5-tool outfielders top Rookie Power Rankings

August 4th, 2020

The 2020 season may still be young, but there have already been some very impressive performances by players in this year’s rookie class. And with teams showing more of a willingness to tap into their farm systems and promote top prospects this year, especially with more postseason berths up for grabs under MLB’s expanded 16-team playoff format, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see even more big-name prospects get the call as the season unfolds.

With all that said, MLB Pipeline will be keeping tabs on this year’s rookie class throughout the 2020 season with our Rookie Power Rankings, as voted on by our team of writers.

The first installment in the series covers the first two-plus weeks of the season and is based strictly on performance, though we did use a player’s prospect status to break any ties in our voting.

1. Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners (No. 10)
Lewis’ 0-for-4 performance on Monday was his first hitless game of the season. His impressive showing in Seattle’s Summer Camp carried over into the regular season, as the former first-round pick (2016) hit safely in his first 10 games, highlighted by six straight multi-hit performances. But while Lewis has shown that he can hit the ball hard consistently, producing an overall line of .386/.438/.591 with three homers and nine RBIs, he’s also fanned 19 times in 48 trips to the plate, giving him a 39.6 percent strikeout rate that’s slightly above his 2019 rate (38.7).

2. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (No. 1/MLB No. 3)
The hype is for real with Robert, as he’s quickly proven to be one of baseball’s more exciting players and a Statcast favorite while headlining a potent White Sox offense. The 23-year-old Cuban outfielder has hit safely in nine of 10 contests for the South Siders to open the season, giving him an impressive .350/.409/.575 line through 40 at-bats, and he’s posted a .462/.563/.846 line with five runs scored over his last three games since moving into the leadoff spot. Robert’s high-end power-speed combo is reflected in his two homers, three doubles and three steals, and he’s earned high marks defensively for his play in center field.

3. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays (No. 1/MLB No. 8)
After being assigned to Toronto’s Opening Day taxi squad, Pearson was called up for his big league debut on July 29 and delivered five scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the reigning World Series champion Nationals. He struck out five and walked two, throwing 48 of 75 pitches for strikes. The 6-foot-6 righty’s premium, front-of-the-rotation stuff was on full display in the outing, as he dialed up his heater to 99 mph, snapped off some truly nasty sliders and effectively worked in his curveball and changeup. It was everything. He’s slated to make his next start on Tuesday in a road matchup against the Braves.

4. Cristian Javier, RHP, Astros (No. 6)
After a spectacular 2019 campaign in which he led the Minors in ERA (1.74), strikeout rate (13.5 per nine innings) and opponent average (.130) while advancing from Class A Advanced to Triple-A, Javier broke camp with the Astros and made a scoreless relief appearance before sliding into the team’s injury-plagued rotation and fanning eight batters over 5 2/3 frames against the Dodgers in his first career start. The 23-year-old righty permitted just one run on two hits and a walk in the outing. Overall, he’s allowed three hits and sports a 1.35 ERA and 9/1 K/BB ratio through his first 6 2/3 big league frames.

5. James Karinchak, RHP, Indians (No. 14)
Karinchak's 74 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings last year averaged out to 22.0 per nine frames, the highest rate with at least 30 innings in the modern history of the Minor Leagues (which starts in 1963), and he tied a bow on his season with five strong relief appearances for the Indians in September. The 24-year-old right-hander has already emerged as a key weapon in Cleveland’s bullpen early in the 2020 campaign, notching his first career save while making four scoreless appearances, during which he’s fanned eight and allowed two hits in five innings.

6. Jordan Romano, RHP, Blue Jays (No. 30)
A former starter and Rule 5 pick who assumed a bullpen role upon being returned to the Blue Jays, Romano pitched to mixed results (7.63 ERA) while making 17 appearances out of Toronto’s bullpen in 2019 but has been nearly untouchable early this season thanks to an uptick in velocity and a more refined pitch mix. He posted six strikeouts and two walks and has yet to give up a hit in four relief appearances, one of which netted the right-hander his first career win.

7. Andrés Giménez, SS, Mets (No. 3/MLB No. 83)
Gimenez’s strong second half at Double-A Binghamton last year carried over to the Arizona Fall League, where he won the circuit batting title (.371), and he’s now continued to swing the bat well in his first taste of the big leagues, slashing .294/.333/.412 across his first 17 at-bats. In addition to his success at the plate, the 21-year-old’s plus defense and versatility has made him a valuable roster piece for the Mets, who’ve deployed him at second base (four games), third (four) and shortstop (two), and he’s shown the ability to impact games on the bases by swiping two bags in as many attempts.

8. Blake Taylor, LHP, Astros (No. 27)
A breakout performer across three levels in 2019 whom the Astros acquired from the Mets in the offseason Jake Marisnick trade, Taylor parlayed an impressive showing in both Spring and Summer camp into a spot an Opening Day roster spot. The southpaw has been lights-out so far this season coming out of Houston’s bullpen, allowing just two hits while working 7 1/3 scoreless frames across five appearances. He’s racked up nine strikeouts in that span, seven of which have come using his mid-90s fastball.

9. Brady Singer, RHP, Royals (No. 2/MLB No. 59)
The first pitcher from Kansas City’s loaded 2018 Draft class to reach the Majors, Singer, whom the club selected with the 18th overall pick that year, has allowed two runs over five innings in each of his first two big league starts, recording no-decisions against the Indians and Tigers. Relying heavily on his plus fastball-slider pairing in both outings, the right-hander has racked up 10 strikeouts and four walks while allowing eight total hits.

10. Nico Hoerner, SS/2B/OF, Cubs (No. 1/MLB No. 50)
The Cubs’ 2018 first-round pick wasn’t overmatched last year after being promoted from Double-A to the Majors, producing a .282/.305/.436 line with 17 RBIs in 20 games. The performance helped him crack the Cubs’ Opening Day roster as the team’s primary second baseman, though he’s also seen time at shortstop as well as left field. And while Hoerner has cooled off a bit after a hot start, he still sports a .269/.333/.308 slash line with six runs scored and five RBIs through his first nine contests.

Honorable mentions
Edwin Rios, 3B/1B/OF, Dodgers No. 18
Randy Dobnak, LHP, Twins
Jake Cronenworth, SS/RHP, Padres No. 17
Josh Staumont, RHP, Royals
Tim Lopes, OF, Mariners
Chadwick Tromp, C, Giants
Cam Hill, LHP, Indians
Yohan Ramirez, RHP, Mariners