Welcome to June’s edition of the Rookie Hot List, MLB.com’s monthly look at some of the rolling rookies around the Major Leagues.
A reminder, as always: this is not about who’s having the best season. It’s not about who’s going to win Rookie of the Year. It’s about who’s hot -- rookie players who have put up the best performances over the past 30 days. There’s a slight bias toward playing time, so a player with twice as many at-bats or innings will get the nod over one with slightly better rate stats.
Among those who just missed this week: Jack Suwinski, Jose Miranda, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, Jeremy Peña and Graham Ashcraft. You can absolutely make a case for any of them to have been in the top 10. These are judgment calls.
On with the list…
1. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners (no longer eligible to be ranked as a prospect)
Last month we had Rodríguez at No. 5, noting the only thing that had yet to come was the power. The power has come. Rodríguez is at .288/.351/.529 over the past 30 days, with seven home runs. And he’s still running wild, with seven steals in eight tries over that span. You know what a player who averages seven homers and seven steals per month over a full season is? A 40/40 player. Rodríguez is special.
2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals (no longer eligible to be ranked)
Much like the only name above him on this list, Witt is a super-hyped prospect who has found his stride in the big leagues. There’s virtually nothing to separate him and Rodríguez, and if you wanted to flip them, it would be hard to argue. Witt posted a .283/.348/.586 line over the past 30 days, with five steals in five tries while regularly playing shortstop. The Royals have scuffled, but Witt looks exactly as advertised.
3. Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (no longer eligible to be ranked)
The tune should be familiar by now. A tip-top prospect had a rough go upon arriving in the Majors, but he is beginning to figure it out. Greene is still racking up strikeouts -- 44 in 34 innings over the past month -- but he’s cut the walks down. He’s issued 11 in our chosen time span, but five of those came on May 15. In five starts since, he has 35 Ks and six walks.
4. Christopher Morel, OF, Cubs (Chicago No. 21 prospect)
The first name on this list who’s not a top prospect, Morel has been a delightful surprise for the Cubs since his May 17 debut. He sports a .278/.360/.485 line over that time, with three homers and six steals in eight attempts. The power -- 12 extra-base hits -- is the biggest surprise, and may be the hardest thing to maintain. But so far he’s been a huge boost for Chicago.
5. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (no longer eligible to be ranked)
At some point Gore isn’t just hot anymore. He’s good. He had a rough one against the Rockies his last time out, but that followed a run of nine excellent starts to begin the season. Even with the one clunker, he has a 2.59 ERA over the past month with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks in 24 1/3 innings. He hasn’t surrendered a homer since his debut on April 15.
6. Alex Faedo, RHP, Tigers (Detroit No. 15 prospect)
If you play fantasy baseball, you’re familiar with the term “post-hype sleeper.” It was basically made for guys like Faedo. Once a Top 100 prospect, he fell off the radar of most fans over the past few years, but he’s been terrific for the Tigers since his May 4 debut. Over the past month, he has 20 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 innings, with a 2.67 ERA in five starts.
7. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves (no longer eligible to be ranked)
After dominating in relief, Strider was moved to the rotation. His first start was a bit rocky, but he seems to be settling in. In the past month spanning 20 2/3 innings split between starting and relief, he’s piled up 31 Ks -- that’s 13.5 per nine innings against 10 walks with a 1.74 ERA. Like Gore, he’s also kept the ball in the park, with one homer allowed all season.
8. Roansy Contreras, (MLB No. 64 prospect, Pittsburgh No. 6)
Contreras got a few relief appearances in April and held his own. Now he’s doing more than that in the rotation. In four starts, he has 23 strikeouts against six walks with a 2.21 ERA. He had a bit of a hard time against the torrid Braves, but even in a game in which he got touched up a bit, he still amassed seven strikeouts.
9. MJ Melendez, C/OF/DH, Royals (MLB No. 45 prospect, Kansas City No. 1)
Melendez keeps hitting, and so he keeps getting at-bats. Before this year, he had nine total games as a professional at any position other than catcher. But with Salvador Perez pretty solidly entrenched at catcher and Melendez raking, well, the Royals need to find a spot for him. So Melendez has made starts at right field and DH, and continues to hit. He’s at .260/.333/.510 with six homers over the past month.
10. Jake Burger, 3B, White Sox (no longer eligible to be ranked)
Burger has been a godsend for a team wracked with injuries. He only has 59 at-bats over the past month, or he’d be much higher on this list. He’s hit .322 with a .385 OBP and a .712 slugging percentage in those 59 at-bats, and has smacked six home runs. If he can do that over 100 plate appearances, he’ll likely be at the top of next month’s list.