Baseball is rounding into the second half. It’s this midway point where we need to weigh equally the performance of the past and the projection of the future when evaluating what the 2021 season will look like when it is completed in October.
Many teams are playing with those equations now ahead of this month’s Trade Deadline. We here at MLB Pipeline are doing something similar when it comes to our Rookie Power Rankings -- a look at where Rookie of the Year races are expected to land after Game 162. Performance will hold an even bigger level of importance the deeper the RPR gets into the second half, and it’s why the only two rookies to make this year’s All-Star Game in Denver feature prominently on this edition. But there is still plenty of projection remaining, meaning some players ranked as top prospects at the start of 2021 could sneak back into Rookie of the Year consideration by tapping into their immense talents in July, August and September.
Here is our latest edition of the Rookie Power Rankings through the All-Star break:
1. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Marlins (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 1
The king remains the king. This is the fourth straight time Rogers sits atop the RPR, and it’s going to take a surge from anyone else to knock him off. After all, the Miami southpaw was the only rookie to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game for a reason. He leads all qualified rookies with a 2.31 ERA, 122 strikeouts and 101 1/3 innings through the first half. His 3.1 fWAR is tops among all rookies -- pitchers or position players -- and ranks eighth among all hurlers, right between fellow All-Stars Gerrit Cole (3.3) and Germán Márquez (2.8). Major Leaguers continue to find it difficult to touch Rogers’ fastball-slider-changeup mix as the left-hander gets whiff rates above 29 percent on all three offerings. It’s why Rogers has gotten comfortable in this spot and is likely to become even more so in the months ahead.
2. Adolis García, OF, Rangers (not eligible for Top 30)
Previous RPR: 5
García makes it two All-Stars at the top of this RPR. The Texas slugger hustled for a double to center in the ninth inning of the AL’s 5-2 win, doing so only five months after his own team designated him for assignment. It was just the latest accomplishment in a breakout first half for the 28-year-old outfielder. García leads all rookies with 22 homers, and it isn’t close. (Ryan Mountcastle is second with 14.) He is also tops on the rookie position-player leaderboard in hits (84), total bases (164), RBIs (62) and fWAR (2.2) and is first among rookie qualifiers with a .527 slugging percentage, .840 OPS and 127 wRC+. Sure, García’s 30.6 percent strikeout and 4.8 percent walk rates are worrisome. But the time has come to admit that his powerful first half gave him perhaps too much of a head start for anyone to catch him in the AL Rookie of the Year race.
3. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 6
García's frontrunner status isn’t going to stop someone like Mize from trying, however. The Detroit right-hander has thrown only five frames in two starts since the last RPR as the Tigers try to keep him on an innings limit that will get him to the fall healthy. But his placement and rise in the last two weeks speak more to how reliable he has become in his second taste of the Majors. Mize hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since April 23, a span of 13 straight starts. In that time, his ERA has dropped from 5.23 all the way down to its current level of 3.59. His 95 1/3 innings are third-most among rookies, and his 1.14 WHIP is second-best among rookie qualifiers. The 2018 first overall pick doesn’t generate tons of whiffs (7.3 K/9), but he does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and limiting damage. His 2.7 bWAR is 19th-best among all pitchers, ahead of All-Stars like Nathan Eovaldi (2.4) and Max Scherzer (2.4), and there’s a case he should have represented the Tigers in Denver over reliever Gregory Soto.
4. Luis Garcia, RHP, Astros (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 10
Consistency will certainly earn you points in this edition of the RPR, and that extends to the Houston starter as well. Garcia had a minor hiccup on June 30, when he gave up a season-high four earned runs in four innings against the Orioles, but he rebounded nicely with seven strikeouts over five one-run frames last Wednesday against the A’s. The 24-year-old right-hander now sports a 3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 97 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings, and his 1.7 fWAR is third-best among rookie pitchers. Garcia doesn’t throw especially hard with an 93.3 mph average fastball, but his offspeed stuff works really well to keep hitters off-balance. Mize entered the year as the better prospect, and that’s why he nips Garcia right now as we project forward to the second half. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Houston hurler continue to post impressive K rates and sneak past the former Auburn star at some point.
5. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 2
What to make of the preseason AL Rookie of the Year favorite? Arozarena certainly hits the ball hard. His 112.6 mph max exit velocity is in the 87th percentile of Major Leaguers, and his 42.5 percent hard-hit rate (balls with exit velos above 95 mph) is also solid in the 57th percentile. But the Rays outfielder just doesn’t elevate the ball well; his 49.1 percent groundball rate is 24th-highest in the Majors. That leads to a .251/.333/.400 line and 10 homers in 82 games -- far cries from his dominant postseason run last fall. That said, it’s still an above-average offensive profile (107 wRC+), and Arozarena gains additional points for being a stellar defensive left fielder and good baserunner with 11 steals. We’ve seen his ceiling, and it’s as high as anyone on this list. If he can start making more of those impressive exit velocities in the second half, even this spot will look conservative in hindsight.
6. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 3
Consider this a placeholder as of now. Anderson walked five and allowed four earned runs on six hits in just 2 1/3 innings against the Marlins on Sunday and told reporters after the game that he was planning on having his shoulder examined over the All-Star break due to tightness. Manager Brian Snitker added that IL time could be likely, if only to get Anderson a break in his first full Major League season. If that’s the only concern, expect Anderson to bounce back in the next RPR. He does have a 3.56 ERA, 98 strikeouts and a 1.9 fWAR in 18 starts (96 innings) -- numbers that would comfortably put him in the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up conversation if the season ended today. If it’s something more worrisome, his place will continue to slip the more time he misses.
7. Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 6
Hayes knows a little something about having to make up for lost ground after an injury. The Pirates third baseman dealt with wrist issues that limited him to only 37 games in the first half. He’s been back and playing consistently since early June and showing flashes of what made him a Rookie of the Year candidate last year. Thanks to a good final seven-game stretch in which he had a 1.073 OPS, Hayes entered the second half with a .262/.349/.438 line and four homers in those 37 games. His Gold Glove-caliber defense at the hot corner and above-average speed have pushed his fWAR to 1.1, 11th-best among rookie position players despite all the missed time. Project Hayes for a healthy period ahead with his full set of tools on display, and it’s why he still has a prominent spot on the RPR.
8. Jonathan India, 2B, Reds (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: Unranked
A first-timer! India gets here on the strength of his overall approach at the plate. His .275 average and .397 OBP are both tops among rookies with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, and he also tops rookies with 41 walks. The 2018 fifth overall pick gets those numbers thanks to a chase rate that ranks in the 80th percentile of all Major Leaguers. In other words, you have to beat him in the strike zone. India hasn’t hit for much power. Only 20 of his 71 hits have gone for extra bases, and he owns a .407 slugging percentage. But his patience is strong enough to result in a 123 wRC+, second among rookies behind only a much different hitter in Adolis García (127). India’s 1.8 fWAR is also second behind García among rookie position players. Time will tell if a rookie can walk his way to award consideration.
9. Emmanuel Clase, RHP, Indians (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: 8
The Cleveland closer ended the first half on sour notes with two blown saves on Monday and Friday of last week, during which he surrendered three earned runs in one combined inning. That caused his ERA to balloon from 1.01 to 1.72. That’s still pretty good. In fact, all of Clase’s numbers aren’t quite to Devin Williams’ 2020 levels, but they’re as close as anyone can be in the Rookie Class of 2021. The 23-year-old right-hander has also struck out 41 batters in 36 2/3 innings, and he has 11 saves, making him the only rookie with more than three. His cutter that averages 100.0 mph continues to be one of the most electric pitches in baseball. One or two more blown saves could force Clase to turn closing duties over to James Karinchak in the second half, but his stuff is simply too good to bet on that happening.
10. Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B/SS, Marlins (graduated from Top 30)
Previous RPR: Unranked
Jazz is back. The Miami middle infielder ended the first half on a strong note, going 9-for-30 (.300) with two homers and a double over his final seven games. His OPS climbed 12 points in that span to .764, its highest point since June. Regular RPR readers might recall that Chisholm led the May 19 version of the rankings, but hamstring and ankle injuries, alongside his typical swing-and-miss concerns, seem to have held him back in the days since. When he’s healthy, the left-handed slugger might have the best blend of power and speed in this rookie class. He’s still only one of two rookies with double-digit homers (11) and steals (11) alongside Arozarena, even with the injuries baked in. This recent string of good performances is a positive sign that Chisholm can get back to his electric ways in the second half.
Dropping out: Dylan Carlson, Ryan Mountcastle
Also considered: Carlson, Akil Baddoo, Tyler Stephenson, Andrew Vaughn, Logan Gilbert, Michael Kopech, Patrick Wisdom