2018 MLB All-Rookie Team
While other classes were deeper or broke more records, the 2018 MLB rookie class stands out for the sheer amount of history it made.
Juan Soto set new marks for highest on-base percentage and OPS by a teenager in a historic age-19 season, breaking records held by Mel Ott (in 1928) and Tony Conigliaro (in 1964), respectively. Miguel Andujar tied the American League rookie record for doubles, set by Fred Lynn in 1975. Ronald Acuna Jr. hit 26 home runs, eighth-most all-time in a season by a player younger than 21.
The top of the rookie crop put itself among the legends of the game with their performances, so much that many worthy players were left out of spots on the All-Rookie team. Miami's Brian Anderson was squeezed out by the historic performances of Soto and Acuna in the corner outfield and Andujar at third base, the positions Anderson plays. Chicago's Daniel Palka tied for the rookie lead in home runs and San Diego's Franmil Reyes had the fourth-highest OPS among rookies, but were also forced off by Soto and Acuna.
The pitching crop was similarly deep, with seven different starters pitching at least 90 innings and logging a sub-4.00 ERA, a year after only two rookie pitchers managed that same feat.
Players with fewer than 130 plate appearances, 50 innings pitched or 30 relief appearances entering the season were prospect-eligible and thus eligible for selection to the All-Rookie Team. Service time was considered to determine a player's rookie eligibility.
After receiving late-season call-ups each of the last two years, Alfaro made his first Opening Day roster this season and held down the Phillies' catching job most of the year. The 25-year-old Venezuelan ranked eighth among all catchers with a .262 batting average and finished 14th with a .731 OPS. In addition to being in the top half of all catchers offensively, Alfaro threw out 26 percent of basestealers, and his 9.11 range factor per game, as measured by Baseball-Reference, ranked second among National League backstops.
The Yankees acquired Voit from the Cardinals in a trade for relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos on July 29, and the 27-year-old masher turned out to be the solution to New York’s long-standing first base problem. Voit hit .333/.405/.689 with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 39 games with the Yankees, finishing tied for the team lead in homers (with Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton) from the time he debuted. Voit crushed both lefties (.340, 1.169 OPS) and righties (.312, 1.015 OPS), and his .350 isolated slugging percentage led all major league hitters with at least 150 plate appearances.
Wendle struggled to find playing time in two seasons in Oakland, but he finally found it after an offseason trade to Tampa Bay, where he flourished. Batting primarily in the middle of the order for the surprising 90-win Rays, Wendle led all rookies in batting average (.300) and triples (six), tied for second in stolen bases (16), ranked third in doubles (33) and hits (146) and was fifth in on-base percentage (.354) and runs scored (62). He delivered that offensive production while playing a stout second base, ranking ninth at the position with five defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, and providing versatility with starts at third base, left field and shortstop.
Andujar seized the Yankees' third base job after an injury to Brandon Drury and never let it go. Andujar finished tied for the major league rookie lead with 27 home runs, tied Fred Lynn’s American League rookie record with 47 doubles and led all rookies in with 170 hits and 92 RBIs. The 23-year-old Dominican got better as the year went on, helping the Yankees secure the first AL wild card spot while batting .319 with a .919 OPS in the second half compared to .279 with an .805 OPS in the first half.
Torres returned from Tommy John surgery and spent the first three weeks of the season in the minors getting re-acclimated. He got called up to New York on April 22, recorded a hit in 16 of his first 19 games and never looked back. Torres batted .271 with 24 homers, 77 RBIs and an .820 OPS on the year, ranking in the top six on the Yankees in each category to help push them to the postseason. He was particularly hot down the stretch, overcoming a midseason slump to hit .300 over his final 40 games. Though primarily the Yankees everyday second baseman, Torres also appeared in 21 games at shortstop.
After primarily coming off the bench at the beginning of the year, Bader assumed an everyday role in late May and quickly became a fixture on nightly highlight reels. Using his exceptional speed—his 29.9 ft/sec sprint speed was eighth-fastest in MLB—Bader covered tremendous ground and regularly robbed hits with diving catches, especially charging in. Overall, FanGraphs credited Bader with 19 defensive runs saved, fourth among all outfielders. Though his defense defined him, Bader also provided a valuable blend of power and speed at the bottom of the Cardinals lineup, batting .264 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
Despite spending the first three weeks of the season in the minors and a month on the disabled list with a knee injury, Acuna was the driving force in the Braves’ surprising run to the National League East title. At 20 years old, Acuna set a club record with eight leadoff home runs—including a leadoff homer in three consecutive games in August—and overall hit .293 with 26 home runs, 64 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Acuna paired his offensive thump with occasional highlight-reel defense as the Braves' left fielder and saw time in all three outfield spots.
Soto began the season in low Class A but then shot through the minors to make his major league debut on May 20, rewriting the record book for teenagers in MLB before season's end. Just 19 years old, Soto posted a .406 on-base percentage and .923 OPS that were the highest ever by a teenager in MLB history. His .517 slugging percentage was second-highest and his 22 home runs tied teammate Bryce Harper for second-most by a teen. Soto was named National League Rookie of the Month three of the four months he was in the majors, and he was sensational beyond just the standard of a rookie or teenager. He finished fourth in the NL in on-base percentage, seventh in OPS and 10th in walks.
Ohtani deftly juggled playing both ways and starred as both a hitter and pitcher en route to being named Baseball America’s 2018 Rookie of the Year. Though a damaged ulnar collateral ligament limited him to 51.2 innings on the mound, he continued to hit after the injury and was a force on par with the majors’ best hitters. Ohtani hit 21 doubles, 22 home runs and stole 10 bases in less than two-thirds of a season’s worth of plate appearances. His .925 OPS not only led all rookies, but also ranked ninth in the majors among all players with at least 350 plate appearances.
Royals Go Back To The Rule 5 Well
The Royals doubled up on Rule 5 picks, taking Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis, with the hope that one or both can duplicate the results of Brad Keller.
Buehler joined the Dodgers' rotation in mid-April and became not only the top rookie starter, but one of the best starting pitchers period. Armed with a power arsenal headlined by a 96-99 mph fastball, Buehler led all rookie starters with a 2.68 ERA, limited opponents to a .193 batting average and memorably pitched the first six innings of a combined no-hitter on May 4. He was at his best when it counted most. Buehler allowed just 13 earned runs combined in his final 12 starts, including taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a one-game tiebreaker against the Rockies to lift the Dodgers to the National League West title.
After making five starts last year, Flaherty moved into the Cardinals' rotation full-time this season and played a key role in their midseason turnaround. Flaherty led all rookie starters in strikeouts (182), finished second in innings pitched (151) and was fourth in ERA (3.34). He showed remarkable consistency for a rookie, completing at least five innings in 24 of his 28 starts, and before long he was one of the top Cardinals’ top pitchers. Flaherty’s 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings was the highest of any St. Louis pitcher—starter or reliever—and his .199 opponent average led all Cardinals starters.
Two teams passed up the opportunity to keep Keller last offseason, and the Royals reaped the rewards. The D-backs left Keller unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and the Reds selected him fifth overall, only to flip him to the Royals for a player to be named later or cash. All Keller did was emerge as Kansas City’s best pitcher, logging a 2.01 ERA out of the bullpen before moving to the rotation and going 8-5, 3.28 in 20 starts. Among rookie starters, Keller finished third in ERA (3.08), fourth in innings pitched (140.1) and fourth in wins with nine.
Barria got his chance when injuries once again eviscerated the Angels' rotation, and the 22-year-old Panamanian took advantage. Barria made his debut on April 11 and settled into the regular rotation by May, leading the Angels in wins (10) and ERA (3.41). Among rookie starters, Barria finished third in wins, fourth in opponent average (.242), fourth in WHIP (1.27) and fifth in ERA. He held up particularly strong as the year finished, logging a 2.66 ERA over his final 10 starts.
The Giants signed Rodriguez as a minor league free agent last November, and it proved to be one of the bargain signings of the offseason. The son of Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez and a converted outfielder-turned-pitcher, Rodriguez settled into the Giants' rotation in June and finished second to only Walker Buehler among rookie starters with a 2.81 ERA. He allowed two earned runs or less in 13 of his 19 starts and altogether limited opponents to a .221 batting average, third among rookies starters.
Dominguez made his major league debut on May 7, recorded his first save 12 days later and before long was the top weapon out of the Phillies' bullpen. Though he led the team—and all rookies—with 16 saves, Dominguez was used in much more than just a traditional closer role, coming in at the highest-leverage points whenever management determined the game was on the line. Armed with fastball that averaged 98 mph and a wipeout slider, Dominguez limited opponents to a .163 batting average in “high-leverage” situations as calculated by Baseball-Reference. Overall, Dominguez struck out 32 percent of batters, best among rookies with at least 55 innings pitched.