In their NL Division Series showdown against the Dodgers, the Mets project to start two rookies—Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz—in the series, while the Los Angeles’ lineup could feature as many as three rookies—Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager—at any given point.
Prospect enthusiasts know all about this being the Year of the Rookie, but let’s back up one step, to the team level, and examine the best collections of rookie talent dotting major league rosters in 2015. All reference to wins above replacement (WAR) refer to the FanGraphs calculation.
Best Rookie Position-Player Collectives
1. Cubs (10.8 WAR)
Third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Addison Russell, catcher/left fielder Kyle Schwarber and right fielder Jorge Soler totaled 1,850 plate appearances between them, and that quartet accounted for 30 percent of the Cubs’ total for the season. That Schwarber and Bryant bat second and third for the club, and that Russell displaced veteran Starlin Castro at short, tells you all you need to know about these rookies’ present ability.
2. Phillies (7.7 WAR)
Third baseman Maikel Franco hit 14 home runs to rank second on the Phillies, while Rule 5 draft pick Odubel Herrera hit .297 and rapped 30 doubles as the club’s regular center fielder. Supporting that duo were right fielder Aaron Altherr, backup catcher Cameron Rupp and second baseman Darnell Sweeney, once he arrived from the Dodgers in August as part of the Chase Utley trade.
3. Giants (6.6 WAR)
The Giants deployed eight rookie position players in 2015, the most significant being third baseman Matt Duffy (.295 with 77 RBIs and 77 runs scored), second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (.303 in 178 at-bats) and backup catcher Andrew Susac. Right fielder Mac Williamson made his big league debut in September, little more than a year after having Tommy John surgery.
4. Dodgers (6.4 WAR)
Center fielder Joc Pederson made the NL all-star team on the strength of a loud first half, while emerging young shortstop Corey Seager shined during his September callup, batting .337 with 13 extra-base hits in 27 games. Utilityman Enrique Hernandez started games at both of their positions, in addition to second base, third base and the outfield corners, while batting .307/.346/.490 (130 OPS+) in 76 games.
5. Cardinals (5.1 WAR)
The St. Louis player-development machine continued to churn out productive position players this season, including a trio of outfielders who not only covered for injuries to Matt Holliday and Jon Jay but also project to have future roles with the organization. Left fielder/first baseman Stephen Piscotty and center fielders Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham all played well, combining to hit .283 with 29 homers and 104 RBIs in 709 at-bats.
Best Rookie Pitcher Collectives
1. Mets (5.7 WAR)
The Mets carry four rookies on their NLDS pitching staff, including righthander Noah Syndergaard and lefty Steven Matz, with support from righty relievers Hansel Robles and Erik Goeddel. Two other rookie bullpen arms—righty Logan Verrett and Rule 5 lefty Sean Gilmartin—wait on standby in case of injury, and in fact, the Mets received a major league-high 208 relief innings from rookie pitchers this season.
2. Reds (4.2 WAR)
The Reds established a major league record this season by starting a rookie pitcher in 64 consecutive games, so they naturally led the majors with 568 innings by rookie starters. (In fact, Cincinnati’s total eclipsed the No. 2 Braves by 201 innings.) The most promising members of the rotation are righthanders Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani and Michael Lorenzen (despite an ugly 5.40 ERA) plus lefthanders John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan, who finally joined the rotation in September.
3. Astros (3.9 WAR)
Houston concentrated almost all of its rookie-pitcher value into the right arms of Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, both of whom jumped directly from Double-A Corpus Christi this season. McCullers, in particular, proved his power stuff would play by recording a 3.22 ERA in 22 starts to go with a strikeout rate of 9.2 per nine innings and a .226 opponent average.
4. Brewers (3.7 WAR)
The Brewers introduced yet another groundball-oriented, homegrown righthander to the rotation this season, when 2011 first-rounder Taylor Jungmann joined Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta. That’s good because Denver’s Coors Field is the only NL park that sees more home runs than Miller Park. Hard-throwing relievers Michael Blazek, David Goforth and Corey Knebel helped the Milwaukee relief corps strike out 9.31 per nine innings, which ranked behind only the Dodgers among NL bullpens.
5. Rays (3.7 WAR)
The Rays lean on their pro-scouting department to infuse the organization with productive young talent, and they delivered in 2015 by supplying righthanders Nate Karns and Matt Andriese to the rotation. Tampa Bay acquired both arms in separate trades consummated in the early months of 2014. Homegrown righty Alex Colome also logged 110 innings as a starter/reliever, while another trade pickup, Steve Geltz, made 70 relief appearances.