Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Nationals News

Here is every MLB team's best rookie in 2019

September 22, 2019

It has been an incredible season for rookie talent, with first-year players across the Majors hitting the ground running after making the jump to baseball's highest level. According to MLB.com's 30 beat writers, here is every team's most valuable rookie in 2019. (Players' 2019 seasonal ages listed.)

It has been an incredible season for rookie talent, with first-year players across the Majors hitting the ground running after making the jump to baseball's highest level.

According to MLB.com's 30 beat writers, here is every team's most valuable rookie in 2019. (Players' 2019 seasonal ages listed.)

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Bo Bichette, SS, age 21
This is a tough call between Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but Bichette gets a slight edge for his amazing first impression. The son of former Rockies slugger Dante Bichette burst onto the scene after a late July callup by becoming the first player to have 15 extra-base hits in his first 15 career games, as well as the first player (rookie or otherwise) to hit a double in nine straight games. Among Blue Jays with at least 200 plate appearances, Bichette is the only one with an OPS above .900. Guerrero’s epic T-Mobile Home Run Derby performance was the stuff of legend, and both players highlight a large Blue Jays rookie class that bodes well for the club’s future.

Orioles: John Means, SP, age 26
The Orioles’ lone All-Star this season, Means spent the spring emerging from the roster periphery and became one of the American League’s more valuable pitchers. For Baltimore, he’s been indispensable, easily the club’s most reliable starter over the course of this trying summer. While rookies Hunter Harvey and Austin Hays have made late-season impressions, neither can match the impact Means has made over the full season. He leads the club in wins, ERA, WHIP and WAR, going 10-11 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 games (25 starts) overall.

Rays: Brandon Lowe, 2B, age 24
Lowe was on his way to possibly earning AL Rookie of the Year honors, but a right foot injury in July and a left quad injury in August derailed the first-time All-Star's season. Lowe hit 16 home runs in 279 at-bats this season and established himself as one of the key members in the Rays' lineup. Lowe owns a 2.9 bWAR, which will still earn him some Rookie of the Year votes. After signing a six-year, $24 million deal in March, Lowe showed why he’s a big part of the team’s future.

Red Sox: Michael Chavis, 1B/2B, age 23
Early in the season, when the Red Sox needed a jolt, Chavis gave it to them after being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket. In his first 58 plate appearances, Chavis had a stellar line of .354/.446/.771 with six homers and 13 RBIs. Things weren’t nearly as good after that, as Chavis slashed .237/.296/.391 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 299 at-bats. Due to a right oblique injury, Chavis likely won’t play for the rest of the season. He can certainly build on his accomplishments this year, but he will need to overcome his top weakness -- fastballs in the upper portion of the strike zone. Chavis proved to be capable on defense, both at first base and second.

Yankees: Mike Ford, 1B, age 26
After 561 Minor League games over seven seasons in the Yankees’ farm system, Ford finally got an opportunity in The Show, showcasing a powerful bat that produced double digits in the home run column. Over three stints with the big club, the Princeton product authored several memorable moments, including an Aug. 25 homer off the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, a two-homer performance on Aug. 26 at Seattle and the first pinch-hit, walk-off home run hit by a Yankees rookie, on Sept. 1 against the Athletics. Ford even made his first big league pitching appearance, tossing two innings on Aug. 15 vs. Cleveland.

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Oscar Mercado, OF, age 24
The Indians weren’t lacking young talent this season, having to rely on guys like Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale to fill in for Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in what was projected to be one of the best starting rotations in baseball. But despite how great the 24-year-old hurlers have been, Mercado has been one of the key factors in getting the Indians back in the playoff hunt. He entered Wednesday tied for the fourth-most doubles (24) among rookies and he has dazzled in center field, making a number of highlight-reel catches this season. “It's easy to see Oscar making some more adjustments and actually getting better,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Whether he gets stronger or hits the ball out of the ballpark more or hits for a higher average or whatever, it’s easy to see that you have a pretty good player.”

Royals: Nicky Lopez, 2B, age 24
Predictably, Lopez struggled with the offensive adjustment as he had just a .231 average and a .263 OBP through Thursday, though his 17 doubles should not be overlooked. What's important is that Lopez excelled defensively, and that is what the Royals are looking for most. “He can make some big-time Major League plays defensively,” Royals coach Mike Jirschele said. “He’s got range and he has an incredibly accurate arm.”

Tigers: Spencer Turnbull, SP, age 26
Though Turnbull has had an up-and-down season while going 3-15, he has established himself as a hard-throwing, strikeout-compiling arm who could fit a number of roles on the Tigers pitching staff even after top prospects begin arriving next summer. Turnbull was a darkhorse candidate for AL Rookie of the Year consideration for two months before shoulder fatigue slowed him at the end of June, and he still ranks among the AL rookie pitching leaders in Wins Above Replacement.

Twins: Luis Arraez, 2B/LF, age 22
The night of July 16 was when Twins fans really knew they had something special. Arraez, a relatively unknown infield prospect, inherited an 0-2 count against Mets fireballer Edwin Díaz and showed off his rare bat control and knowledge of the strike zone as he completed an 11-pitch plate appearance and drew a walk. Since Arraez first arrived in mid-May as an emergency injury replacement, his batting average has hovered around .350 all season. He’s so confident of the strike zone that he will vigorously shake his head as close pitches sail by, and the Twins like his hitting so much that they’re having him learn left field on the fly to keep his bat in the lineup. Francona compared Arraez to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this season. That should say it all.

White Sox: Eloy Jiménez, LF, 22
What has been the key to success for Jiménez? How about simply staying healthy. Jiménez has been sidelined by three different injuries, causing him to search for his timing at the plate amid stints on the IL. When he has found it, his immense offensive talent has moved to the forefront. He currently tops all AL rookies with 28 home runs, and with 29 RBIs in a 38-game stretch, he has pushed that total to 70. His defense has improved in left, and Jiménez will benefit from all the first-year lessons learned. “Be patient,” Jiménez said. “It’s the biggest part for me. Be patient at the plate and just keep working hard.”

AL WEST

Angels: Griffin Canning, RHP, age 23
Canning reached the Majors quickly after being drafted by the Angels in the second round of the 2017 Draft out of UCLA, needing only 28 starts in the Minors before being ready for the big leagues. Canning went 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA, 96 strikeouts, 30 walks and 14 homers allowed in 90 1/3 innings before being shut down with right elbow inflammation in mid-August. Canning had a few rough patches but showed swing-and-miss stuff throughout the season. His swinging strike rate of 13.8 percent puts him in the same company of starters such as Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Yu Darvish.

Astros: Yordan Alvarez, DH/LF, age 22
Alvarez, acquired from the Dodgers in 2016 for relief pitcher Josh Fields, has been a force since the Astros called him up in June. He set a franchise single-season record for most homers by a rookie and was named AL Rookie of the Month in June, July and August. He set a Major League record for most RBIs in a player’s first 45 games (51), leads the AL in RBIs and OPS since being called up, and has the highest OPS by a rookie in MLB’s modern era (since 1900). He leads all rookies in RBIs, extra-base hits, OPS, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (min. 300 plate appearances).

Athletics: Seth Brown, LF, age 26
Without an invite to Spring Training this year, Brown, a 19th round pick by the A’s in 2015, wasn’t even on Oakland’s radar entering the season. The outfielder put up video game-like numbers on offense at Triple-A Las Vegas, and injuries to Stephen Piscotty and Ramón Laureano eventually led to Brown getting called up by the A’s in August with the hope he could just hold down the fort. He’s gone above and beyond by making major contributions to victories down the stretch. In a win over the Angels on Sept. 4, Brown hit the game-winning triple and became the first A’s rookie to record two triples in a game since Mark Ellis on Aug. 3, 2002. He has shown to have a clutch bat, going 9-for-18 with runners in scoring position over his first 18 games, and has forced his way into a regular role.

Mariners: Austin Nola, 1B/2B/C, age 29
After eight seasons in the Minors, Nola finally got his shot with a rebuilding Seattle club in mid-June and quickly showed he had a very capable offensive game to go with a unique defensive skillset. The Mariners signed him as a Minor League free agent to provide some catching depth to their system, but the converted shortstop has wound up playing primarily first base as well as some second base for Seattle while hitting around .275. He’s just the 18th rookie in franchise history to hit 10 home runs. The Mariners have played a whopping 27 rookies, including 21 making their MLB debuts this year, and Nola has been the best of that group. Kyle Lewis is providing a late-season jolt as a September callup, but he’ll retain his rookie eligibility next year.

Rangers: Jose Trevino, C, age 26
The Rangers flooded their team with 23 rookies this season with varying degrees of success. Infielder Nick Solak made an impact with his bat in September but Trevino’s performance in the final month of the regular season may have the most meaningful impact for next season. Trevino is showing he can handle a significant workload behind the plate in tandem with veteran Jeff Mathis. If Trevino can convince the Rangers that he is ready to do that for a full season, they can move catching to a lower priority in the offseason and address other positions.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Mike Soroka, RHP, age 22
Soroka may draw a few down-ballot Cy Young Award votes and he will draw love on a number of Rookie of the Year ballots. After missing most of last season and much of this year’s Spring Training with separate shoulder issues, the Canadian hurler quickly established himself as Atlanta’s ace and earned his first All-Star selection. His elusive sinker will garner more widespread attention when he gets his first chance to pitch in the postseason. Austin Riley also made an impact with the power he showed through his first month. But his Rookie of the Year candidacy fizzled in July.

Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, RHP, age 23
Alcantara was the Marlins’ No. 4 starter when the season opened. The 24-year-old will close out the year as Miami’s leading candidate to be the Opening Day starter in 2020. Alcantara, the Marlins’ lone All-Star, got better as the season progressed. The hard-throwing right-hander has already set the Marlins’ record for most innings pitched by a rookie, and he’s the third rookie in franchise history to make at least 30 starts. Alcantara also has logged two shutouts, the only complete games by any Marlins starter this year. He paces all MLB rookies in innings pitched, and if he’s not shut down, Alcantara has an outside chance to reach 200 frames.

Mets: Pete Alonso, 1B, age 24
Alonso not only has been arguably the best rookie in baseball this season, but also one of the most productive rookies in Major League history. He broke both the National League rookie record for home runs and the Mets’ overall franchise record in August, and has been chasing even loftier individual goals -- Alonso could become the first Met to hit 50 home runs in a season, for example -- ever since. Preseason concerns regarding his defense have largely disappeared, as he has proven adequate at first base. The Mets have Alonso under team control for five more seasons, with hopes that he can remain a rock in the middle of their lineup for years to come.

Nationals: Victor Robles, CF, age 22
Tune into a Nationals game at any point during the 2019 season and there might not be a more exciting player to watch than Robles. There’s the power and speed combo at the plate, which has him flirting with a 20-homer, 20-stolen-base season. Or watch him patrol center field, where he glides into the gaps with ease, crashes into walls to take away extra-base hits and routinely cuts down runners trying to gain an extra 90 feet. Robles is at or near the top of the leaderboards among center fielders in most defensive categories and he could become just the fourth rookie in MLB history to win a Gold Glove Award. Alongside Juan Soto, the Nationals have to feel good about their youth in the outfield, which could patrol Nationals Park for years to come.

Phillies: Adam Haseley, OF, age 23
The Phillies selected Haseley with the eighth overall pick in the 2017 Draft. He got pressed into duty in early June when the Phillies lost Andrew McCutchen for the season with an ACL injury. Haseley has flashed his potential, both offensively and defensively, but one wonders how the Phillies view him moving forward. Would they consider handing him an everyday job in 2020, or do they look at him as more of a fourth outfielder who can play left field and center field a few times a week? Either way, the Phillies are happy with their early returns on Haseley.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Keston Hiura, 2B, age 22
“Jeez, he’s one of those young kids that I’ve seen in the league that they’re making busts of for the Hall of Fame,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Hiura had a huge series against Atlanta. Hiura has always been a hitting savant, and he barely missed a beat following a May promotion to the Majors. He’s been worth better than two Wins Above Replacement despite being sent down in the middle of the season so the Brewers could give another chance to slumping infielder Travis Shaw. Only Christian Yelich topped Hiura among Brewers hitters in wRC+, wOBA and slugging percentage, a sign that Hiura will be a mainstay in the infield next season and beyond. Speaking of that, he did make some mistakes in the field but overall was competent on defense. That was one of the potential knocks on Hiura when the Brewers drafted him in the first round in 2017 amid concerns about his right elbow.

Cardinals: Dakota Hudson, RHP, age 24
There was a time in Spring Training when Hudson was being considered for the bullpen as the Cardinals searched for a fifth starter. But he emerged later in the spring to fill that spot and made the Opening Day roster -- and the Cardinals are glad he did. Hudson is tied for second in the National League with 16 wins, and his 57 percent ground ball rate leads the league. With his sinker-slider combo and St. Louis' elite defense, there’s no secret as to why Hudson has been solid this year. While the Cardinals rotation struggled with consistency throughout the season, Hudson was steady as ever throughout the summer and continued to perform well as the rest of the rotation found its footing. Hudson, along with Jack Flaherty, who exhausted his rookie status in 2018, has been crucial to the Cardinals’ success in the second half.

Cubs: Rowan Wick, RP, age 26
This was a season of turmoil and constant tweaking for the Cubs’ bullpen. Four members of the Opening Day bullpen were on other teams by season’s end. Brandon Morrow never moved off the injured list. Setup man Pedro Strop has struggled to find consistency. Closer Craig Kimbrel did not arrive until signing a free-agent deal in June and then fought health woes and up-and-down results. While Chicago mixed and matched in the later innings, Wick was the arm that emerged from the Triple-A shuttle as a stabilizing force for the Cubs’ relief corps. With a hard fastball and a knuckle-curve that he began developing in the spring, Wick swiftly earned the trust of manager Joe Maddon’s and turned into the North Siders’ primary high-leverage arm down the stretch. Maddon called Wick -- acquired in the offseason from San Diego -- the “linchpin” of the Cubs’ second-half success in the ‘pen.

Pirates: Bryan Reynolds, OF, age 24
So many things have gone wrong for the Pirates this season, but Reynolds isn’t one of them. The rookie outfielder, acquired along with reliever Kyle Crick in exchange for franchise player Andrew McCutchen, has been not only the Bucs’ best rookie but arguably their best player this season. Alonso and others will keep him from winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award, but he has established himself as a contender for that honor and the NL batting title by slashing .317/.383/.510 with 16 home runs this season (through Thursday). Reynolds may not overwhelm with flashy tools and highlight-reel plays, but he has earned Pittsburgh’s respect with his quiet, effective play since his debut on April 20.

Reds: Nick Senzel, CF, age 24
The organization’s No. 1 prospect when he debuted in the big leagues on May 3, Senzel burst on the scene and hit three home runs over his first four games. He was batting a season-high .285 on Aug. 2, when an adjustment installed to his hitting approach had him struggling and caused his numbers to plummet. Amid numerous nagging injuries, Senzel batted .256/.315/.427 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games overall -- often from the leadoff spot. A torn labrum in his right shoulder ended his season in early September. Where Senzel really impressed was his mature clubhouse presence and how quickly the natural infielder made the transition to playing regularly in center field, something that began in earnest during Spring Training.

NL WEST

D-backs: Christian Walker, 1B, age 28
Walker was stuck behind Chris Davis in Baltimore back when Davis was still mashing homers with regularity and then in Arizona found himself behind Paul Goldschmidt. When the D-backs dealt Goldschmidt to St. Louis in December, Walker finally got his chance after seven years in the Minors. He opened the year in a platoon with Jake Lamb, but after a hot start, he found himself getting the majority of the playing time and he has provided the D-backs with solid production.

Dodgers: Alex Verdugo, OF, age 23
With an abundant tool kit and the confidence to go with it, Verdugo forced his way into a crowded outfield and helped the Dodgers run away with the division. He displayed advanced bat-to-ball skills and a rifle arm that discouraged runners’ thoughts of the extra base. But back and core issues took their toll and he hasn’t played in six weeks. Nonetheless, he gets the nod here on a club with a steady stream of rookie contributors, including Matt Beaty, Will Smith and Gavin Lux, who will be an NL Rookie of the Year favorite in 2020.

Giants: Mike Yastrzemski, OF, age 28
Yastrzemski, who was acquired from the Orioles in exchange for right-hander Tyler Herb this spring, spent seven seasons toiling in the Minors before finally receiving his first big league callup from the Giants in May. He’s become an integral part of the Giants’ outfield since then, solidifying an everyday role with his consistent production and steady defense. After Yastrzemski never hit more than 15 homers in a single Minor League season with the Orioles, his power with San Francisco has been a revelation. He crushed his 20th home run of the season on Tuesday at Fenway Park, the most by a Giants rookie since Dave Kingman in 1972. Yastrzemski has attributed the power surge to some adjustments he made over the offseason with the help of his former Vanderbilt teammate Tony Kemp.

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, age 20
The Padres got major contributions from a handful of rookies, including Chris Paddack, Francisco Mejia and Andres Muñoz. But before he was sidelined in mid-August with a back injury, Tatis was on pace for one of the greatest rookie seasons in franchise history. He batted .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers while playing a dazzling brand of shortstop. But perhaps the most exciting part of his game was his breathtakingly audacious baserunning, mixing smarts and athleticism to baffle opposing defenses. The Padres have spent a decade in search of their shortstop of the future. At long last, they’ve found him.

Rockies: Garrett Hampson, UTL, age 24
Oddly, a Colorado team that skews young didn’t have much in the way of rookie contributors. Even Hampson needed two stints with Triple-A Albuquerque to become productive after making the club out of Spring Training. However, a revamped hitting setup that eliminated a leg kick for a toe-tap took hold in August and September. Hampson not only accumulated the hits, but he employed the speed and short game (infield choppers, bunts, stolen bases, hit-and-run) that the Rockies have been pushing. He also has been a “plus” defender in the infield, and he looks to have the tools of a regular in center field if needed there.