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2019 MLB Rookie Of The Year Watch

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Chris Paddack (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Every team has now played 40 games, which means we are officially one-quarter of the way through the season.

At the one-quarter mark of the year, here is how the Rookie of the Year races are shaping up.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1. Brandon Lowe, 2B, Rays

The No. 93 prospect on BA's Top 100 Prospects list entering the season, Lowe leads all American League rookies in hits (39), runs (22), home runs (8) and RBIs (22) while batting .285/.336/.533. He’s done that while playing a well above-average second base for a team in the hunt for a playoff berth.

2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP, Mariners

Kikuchi hasn’t dominated, but he’s been steady with a 3.64 ERA over 10 starts. He’s held opponents to a .227/.267/.399 slash line, has 43 strikeouts against just 12 walks in 54.2 innings and is showing signs of heating up with three straight quality starts.

3. Michael Chavis, 2B, Red Sox

Chavis has been a shot of adrenaline for the Red Sox since arriving on April 20. His .296 batting average, .406 on-base percentage and .580 slugging percentage all rank first among AL rookies with at least 20 games played, and his seven home runs and 21 RBIs rank second among AL rookies. It’s been an exciting 22-game burst, capped by his first career walk-off hit on Wednesday. If Chavis can maintain it, he’ll rise to the top of the list.

Don’t Forget About

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays; Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox

The Nos. 1 and 3 prospects entering the year have gotten their careers off the slow starts. Guerrero is batting .207/.303/435 through 16 games, and Jimenez hit .241/.294/.380 in 21 games before going on the injured list with a high ankle sprain. The sample sizes are extremely small, and an adjustment period is hardly unusual. Both have the talent to thrust themselves into the race as the year goes on.

Dark Horses

John Means, LHP, Orioles; Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Tigers

Means leads all American League rookie starters with a 2.33 ERA and is confounding opponents with a dastardly changeup. He is progressively pitching deeper into games and is assuming the role of the O’s top starter. Turnbull is right behind Means with a 2.40 ERA and leads all rookie starters—in both leagues—with 50 strikeouts.

Super Sleeper

Ty Buttrey, RHP, Angels

Buttrey has been one of the most automatic relievers in baseball early on with a 0.86 ERA over 19 appearances and a 26-to-3 strikeout-to-walk mark in 21 innings. If he begins getting more save opportunities, he’ll have a chance to rack up the counting numbers necessary to help his case. 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. Chris Paddack, RHP, Padres

Forget about being a rookie. Paddack has been one of baseball’s best pitchers, period. The 23-year-old righthander ranks in the top five in the majors in ERA (1.99), WHIP (0.75), hits allowed per nine innings (4.6), opponent average (.146) and opponent OPS (.465), all while showcasing the personality to make him a fan and media favorite. One key thing to watch is his workload. After pitching only 95 innings last year in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, Paddack will be on an innings limit again this season. No pitcher since 2000 has won Rookie of the Year with fewer than 140 innings pitched.

2. Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets

Alonso has cooled off (.186/.246/.373 in his last 16 games) since his riveting start, but he still leads all major league rookies in home runs (12) and owns a .261/.345/.562 slash line. His barrel percentage is 10th-highest in the majors, per Statcast, and he owns the second-hardest hit ball of the season.

3. Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers

Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler and now Verdugo—the Dodgers have debuted an impact rookie in each of the last four seasons and it has played a major role in their continued dominance. Verudgo leads all major league rookies (min. 100 plate appearances) in batting average (.330) and on-base percentage (.377), is rarely striking out (13 K in 122 PA) and is showing plenty of extra-base power (seven doubles, two triples, four home runs). He’s done that while being a well above-average defender in both center field and right field, and his playing time should continue uninterrupted with A.J. Pollock out for at least the next two months.

Don't Forget About

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres; Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves

Tatis was in the heart of the race before landing on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring strain. He’s been out nearly three weeks and hamstrings can be tricky, but if he returns healthy he has the talent to jump to the top. Soroka has a lot of people to leap, but with a 0.98 ERA through his first six starts, he’s certainly showing he’s capable of it as long as his shoulder holds up.

Dark Horse

Christian Walker, 1B, D-backs

Walker got a chance with the trade of Paul Goldschmidt, and he is making the most of it. The 28-year-old is batting .278/.351/.550 as an everyday starter for the surprising D-backs and leads all rookies in doubles (15) while tying for second in home runs (8). His batted ball data suggests it’s not a fluke either. Walker is tied for the ninth-hardest average exit velocity in the majors at 93.7 mph, and he’s 15th in the majors in barrels percentage.

Super Sleeper

Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates

Reynolds hit .329 with a .921 OPS at Vanderbilt, hit .312 with an .844 OPS in the minors, and now is off to a hot start to his big league career as the Pirates’ left fielder. It’s a small sample size, but Reynolds has always hit and projects to keep hitting.

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Prospect Pad Retrospective: Dodgers OF Alex Verdugo

Verdugo talked at the 2017 Baseball America Prospect Pad about his approach against top tier talent as well as going through the minors alongside Cody Bellinger.

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