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Ranking the rookies by their long-term potential

September 17, 2018

Juan Soto is having a historic season, perhaps the best offensive performance ever for a 19-year-old. Ronald Acuna nearly has matched Soto's numbers while displaying a broader range of skills, turning in the best rookie season by a 20-year-old since Michael Trout.:: Complete prospect coverage ::Barring a drastic tailspin in

Juan Soto is having a historic season, perhaps the best offensive performance ever for a 19-year-old. Ronald Acuna nearly has matched Soto's numbers while displaying a broader range of skills, turning in the best rookie season by a 20-year-old since Michael Trout.
:: Complete prospect coverage ::
Barring a drastic tailspin in the final two weeks, Soto and Acuna will become just the fourth and fifth rookies in baseball history to record a .900 OPS with 400 or more plate appearances at age 20 or younger. Soto is the lone teenager in that group, which also includes Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Frank Robinson as well as Trout, a lock for Cooperstown.
Choosing between Acuna and Soto will be a difficult task for National League Rookie of the Year voters. It's equally challenging to separate them in our annual rankings of which rookies have the brightest long-term futures.
As always, we're only considering players who will lose their rookie eligibility by season's end, which is why potential stars such as Victor Robles and Kyle Tucker are absent from the list below. Age matters a lot, which is why we've included each player's seasonal age (as of July 1) in parentheses.
1. Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves (20)
Acuna gets the edge because while he can't match Soto's patience, he has more power, more speed and more defensive value.

2. Juan Soto, OF, Nationals (19)
Soto is a better pure hitter than Acuna and no slouch in the power department either. Only four teenagers have logged an .800 OPS in a season with 400-plus plate appearances: Soto (.953), Hall of Famer Mel Ott (.921), Tony Conigliaro (.883) and Bryce Harper (.817).

3. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Angels (23)
Before he blew out his elbow, which will require Tommy John surgery, Ohtani joined Babe Ruth as the only players with 20 homers and 50 innings in the same season. He leads all rookies with a .957 OPS and averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings on the mound.

4. Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, Yankees (21)
Only two middle infielders 21 or younger have exceeded Torres' 23 homers this year -- Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr. -- and his hitting ability is more impressive than his power.

5. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers (23)
Three years removed from Tommy John surgery, Buehler has rivaled Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher on the Dodgers staff while showing the ability to miss bats with his fastball, slider and curveball.

6. Jack Flaherty, RHP, Cardinals (22)
While Flaherty isn't as overpowering as Buehler, he has missed more bats (10.9 strikeouts per nine innings versus 9.9) in large part because of his quality changeup.

7. Willy Adames, SS/2B, Rays (22)
A slightly lesser version of Torres offensively, Adams has taken off since the Rays made him an everyday big leaguer in late July.

8. Miguel Andujar, 3B, Yankees (23)
Andujar has big-time power and leads all rookies in offensive wins above replacement (4.3, as calculated by Baseball Reference), but he needs a lot of work defensively despite possessing a cannon arm.

9. Austin Meadows, OF, Rays (23)
Acquired from the Pirates in the Chris Archer trade in July, Meadows may fit best on an outfield corner but has the hitting ability and power to make an impact there.

MILB Video - Title: Watch: MiLB Video - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2443623683

10. Tyler O'Neill, OF, Cardinals (23)
O'Neill has 127 homers in four full pro seasons, and while power is his ticket, he gets the job done on the bases and the outfield corners.

11. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (24)
A hitting machine with strong plate discipline and at least average power, Winker batted .362/.465/.554 in June and July before an injury to his right shoulder necessitated season-ending surgery.

12. Ryan McMahon, 1B/3B, Rockies (23)
McMahon may have the least exciting numbers (.237/.311/.387) on the upper half of this list, but they don't do justice to his solid hitting ability and pop, which should show up once he gets regular playing time.

13. Shane Bieber, RHP, Indians (23)
Perennially underrated because he operates with mostly average stuff, Bieber has proven he can thrive in the Majors by relying on his outstanding control.

14. Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, Rays (22)
Bauers surprisingly has had trouble staying above the Mendoza Line, but that shouldn't be a problem going forward and his power and patience have been obvious.

15. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers (23)
Burnes' average to solid stuff plays up because he controls it so well, enabling him to contribute to the Brewers' playoff drive as a reliever and allowing him to project as a mid-rotation starter in the long run.
The next 15
16. Harrison Bader, OF, Cardinals (24)
17. Brian Anderson, OF/3B, Marlins (25)
18. Carson Kelly, C, Cardinals (23)
19. Max Fried, LHP, Braves (24)
20. Ramon Laureano, OF, Athletics (23)
21. Lewis Brinson, OF, Marlins (24)
22. J.P. Crawford, SS/3B, Phillies (23)
23. Franklin Barreto, 2B, Athletics (22)
24. Fernando Romero, RHP, Twins (23)
25. David Bote, 3B/2B, Cubs (25)
26. Scott Kingery, INF, Phillies (24)
27. Dustin Fowler, OF, Athletics (23)
28. Seranthony Dominguez, RHP, Phillies (23)
29. A.J. Minter, RHP, Braves (24)
30. Jaime Barria, RHP, Angels (21)

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.