Outfielders have won Rookie of the Year Awards in three of the past four years: Aaron Judge (2017), Ronald Acuña (2018) and Kyle Lewis (2020). It's possible that they could sweep the rookie hardware in '21.
Randy Arozarena is coming off a Rays debut season in which he batted .281/.382/.641 in 23 games before upping those numbers to .377/.442/.831 during an unforgettable October run to the World Series. Cristian Pache (Braves), Dylan Carlson (Cardinals) and Alex Kirilloff (Twins) also appeared in the 2020 playoffs, with Kirilloff becoming just one of five players ever to make his MLB debut during the postseason.
Jarred Kelenic (Mariners) hasn't appeared in the Majors yet, but he is also a leading Rookie of the Year Award contender in 2021. He's the best outfield prospect in baseball, just ahead of organization mate Julio Rodríguez, who has a chance to advance to Seattle this season as a 20-year-old.
The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Jarred Kelenic, Mariners (2021)
2. Julio Rodríguez, Mariners (2022)
3. Cristian Pache, Braves (2021)
4. Dylan Carlson, Cardinals (2021)
5. JJ Bleday, Marlins (2021)
6. Riley Greene, Tigers (2022)
7. Alex Kirilloff, Twins (2021)
8. Jasson Dominguez, Yankees (2024)
9. Randy Arozarena, Rays (2021)
10. Drew Waters, Braves (2021)
Complete list »
Hit: Kelenic (65)
The best high school hitter in the 2018 Draft, Kelenic has proved even more advanced than initially believed when the Mets selected him sixth overall that June -- only to send him to the Mariners six months later in the Robinson Canó/Edwin Díaz trade. He batted .291/.364/.443 with 23 homers and 20 steals while reaching Double-A shortly after turning 20 in '19, his first full pro season. He has a quick left-handed swing, tremendous feel for the barrel and a pro's approach.
Power: Rodriguez (65)
Just as precocious as Kelenic, Rodríguez reached Class A Advanced as an 18-year-old in 2019, when he batted .326/.390/.540 with 12 home runs in 84 games. He's an advanced hitter for his age with plenty of strength and bat speed, and he could produce 40 homers per season once he starts driving the ball in the air more consistently. Kelenic is a better hitter while Rodríguez has more pop, but they're both going to excel in both aspects.
Run: Pache (70)
Pache's plus-plus speed currently plays better in center field than it does on the bases. Though he stole 32 bases in Class A in 2017, he succeeded just 15 times in 34 tries over the next two Minor League seasons.
Arm: Pache (70)
Pache has an exceptionally strong arm for a center fielder, earning plus-plus grades and enabling him to make a huge impact at any outfield position. Minor Leaguers quickly learned not to test him, but he has still racked up 42 assists in 423 games.
Field: Pache (80)
A mainstay on MLB Pipeline's All-Defense team since 2017, Pache has been considered the top defender in the Minors for nearly as long. He enhances his speed with outstanding instincts that allow him to get to balls that most players can't. The Braves valued his defensive ability to keep him over three-time Gold Glove Award winner Ender Inciarte on their 2020 playoff roster.
Highest ceiling: Dominguez
Signed for $5.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in July 2019, Dominguez is the most hyped and tooled-up international prospect in recent years. He has the potential for well above-average tools across the board and possesses the advanced instincts and skills to make the most of them.
Highest floor: Kelenic
At worst, Kelenic should be a right fielder who hits .280 with 20 homers on an annual basis. He comes with a lofty ceiling too, as he could be a center fielder who wins batting titles and posts 30-30 seasons.
Rookie of the Year Award candidate: Carlson
Carlson is one of the favorites in the National League, as is Arozarena in the American League. The former struggled in his first three weeks in the big leagues, then went back to alternate camp and returned to hit .278/.325/.611 in the final 10 days, including a critical homer off Corbin Burnes. He performed well in the Wild Card Series as well, all but sealing an everyday job for 2021.
Highest riser: Arozarena
Last January, the Rays surprised the industry when they traded 2018 first-rounder Matthew Liberatore to the Cardinals in a package for a pair of apparent fourth outfielders in Arozarena and José Martinez. Arozarena has raised his profile significantly since then, overcoming a summer bout with the coronavirus to set MLB records for hits (29) and homers (10) in a single postseason. He's old for a prospect (26 before the 2021 season begins) but few players can match his combination of well above-average raw power and speed.
Humblest beginning: Arozarena
This Top 10 includes five first-round picks, a supplemental first-rounder and four big-dollar international signees, so Arozarena gets the nod despite landing a $1.25 million bonus as a Cuban defector in 2016. He didn't distinguish himself in his first two seasons in the Minors before breaking out while repeating Triple-A in 2019.
Most to prove: Dominguez
For all the hyperbole surrounding Dominguez -- and, yes, we'll mention yet again that he has been compared to outstanding baseball athletes such as Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout -- the fact remains that he has yet to play a pro game.
Keep an eye on: Zac Veen, Rockies
The best high school prospect in the 2020 Draft, Veen went ninth overall to the Rockies and signed for $5 million. He projects to his for both power and average, and he has drawn offensive comparisons to Cody Bellinger.