2008 Top Rookies

We rank this year's best rookies




01 GEOVANY SOTO C, CUBS
Between his solid glove, above-average bat and steady-as-she-goes demeanor with a veteran pitching staff, Soto was both the best and the most valuable rookie of the Class of '08. He put his experience in Triple-A (three seasons worth) and in two previous extended big league callups to work, hitting .333/.427/.621 in April and never looking back.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.285 .364 .504 494 66 141 35 2 23 86 62 121 0
 
02 EVAN LONGORIA 3B, RAYS
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Longoria started the year in the minors but still was challenging Soto for the No. 1 spot most of the season. An August wrist injury hampered his numbers. He roared right back with a three-homer game in September and is the second-best hitter on the 97-win Rays.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.272 .343 .531 448 67 122 31 2 27 85 46 122 7
 
03 JOEY VOTTO 1B, REDS
Talk about grinding it out: Votto battled mediocrity in June and July but finished with his two strongest months of the year while playing 151 games. He also was solid away from Great American Ballpark (.831 OPS) and against lefthanded pitchers (.844). He wound up leading the Reds in RBIs and doubles.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.297 .368 .506 526 69 156 32 3 24 84 59 102 7
 
04 JAIR JURRJENS RHP, BRAVES
A steal in the deal that sent Edgar Renteria to the Tigers, the Curacao-born Jurrjens wore down in the second half, as rookie pitchers often do. It was exacerbated when he had to carry more of a burden on the downtrodden Braves' staff after the losses of John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine to injuries. He led Atlanta in wins, innings and strikeouts.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
13 10 3.68 31 31 0 0 188 188 11 70 139 .260
 
05 ALEXEI RAMIREZ 2B, WHITE SOX
No Cuban defector has made as quick an impression with the bat as Ramirez, who evoked Alfonso Soriano comparisons with his lean, athletic frame, surprising power, allergy to walks and erratic (though at times brilliant) infield defense. The Cuban Missle hit four grand slams, including one in Game 162 that helped propel the White Sox into the playoffs.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.290 .317 .475 480 65 139 22 2 21 77 18 61 13
 
06 MIKE AVILES SS, ROYALS
The Guy No One Expected, Part I. Signed in 2003 for $1,000, Aviles was virtually unwanted by the Royals this offseason, left off their 40-man roster, then passed unclaimed through the Rule 5 draft. All he did in 2008 was lead major league shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances in batting while playing solid defense.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.325 .354 .480 419 68 136 27 4 10 51 18 58 8
 
07 JOBA CHAMBERLAIN RHP, YANKEES
At his best, Chamberlain performed as well as any rookie in the game. But he didn't last as a starter, landing on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, and returned to his role as a dominant short reliever by season's end. He ranked second among rookies in strikeouts/9 IP with 10.58.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
4 3 2.60 42 12 0 0 100 87 5 39 118 .233
 
08 DENARD SPAN OF, TWINS
A 2002 first-round pick, Span didn't seem to be putting things together in the minors until last August. Still, his strong finish with Triple-A Rochester didn't include the power and plate discipline he showed for the Twins after Michael Cuddyer's injury, and he was a revelation defensively in right field. He moved to the leadoff spot to help spur a surprising Twins' offense.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.294 .387 .432 347 70 102 16 7 6 47 50 60 18
 
09 BRAD ZIEGLER RHP, ATHLETICS
The Guy No One Expected, Part II. Ziegler's record of 391/3 consecutive scoreless innings to start a career is fluky, but generating three groundouts for every air out and getting 19 double plays in just 59 innings is amazing. Maybe he can be Dan Quisenberry, but if not, a Chad Bradford career would do.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
3 0 1.06 47 0 0 11 60 47 2 22 30 .236
 
10 ARMANDO GALARRAGA RHP, TIGERS
Perhaps the last flame of the Expos' player-development system, Galarraga was traded to the Rangers in the Alfonso Soriano deal in 2005, then struggled through injuries before emerging as the Tigers' best starter this year. The Rangers got outfielder Michael Hernandez for him and released Hernandez before spring training was over.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
13 7 3.73 30 28 0 0 179 152 28 61 126 .226
 
11 CHRIS DAVIS 1B/3B, RANGERS
Davis broke out in a big way in 2007 with 36 home runs between two minor league levels. In 2008, he took it up a notch, starting at Double-A, toasting Triple-A, hitting .333 in the minors and blasting 39 combined homers between the majors and minors.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.285 .331 .549 295 51 84 23 2 17 55 20 88 1
 
12 HIROKI KURODA RHP, DODGERS
The most successful Japanese import of 2008, the 33-year-old Kuroda pitched two complete-game shutouts and gave the Dodgers just what they needed—a dependable veteran third starter.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
9 10 3.73 31 31 2 0 183 181 13 42 116 .253
 
13 NICK BLACKBURN RHP, TWINS
The Twins' steadiest starter, Blackburn led the team in starts and innings and was second in the major leagues with 31 double plays. He was at his best in the Game 163 loss to the White Sox, but the Twins were shut out 1-0.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
11 11 4.05 33 33 0 0 193 224 23 39 96 .292
 
14 JOSE  ARREDONDO RHP, ANGELS
When injuries made Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields unavailable, the Angels turned to Arredondo's high-90s fastball and power splitter to fill in at the back of their bullpen. He responded with newfound maturity and consistency, helping the Angels to the majors' best record.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
10 2 1.62 52 0 0 0 61 42 3 22 55 .190
 
15 CHRIS VOLSTAD RHP, MARLINS
A groundball virtuoso on a team with poor defense, Volstad nevertheless made an impact to help the Marlins stay in the wild-card hunt into September. He gave up just three home runs and looks like a mainstay for the Marlins' next wave.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
6 4 2.88 15 14 0 0 84 76 3 36 52 .240
 
16 JACOBY ELLSBURY OF, RED SOX
The American League's stolen base leader (third in the majors) spent most of the season as the Red Sox' leadoff hitter, posting an underwhelming .319 OBP in the role. His above-average defense in all three spots combined with his slightly below-average offensive season makes him a solid-average rookie.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.280 .336 .394 554 98 155 22 7 9 47 41 80 50
 
17 JOHN LANNAN LHP, NATIONALS
The Nationals have problems, but this homegrown lefty out of Siena is one of their few assets. Lannan, who just turned 24, was tough on righthanded hitters and has front-of-the-rotation poise, if mid-rotation stuff. He and 22-year-old Colin Balester give the Nats a pair of affordable pitchers to build around.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
9 15 3.91 31 31 0 0 182 172 23 72 117 .252
 
18 CLAYTON KERSHAW LHP, DODGERS
For future value, Kershaw and No. 19 Jay Bruce rank much higher. Both had their highs and lows as rookies, and Kershaw helped the Dodgers win the NL West. Just 20, he has a ways to go to become more efficient, but he's on the path to future stardom.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
5 5 4.26 22 21 0 0 108 109 11 52 100 .265
 
19 JAY BRUCE OF, REDS
BA's 2007 Minor League Player of the Year showed some rough edges as a hitter, struggling on the road (.655 OPS) and against lefthanded pitchers (.566). However, he still ranked fourth among rookies in home runs, and should hit plenty more as he makes adjustments.
 
AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
.254 .314 .453 413 63 105 17 1 21 52 33 110 4
 
20 GREG SMITH LHP, ATHLETICS
Smith vexes some scouts by his success, combining back-of-the-rotation pure stuff with fringy command. However, he has one of the game's top pickoff moves and negates a running game (11 of 22 baserunners were caught stealing). He was a league-average pitcher who led his team in innings, a solid value.
 
W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
7 16 4.16 32 32 2 0 190 169 21 87 111 .243