This edition of the Rookie Hot List, covering games played June 9-22, features some players who came into 2021 as Rookie of the Year Award contenders but had gotten off to slow starts, with this two-week period perhaps a sign that they’ve turned a corner. Others have continued what they’ve been doing for most, if not all of the year, building their ROY case. And one shows that perseverance in this game can be rewarded.
1. Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Red Sox (graduated from Top 30)
After hitting eight homers in 80 at-bats during his 2020 big league debut, Dalbec looked like a serious American League ROY candidate, but he got off to a very slow start this year, with a .619 OPS in April. He did hit four homers in May, but that translated to a .672 OPS for the month. If the last two weeks are any indication, he’s starting to find his power stroke again, as he hit .333/.381/.692 with three homers and eight RBIs over that stretch, with his 1.073 OPS leading all rookie hitters.
2. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Marlins (graduated from Top 30)
Rogers has sat atop our Rookie Power Rankings for two straight editions now, and for good reason. He’s consistently been the top rookie pitcher in baseball. His two starts over this period were no different, as he allowed just two earned runs on six hits over 13 innings, walking only two and striking out 14 for an opponents’ OPS of just .392. His 1.87 ERA for the season is now third in the National League, not just among rookies.
3. Akil Baddoo, OF, Tigers (graduated from Top 30)
The 2020 Rule 5 pick had cooled off after a torrid start to his big league career, but he’s picking it back up now. The outfielder hit .406/.486/.531 in 10 games over the past two weeks, with his 1.018 OPS trailing only Dalbec among rookies. He drove in five and had four doubles to go along with two steals to bring his season line back up to .270/.364/.493, and he has gone 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts.
4. James Kaprielian, RHP, A’s (graduated from Top 30)
Kaprielian won both of his starts over the last two weeks, allowing just five hits in 11 2/3 innings and a .125 BAA. He gave up three runs total (2.31 ERA) and 5 walks while striking out 14 for a .547 opponents' OPS this period. The right-hander is settling in nicely into the A’s rotation, with a 2.84 ERA that would be sixth in the American League if he had enough innings to qualify.
5. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays (graduated from Top 30)
Everyone’s pick as front-runner to be American League ROY in 2021, Arozarena is definitely starting to pick up the pace. He had a .963 OPS over the past two weeks, with a .326/.354/.609 slash line, hitting three homers and driving in 10. That’s helped him drive his season line up to .266/.342/.428 with 10 homers and 11 steals.
6. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF, Orioles (graduated from Top 30)
Mountcastle was also considered a strong AL ROY contender, and even got votes in 2020 after a very solid debut. After a rough April (.198/.229/.286), he found his footing in May (.256/.283/.465) and has gone off in June (.361/.378/.694). That includes a .319/.333/.574 line with four homers and nine RBIs in the last two weeks. His 12 homers for the season trail only Adolis Garcia’s 18 among all big league rookies.
7. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves (graduated from Top 30)
While all of Anderson’s numbers from his three starts over this period are very good (2.20 ERA, .226 BAA, .584 OPS against, 14 K’s in 16 1/3 IP), the number that really jumped out is the three walks he allowed. As good as Anderson has been this year overall (3.33 ERA, .221 BAA), he started out struggling a little bit with walks, but his walk rate is trending in the right direction (3.72 BB/9 in April; 2.46 in May; 2.61 so far in June).
8. Emmanuel Clase, RHP, Indians (graduated from Top 30)
It can be easy to overlook the rookie relievers at times because they work shorter stints and the sample size seems smaller, but what Clase has been doing in establishing himself as the Indians’ closer has been extraordinary. He picked up two more saves in five perfect outings. That’s five innings pitched, 15 batters faced, no hits and no walks while striking out five. He last gave up a run on May 30 and now has a 0.88 ERA with 11 saves for the season.
9. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF, Twins (graduated from Top 30)
After scuffling in April and getting hurt in May, Kirilloff has gotten back to doing what he does best, and that’s hit. He put up a .325/.386/.500 line with four extra-base hits in 40 at-bats over the past two weeks. That’s allowed his season line to climb up to a more respectable .267/.312/.438, and he is looking more and more like the guy who had a career .318/.366/.503 line in the Minors.
10. Zach Thompson, RHP, Marlins (unranked)
A former fifth-round pick (2014) of the White Sox who twice hit their Top 30 lists, Thompson signed with the Marlins as a Minor League free agent this offseason and had been pitching in relief in Triple-A when he was called up as what seemed like a piggy-back situation on June 7, going three innings and leaving after a minor injury. The 27-year-old has made a case that he should stick in the rotation since, tossing five shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out six for his first big league win on June 12, then tossing four no-hit innings and striking out seven on Sunday, though he did give up an unearned run while walking three and hitting a batter in a tough-luck loss.