infielders.
"I like the fact that he got a decent amount of playing time in Triple-A. I don't think he's going to take shortstop over from Carlos Correa. He could [play] second, could be third if Royce Lewis is in the outfield to keep Royce healthier. That's a question, but I do think he's good enough. ... I'm going to bet on Brooks Lee's bat and think he's going to get 400-plus at-bats somewhere, and I think he'll hit."
Mayo: Kyle Harrison, LHP (SF No. 1/MLB No. 20)
Harrison racked up at least 14 strikeouts per nine innings in each of his three seasons in the Minors, so there's reason to believe he can build off his solid debut in 2023 (4.15 ERA, 35 K's in 34 2/3 IP). Playing half his games in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park could also help boost his numbers compared to other rookie pitchers.
"He got his feet wet with seven starts last year. Overall, I think he threw pretty well. He threw a good amount of strikes, missed a fair amount of bats over 34 2/3 innings. I can't imagine he won't be in the rotation. It's going to come down to command. He actually threw more strikes in the big leagues than he did in Triple-A, but I think that he's going to continue to get there and throw enough strikes where his premium stuff is going to play."
Callis: Paul Skenes, RHP (PIT No. 1/MLB No. 3)
It's hard not to believe in the first pick in last July's Draft. And with the NL Central looking like a wide-open race -- remember, the Pirates were above .500 over their last 65 games after promoting several other top prospects -- Pittsburgh could use a big arm to bolster their playoff hopes.
"I know he's not pitched a whole lot, obviously, since being the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft. But for the 18,000th time this year, I will parallel him to Stephen Strasburg. I think they're the two best prospects in Draft history. Strasburg kind of puttered around the Minors a little bit at the beginning of his first full season, and then he was up, and he was very good. I'm going to bet on Paul Skenes' talent. ... It's going to be one of those cases where he comes out and he dominates and it just becomes apparent that there's no point in wasting innings in the Minors. I think Skenes will be up before June 1 -- or somewhere thereabouts -- and pitch very well the final four months of the season."
Mayo: Junior Caminero, 3B/2B (TB No. 1/MLB No. 6)
Caminero forced his way to the Majors at just 20 years old after slashing .324/.384/.591 between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery. Depending on the Rays' needs, he can fit at third or second base, or even shortstop.
"Coming off a year that he made it to Double-A, he's got 88 total games ... above A-ball. But I think there are certain talents that kind of transcend that. He's coming off this year where he hit 31 homers, had a .975 OPS. I think that that bat is going to play its way into the Rays' lineup. They're not afraid to bring young guys up. The fact that he can move around a little bit defensively if you need him to will come into play."
Callis: Colt Keith, 3B (DET No. 2/MLB No. 25)
Keith nearly tripled his professional home run total when he launched 27 homers last season between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. And don't expect Major League managers to pick on him with lefty relievers: he hits southpaws (.307/.385/.524) just as well as right-handers (.306/.378/.561).
"That guy just hits everywhere he's been. He spent a half-season in Triple-A. I think third base is his best position. Their most regular third baseman last year was Nick Maton, who hit .173, so I think the opportunity is there."
Mayo: Heston Kjerstad, OF (BAL No. 3/MLB No. 24)
There are plenty of quality Orioles prospects to choose from -- five Top 100 overall prospects ended the season in Triple-A or the Majors -- and there are no bad choices here. Kjerstad was outstanding in the Minors (.303/.376/.528) before a solid showing in 33 Major League plate appearances (.233/.281/.467).
"It is crowded. You've got Colton Cowser also. You've got depth all over the place. I think that's why we didn't take Jackson Holliday, who could force his way up somehow. I have more confidence in Kjerstad's ability to hit and get into his power at the big league level."