We at Baseball America enjoy following the progress of big league rookies just as much as you do. Maybe more. But because BA’™s coverage is focused through the prism of player development, we often lose touch with young players once they reach the majors, i.e. the public domain.
The postseason Top 20 Rookies feature allows us to reconnect with rookies who’™ve lost their prospect status, but it provides just a summary view.
With that in mind, we present a first-quarter look at the top rookies. Click the player names to get up-to-date stats; the listed stats are through games of May 16 to provide a snapshot.
1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, 26, Red Sox
W-L: 5-2. ERA: 4.16. IP: 54. SO: 52. BB: 18. HR: 4.
Despite a few bumps in the road, Matsuzaka has come as advertised. He’s averaged nearly 109 pitches per start, too, so the Red Sox have gotten their money’s worth. Roy Oswalt, the major league leader in total pitches thrown, has averaged about 104 per start.
2. John Danks, lhp, 22, White Sox
W-L: 2-4. ERA: 4.10. IP: 41 2/3. SO: 35. BB: 13. HR: 7.
He’s been stung a bit by the longball, but Danks has kept the ChiSox in games. And besides, U.S. Cellular’s a tough place to pitch.
3. Josh Hamilton, cf, 26, Reds
AVG: .265. OBP: .341. SLG: .530. AB: 117. HR: 8. SB: 3.
Everyone’s favorite comeback kid has slowed in May, but he’s made an impressive showing for a player who hadn’t played in a full-season league since 2002.
4. Jason Hirsh, rhp, 25, Rockies
W-L: 2-4. ERA: 3.99. IP: 49 2/3. SO: 39. BB: 22. HR: 7.
Though he didn’™t even have a rotation spot coming into spring training, Hirsh has been Colorado’s best starter so far. It hasn’t been good enough to keep the Rockies out of last place, though.
5. Chris Young, cf, 23, Diamondbacks
AVG: .257. OBP: .299. SLG: .456. AB: 136. HR: 6. SB: 5.
A sluggish start (.232/.289/.439 in April) has not diminished the star of this slugging center fielder. He’s seen a lot of time at the top of Arizona’s lineup.
6. Shawn Hill, rhp, 26, Nationals
W-L: 3-3. ERA: 2.70. IP: 50. SO: 33. BB: 16. HR: 2.
Along with Jay Bergmann, Hill has been one of the bright spots on a Nationals’ pitching staff that has been better than expected. (They’re just fourth from the bottom in NL ERA.) But you know there’s a catch: Hill hit the DL with elbow pain after tossing five no-hit innings in his May 11 start.
7. Brendan Harris, ss, 26, Devil Rays
AVG: .352. OBP: .393. SLG: .467. AB: 105. HR: 2. SB: 1.
The twice-discarded Harris quickly earned manager Joe Maddon’s trust and wrestled the starting job from Ben Zobrist.
8. Joe Smith, rhp, 23, Mets
W-L: 1-0. ERA: 1.47. IP: 18 1/3. SO: 20. BB: 7. HR: 1.
Smith was a senior at Wright State this time last year. He didn’™t allow a run in his first 15 1/3 big league innings, and the Mets have entrusted him with seventh- and eighth-inning work.
9. Travis Buck, rf, 23, Athletics
AVG: .214. OBP: .347. SLG: .452. AB: 84. HR: 3. SB: 0.
One of Opening Day’s biggest surprises has been one of Oakland’s best hitters in the early going. But, then, he had already displayed big-time power in the minors.
10. Hideki Okajima, lhp, 31, Red Sox
W-L: 0-0. ERA: 0.48. IP: 18 2/3. SO: 22. BB: 4. HR: 1.
Sure he’s old for a rookie, but Okajima has been all but unhittable thanks to his over-the-top motion, which American batters seldom see from lefty relievers. Neither lefties nor righties can touch him.
Brian Burres, lhp, Orioles
Kevin Cameron, rhp, Padres
Manny Corpas, rhp, Rockies
Elijah Dukes, of, Devil Rays
Micah Owings, rhp, Diamondbacks
Hunter Pence, of, Astros
Carlos Ruiz, c, Phillies
Joakim Soria, rhp, Royals
Troy Tulowitzki, ss, Rockies
Reggie Willits, of, Angels
Matt Chico, lhp, Nationals
Alex Gordon, 3b, Royals
Chris Iannetta, c, Rockies
Kei Igawa, lhp, Yankees
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b, Padres
Mike Pelfrey, rhp, Mets
Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays
DON’T FORGET ABOUT
Matt Albers, rhp, Astros
Erick Aybar, 2b/ss, Angels
Michael Bourn, of, Phillies
Billy Butler, of, Royals
Phil Hughes, rhp, Yankees
Fred Lewis, of, Giants
Tim Lincecum, rhp, Giants
Adam Lind, of, Blue Jays
Brandon Morrow, rhp, Mariners
Felix Pie, of, Cubs
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c/1b, Braves
Jonathan Sanchez, lhp, Giants
Ryan Sweeney, of, White Sox
Brandon Wood, 3b, Angels
C’"Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
1B’"Jeff Baker, Rockies
2B’"Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
3B’"Akinori Iwamura, Devil Rays
SS’"Brendan Harris, Devil Rays
LF’"Travis Buck, A’™s
CF’"Chris Young, D’™backs
RF’"Josh Hamilton, Reds
DH’"Elijah Dukes, Devil Rays
SP’"Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, Red Sox
SP’"John Danks, lhp, White Sox
SP’"Jason Hirsh, rhp, Rockies
SP’"Shawn Hill, rhp, Nationals
SP’"Chris Sampson, rhp, Astros
RP’"Joe Smith, Mets
RP’"Hideki Okajima, Red Sox
RP’"Joakim Soria, Royals
RP’"Manny Corpas, Rockies