Welcome to the Rookie Hot List for September. This is the final 2022 edition of MLB.com’s monthly look at the rookies on a roll around the Major Leagues.
Friendly reminder, of course: as always, this is not about who’s having the best season overall. It’s not about who’s going to win Rookie of the Year. It’s not about who’s the best prospect, though any of those factors can be a tiebreaker when there’s a close call.
It’s simply about who’s hot -- rookie players who have put up the best performances over the past 30 days. There’s something of a bias toward playing time, so a player with twice as many at-bats or innings (or appearances, for a reliever) will get the nod over one with a slightly better slugging percentage or ERA.
This month’s honorable mentions include: Oscar Gonzalez, Edward Cabrera, Roansy Contreras, Félix Bautista and Jhoan Duran. Going a month without allowing a run and still missing the list is a tough beat. Sorry, Jhoan.
1. Jake McCarthy, OF, D-backs
You could make a case for any of the top three or four names on this list to land at No. 1, but in the end McCarthy’s all-around offensive showing stood out. His batting line over the past 30 days is an eye-popping .382/.434/.640, and he leads rookies in that span with 24 RBIs. He’s second with eight steals, tied for fourth with five homers and fourth with 17 runs. He’s raking.
2. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves
In case you missed it, Strider turned in the most dominant pitching performance in baseball this year just a couple of weeks ago. But it wasn’t his only great showing. In six starts over the past month, Strider has 54 Ks against eight walks in 36 innings, a 1.75 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start since Aug. 7.
3. Michael Harris II, OF, Braves
The three outfielders bunched here represented the toughest calls on the list. Harris gets the edge ever so slightly over Friedl and Rodríguez. He’s posted a .359/.404/.663 line in the past month, and leads Friedl and Rodríguez with 18 RBIs and 21 runs. He was 3-for-4 in steals, and if you’re looking for another tiebreaker, he remains an electric defender.
4. TJ Friedl, OF, Reds
Remember, this is who’s hottest, not who’s best, and Friedl has been ever-so-slightly hotter than the man one spot below him. He’s slugging .667 over the past month, and that’s the number that was hard to ignore. He also has a slight OBP edge over Rodríguez, but you really could have flipped a coin. They’ve both been on fire.
5. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners
Besides, there’s no shortage of plaudits coming this guy’s way. Rodríguez may get some American League MVP votes. He’s slashing .307/.369/.574 in the past month, with seven homers, 12 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He also continues to have an unusually strong command of the strike zone for such a young hitter, with 10 walks against 26 Ks in his last 101 plate appearances.
6. George Kirby, RHP, Mariners
It’s a tough group when you take the ball every five days, post a 1.69 ERA, walk two batters total, and rank sixth. But there are some torrid rookies these days. Kirby has been key to the Mariners’ postseason push, and he’s been brilliant lately. These rankings are only about the past 30 days, but check this out: Kirby has a 1.99 ERA since the beginning of July and has allowed more than two runs in a start one time in 11 starts in that span.
7. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds
Lodolo still has the occasional rough start, but things may be coming together for him. He has 38 strikeouts and six walks in 33 1/3 innings in the past month. In two September starts, it’s even better, with 20 Ks and one walk in 14 innings. The potential was always there; if he’s able to show it more consistently, the Reds have something special on their hands.
8. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
At first glance, Rutschman’s numbers may not be quite as eye-popping as some of the other guys on this list. Maybe even as some guys who didn’t make the list. But he’s been outstanding. Rutschman’s line the past month is .264/.363/.471, and he’s drawn 14 walks in that span. He’s scored 17 runs, and he gets a little bonus for doing all of that while catching for a team in a pennant race.
9. Oneil Cruz, IF, Pirates
Speaking of players who may be starting to turn tools into performance, Cruz seems to be figuring a few things out. He still strikes out more than you’d want, but Cruz is starting to turn power potential into power production. He’s at .284/.333/.580 over the past month, with five homers and 15 RBIs. He slots in behind Rutschman mostly due to volume (15 fewer plate appearances).
10. Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs
Suzuki’s year-end numbers may wind up somewhat pedestrian due to a rough May, but for most of the year, he’s been steadily effective. His line over the last month is a very nice .323/.385/.505, with four homers, 11 RBIs, 13 runs and a couple of steals. As with the top of the list, these bottom few slots could have been ordered in a number of different ways. It’s all very close.