From contenders to longshots, here are your 2024 Rookie of the Year candidates

March 26th, 2024

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Major League Opening Day arrives Thursday, and the Triple-A schedule begins a day later. We’re officially in the final moments of season preview mode, and in that time, we’re getting a clearer picture of where we’ll see some of the game’s top prospects at the upper levels. For example, we know No. 2 overall prospect Jackson Chourio and No. 6 Wyatt Langford will open the 2024 campaign in the Majors. We also know No. 1 Jackson Holliday and No. 3 Paul Skenes will be in Triple-A.

That helps clarify a bit who we should consider early Rookie of the Year favorites for each league. This year’s race could be a bit more unpredictable than last year, when MLB Pipeline’s top two prospects (the Orioles' Gunnar Henderson and the D-backs' Corbin Carroll) took home hardware. Or not, because of this year’s international crop in the National League, which is not technically eligible for our prospect lists but remains rookie-eligible.

To help handicap those Rookie of the Year races, I’ve broken down each league’s most notable candidates into multiple categories.


Contenders: Evan Carter, OF, TEX; Wyatt Langford, OF, TEX

Carter has to be considered to have the leg up because of his extensive postseason experience during Texas’ World Series hunt last fall, and the 21-year-old can also contribute with his plus-plus speed and plus defensive ability in the outfield. But does anyone doubt Langford could take the league by storm one year after being taken fourth overall in the Draft? The former Florida Gator has 70-grade power, and his impact with the bat and advanced approach could help him put up strong numbers out of the gate. The defending champs didn’t blink at adding him to the Opening Day lineup, and even if he DHs out of the gate, his bat will carry plenty of weight in ROY discussions.

Tier 2: Colt Keith, 2B/3B, DET; Colton Cowser, OF, BAL; Curtis Mead, INF, TB; Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, BOS; Brayan Rocchio, SS, CLE; Nolan Schanuel, 1B, LAA; Parker Meadows, OF, DET; Wilyer Abreu, OF, BOS

At No. 22 overall, Keith is the highest-ranked prospect of the bunch, and his strong left-handed swing earned him a six-year extension in the offseason and the Tigers’ starting second-base spot. His loud contact will be a big part of Detroit’s push to the playoffs. Rafaela has maybe the highest floor of this group with his stellar defense in center and versatility at short, but he’ll need to keep his aggressiveness reined in at the plate. Don’t be shocked if Meadows gets some votes; his glove is impressive, and his power has played tremendously this spring.

Need to make the team first: Jackson Holliday, SS/2B, BAL; Junior Caminero, 3B/SS, TB; Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, TOR; Coby Mayo, 3B, BAL; Heston Kjerstad, BAL, OF/1B

Holliday was certainly trending toward an Opening Day spot after a strong spring. Instead, he’ll take his plus-plus hit tool to the International League while he grows more accustomed to the keystone. How long he’s down there might be the biggest deciding factor in his ROY candidacy. There isn’t a clear lane for Caminero in St. Petersburg while Isaac Paredes mans third for the Rays, so Tampa Bay’s top prospect could reach double-digit homers for Durham before he sniffs an MLB return. Tiedemann has electric Major League-ready stuff but might be limited in terms of workload after an injury-riddled 2023 season.

Longshots: Chase DeLauter, OF, CLE; Kyle Manzardo, 1B, CLE; Orelvis Martinez, INF, TOR

Cleveland could use some power in the AL Central, and it might turn to its top two prospects to provide it. DeLauter was one of the organization’s standout spring performers with a .520/.600/1.040 line and four homers in 13 games (he wasn’t even a non-roster invite), and that backs up the 55-hit, 60-power profile he’d established when healthy in the Minors. Martinez -- he of the three straight 28-plus-homer seasons -- could be a factor at second base for Toronto with his slugging ability.


Contenders: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, LAD; Jung Hoo Lee, OF, SF; Shota Imanaga, LHP, CHC; Jackson Chourio, OF, MIL

Yamamoto, Lee and Imanaga are all 25 or older, with years of experience playing in Japan and South Korea. Chourio just turned 20 this month and has only six games of experience above Double-A ball stateside. But all four were given a sizable contract to contribute out of the gate. Putting aside his debut in Seoul, Yamamoto remains the clear favorite here with mid-90s velocity and a diverse four-pitch mix, but don’t rule out Chourio using his power, speed and defense to stay apace in the discussion.

Tier 2: Jackson Merrill, SS/OF, SD; Kyle Harrison, LHP, SF; Masyn Winn, SS, STL; Michael Busch, INF, CHC; Jared Jones, RHP, PIT; Joey Ortiz, INF; MIL

Entering spring, Merrill’s chances of becoming San Diego's Opening Day center fielder were slightly slim, but his barrel control and overall athleticism helped him skip Triple-A and earn the spot. There might be some bumps along the road, but he’ll get plenty of run to adjust. Harrison and Jones face uphill battles as rookie pitchers who lack Yamamoto’s ceiling, but both of their fastballs will play quickly in The Show. Winn and Ortiz will be glove-first types early with enough offense to impact the ROY race.

Need to make the team first: Paul Skenes, RHP, PIT; Dylan Crews, OF, WSH; Jordan Lawlar, SS, AZ; James Wood, OF, WSH; Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, CHC; Marco Luciano, SS, SF; AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, ATL

The Pirates placing Skenes and his 102 mph fastball one stop away at Triple-A Indianapolis is a positive sign of his proximity, and the No. 3 overall prospect has the arsenal to get Major League hitters out straight away. Similarly, the Nationals have indicated Wood will open in Triple-A after his impressive Grapefruit League performance, and he could power his way to the capital in short order. A former teammate of both, Crews similarly has the advanced tools to move quickly and hit the ground running. Lawlar and Crow-Armstrong have the ceilings of ROY candidates but remain blocked by Geraldo Perdomo and Cody Bellinger, respectively.

Longshots: Jeferson Quero, C, MIL; Tyler Black, 3B/1B, MIL; Hurston Waldrep, RHP, ATL; Victor Scott II, OF, STL

Quero would be one of the Majors’ best defensive catchers immediately upon callup, but the Brewers are rightly prioritizing everyday at-bats with him at Triple-A Nashville while William Contreras holds down the dish. Black’s on-base ability/speed, Waldrep’s splitter and Scott’s elite defense and baserunning would all play too when called.