Welcome to the 2023 midseason edition of the MLB Pipeline Rookie Power Rankings. Each month, the Pipeline staff votes on who we believe to be the likeliest Rookie of the Year winners at the end of the season.
Please make sure you take note of that last part: “at the end of the season.” We’re not voting on who would win if the awards were handed out today. We of course consider performance to date, but we also balance it with our expectations for the rest of the year. As the year goes on, current-season stats will weigh more heavily, and those projections will wash out of the rankings.
Though we have a repeat No. 1, the rankings beyond the top spot have shaken up quite a bit over the past month. Here’s how the votes came out:
1. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-Backs (previous rank: 1)
Every single voter had Carroll No. 1, and we’re not a group who tends to agree across the board on anything at all. But how could it be anyone else? Carroll has been in the lineup and putting up numbers since Opening Day. He’s put up eye-popping numbers that make him a leading MVP candidate, never mind Rookie of the Year. And he’s doing it all for a surprisingly strong first-place Arizona team. An easy choice in the top spot.
2. Gunnar Henderson, 3B, Orioles (previous rank: 10)
Henderson, who fell from second in April to 10th in May, bounces back to the sharp end of the rankings this month. We loved him at the beginning of the year, but a rough stretch gave us at least a little pause. We should never have doubted ourselves. Henderson has hit at every level, and he’s doing it again. He’s cut his strikeout rate every month and is hitting .349 in June, also for one of the most pleasantly surprising teams in baseball.
3. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers (previous rank: 3)
Jung just keeps producing, and so he keeps showing up high in these rankings. He’s on pace for a 30-homer season, sports a very strong .274/.328/.486 line, and like the guys above him, is holding down a regular spot on a contending team. Jung’s overall numbers are better than Henderson’s at the moment, but the rankings reflect the fact that we’re still projecting Henderson to outperform him down the stretch.
4. Elly De La Cruz, 3B, Reds (previously unranked)
Well, hello there. De La Cruz has emerged as perhaps baseball’s most exciting player this year, and if he’d been on the big league roster since Opening Day, he’d probably rank even higher than his current lofty position. However, even if he’s spectacular for the rest of the season -- which nobody would find shocking -- it will be very tough for him to overcome his deficits in the counting stats relative to Carroll. Very tough. Not impossible.
5. Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros (previous rank: 4)
Brown is very much the pitching equivalent of Jung, a couple of places up the list. He hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s been steady, consistent, and productive since day one. And he’s done it on a good team in a pennant race. He’s started allowing a few more home runs, which is a bit concerning, but overall, he’s having an excellent year. There’s no reason to think he won’t stay in these rankings.
6. Eury Pérez, RHP, Marlins (previous rank: 8T)
And here’s the pitching equivalent of De La Cruz. Pérez came up a bit earlier than his Dominican countryman, but just like the Reds phenom, he’s dazzled pretty much from the jump. Pérez has five scoreless outings in his last five starts, which is just absurd. The problem for him -- other than Carroll’s existence -- is the same as it is for De La Cruz. It’s going to be tough to make up for the time he spent in the Minors, almost no matter how good he is.
7. Masataka Yoshida, OF, Red Sox (previous rank: 5)
Yoshida is putting up very nice rate stats -- a .299/.372/.466 line while playing nearly every day. But despite plenty of playing time, his counting stats fall short of some of the guys ahead of him: eight homers, 39 RBIs, 40 runs. Still, he looks completely at home against big league pitching, and of all the American League hitters on this list, he might just be the safest bet to keep producing at a level of “pretty good” or better.
8 (tie). Kodai Senga, RHP, Mets (previous rank: 8T)
Senga continues to walk a few more hitters than you’d like, but he also continues to miss bats and do a nice job of keeping runs off the board. So if his performance has been pretty consistent, it should be no surprise that the same can be said of his ranking.
8 (tie). Matt McLain, SS, Reds (previously unranked)
In the Reds’ remarkable wave of young talent, McLain entered the year as one of the less heralded names. But he’s arguably been their best all-around player since he was inserted in the lineup. McLain sports a .325/.380/.541 line while holding down shortstop for the surging Redlegs. It’s unclear how sustainable this performance is, but if he does it for another month, he’s sure to climb the rankings.
10. Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals (previously unranked)
And hello again. Walker began the season as the No. 2 player, No. 1 among National Leaguers, in our preseason Rookie Power Rankings. He came out of the gates gangbusters, then he was sent down. Now he’s back, and he’s raking. Walker probably spent too much time in the Minors to overtake Carroll, but he has the ability to show up much higher on the list as the season’s second half goes on.