With Spring Training underway around the league, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo took time on the latest Pipeline Podcast to list their top five candidates for Rookie of the Year in each league for the upcoming season.
Callis took the National League and Mayo made his picks for the American League.
Here are the top Rookie of the Year candidates in each league:
No. 5 : Kodai Senga, RHP, Mets
This a guy who starred in Japan, he starred in the World Baseball Classic, he won a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics, which were held in ’21. This is a guy with mid-90s fastball, he’s got this wicked fork ball, I think they call it the 'ghost fork'. And nobody else has a 'ghost fork' so that alone should earn some Rookie of the Year votes. He’s got a cutter, he’s got a slider, he throws strikes. Even though he signed a $75 million deal, he’s not coming into a situation where he’s gotta be the ace.
No. 4: Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies (MLB No. 25)
He’s already been up a little bit. He played nine games in September with the Rockies last year at age 21. Obviously he’s talented, he can hit, he’s got some power, he can run a little bit. He’s gonna get the Coors Field factor which is going to help. But he’s also one of the best defensive shortstop prospects in the game.
No. 3: Miguel Vargas, INF, Dodgers (MLB No. 35)
I think he’s one of the best pure hitters in baseball. I feel like he’s a little bit underrated. He’s never hit less than .308 in a Minor League season and yet I don’t feel like he gets talked about a lot being among the very best hitters in all the Minor Leagues. He’s just got elite bat to ball skills, he’s one of those guys who grew up around the game. His father, Lázaro Vargas, was the DH for Cuba’s 1992 and 1996 Olympic Champions. Miguel is growing into power, he’s a little better speed wise and defensively than he was when he entered pro ball. And I think he’s such a gifted hitter that he is going to get a lot of at-bats and do well with them.
No. 2: Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals (MLB No. 4)
He hasn’t played above Double-A and the Cardinals are a loaded team, but I think his combination of hitting ability and power are very hard to ignore. I think he’s also an asset in right field, where he moved from third base late last year because Nolan Arenado is third at St. Louis and isn’t going anywhere. For a guy who is 6-5, 250 pounds, he’s pretty athletic. We all saw him in the Fall League, and I wouldn’t have guessed 250 pounds. It’s like a lean 250, if that makes sense, and he’s just such a physical athlete. And he's got a big time arm for right field. I just think he’s going to make a very good impression in camp, and even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster I just don’t think they’ll be able to keep him in Triple-A for too long.
No. 1: Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs (MLB No. 2)
They traded Daulton Varsho in the offseason to create even more room in the outfield. He came up and looked like he had been a big leaguer for a while when he came up and played 32 games last year, shortly after turning 22. He’s one of the best all around tool packages that you’re going to see, and he’s an 80 runner, he’s a 70 defender in center. He’s one of the best bat to ball pure hit guys in the Minor Leagues. He’s got solid power, he’s got solid arm strength, it’s a pretty complete package.
No. 5: Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers (MLB No. 34)
First-round pick in 2019. Got his feet wet last year in the big leagues. The only thing that has held him back has been injuries. So he hasn’t really played a ton in the Minor Leagues, he probably would have graduated long ago, but he’s done nothing but hit in the Minors. If you look at his Minors’ career, it’s kind of like having one season’s worth, but he’s got an .OPS of over 1.000, 30 homers, he’s hit over .300. The combination of on-base skills and power I think is gonna play and that job is his.
No. 4: Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros (MLB No. 43)
The only thing that’s up in the air with Hunter Brown is what exactly his role is going to be because the Astros rotation is ridiculous. I think he clearly showed that his stuff is going to play in the big leagues, coming up last year and being lights out, and pitching well in the postseason. But I think even if he is not going to be in the rotation, he can be a multi-inning guy out of the bullpen and have a huge impact that way. And then if someone goes down, he can step into the rotation as needed.
No. 3: Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox (MLB No. 23)
He should be the Red Sox every day first baseman. The somewhat scary thing is that as ridiculous as his raw power is, he’s still learning how to tap into it. He’s a good hitter, he’s managed to keep his strikeouts relatively low for a guy who has as much power as he does. But, you look at his Minor League numbers, he has not hit a gazzilion home runs in the Minors. But I think he is that guy that is going to grow into that power once he’s in the big leagues. And I think this is a perfect combination of skillset and opportunity, and I think his left-handed swing at Fenway Park is going to work very well, and he’s got power to all fields so I think that he is going to put up some very good numbers right out of the gate.
No. 2: Logan O'Hoppe, C, Angels (MLB No. 53)
I think he’s one of these guys who is going to continue to show that he is better than anyone anticipated, came over to the Angels in the Brandon Marsh trade, went completely bonkers, made it up to the big leagues. I think he’s got every opportunity to be their No. 1 catcher. He’s very good behind the plate and I think that’s going to keep him there. He will continue to play just because of how well he works with the pitchers, how good he is behind the plate, he’s got a good arm, but the power is really starting to show up, and he may be a better big leaguer than he was a prospect. And so I think he’s going to be a guy who far exceeds expectations.
No. 1: Gunnar Henderson, 3B/SS, Orioles (MLB No. 1)
I feel like he and Corbin Carroll are the obvious choices here. Henderson came up last year and more than held his own and he was only 21. He doesn’t turn 22 until June. He can play short, he can play third, I think he will probably play third more often than not. There’s power, there’s speed, he showed off all of the tools making it from Double-A to the big leagues last year. He’s going to graduate off of our list pretty soon, but he’s about as easy a choice at the top of the AL list as there could be.