2021 Baseball America MLB All-Rookie Team
After Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Pete Alonso re-wrote rookie records in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the rookie classes of the last two seasons haven’t been quite as historic.
The shortened 2020 season meant there simply wasn't enough games for any rookie records to be broken. The 2021 rookie class was more solid than spectacular and didn’t have a record-breaker among it.
One near-exception was Rays shortstop Wander Franco, who reached base in 43 consecutive games to tie Frank Robinson’s record for the longest on-base streak by a player age 20 or younger. Franco played just 70 games, but in that time justified why he was a two-time No. 1 overall prospect in baseball.
Pitching was the strength of the 2021 rookie class. In addition to the five starters who made our All-Rookie Team, Tigers righthander Casey Mize, Athletics righthander James Kaprielian, Tigers lefthander Tarik Skubal, Mariners righthander Logan Gilbert and Cubs righthander Adbert Alzolay all showed promise and will be a part of their teams’ long-term plans. Red Sox righthander Garrett Whitlock, Pirates righthander David Bednar and Rangers righthander Joe Barlow lead an excellent group of rookie relievers that also received consideration.
The rookie position player crop was significantly thinner. In fact, two sluggers who made our All-Rookie team failed to reach a .300 on-base percentage: Bobby Dalbec (.298) and Adolis Garcia (.286). Patrick Wisdom checked in at .305, compared with an MLB-wide .321 OBP for non-pitchers.
Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo and Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel were the only other position players considered for selection at their respective positions.
Below is the 2021 Baseball America All-Rookie Team as selected by BA staff members. Capsules are written by Kyle Glaser.
Note: MLB’s thresholds for a “qualified rookie” are 250 plate appearances for position players and 81 innings for pitchers. Those equate to one-half of the qualifying standards for the MLB batting and ERA titles.
C Tyler Stephenson, Reds
Stephenson made the Reds’ Opening Day roster and progressively earned more playing time as the year went on, appearing in 132 games to help Cincinnati contend for a playoff spot. His .286 batting average and .366 on-base percentage led all rookie catchers, and his .797 OPS ranked sixth among rookies regardless of position. Known as a bat-first catcher, Stephenson didn’t make an error in 78 games behind the plate and was credited with four defensive runs saved above average by Baseball Info Solutions.
1B Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox
Dalbec started slowly but heated up as the year went on to help propel the Red Sox to an American League wild card spot. He hit .274/.335/.565 with 17 of his 25 home runs after June 15 and finished among the rookie leaders in nearly every category. He finished third in triples (5) and RBIs (78), fourth in home runs (25), and eighth in doubles (21) and OPS (.792). His 34% strikeout rate was overly high but improved toward the end of the season.
2B Jonathan India, Reds
India won the Reds’ starting second base job in spring training and went nearly wire to wire as the majors’ top rookie position player. He led all qualified rookies in on-base percentage (.376), doubles (34), walks (71) and runs (98), ranked second in OPS (.835), finished third in hits (143) and displayed an impressive power-speed combination with 21 home runs and 12 stolen bases. One key to India’s success was his sharp batting eye. His chase rate and walk rate both ranked in the 80th percentile.
3B Patrick Wisdom, Cubs
Wisdom signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and had a breakout rookie campaign in his age-29 season. He set a Cubs rookie home run record—previously held by Kris Bryant—with 28 homers in just 106 games. His .518 slugging percentage ranked second among rookies and his .823 OPS was third. Wisdom complemented his offensive output with standout defense. He ranked third among National League third basemen in total zone runs as measured by Baseball-Reference, just ahead of eight-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado.
SS Wander Franco, Rays
The No. 1 prospect in baseball made his long-awaited debut on June 22 and didn’t disappoint. Franco batted .288/.347/.463 with 30 extra-base hits in 70 games after taking over as the Rays’ starting shortstop. He reached base in 43 straight games during the season, tied with Frank Robinson for the longest on-base streak by a player 20 or younger. Franco’s defensive contributions added to his impact. He rated as an above-average defender by every defensive metric system and made highlight-reel plays in all directions.
OF Randy Arozarena, Rays
Last year’s postseason hero showed his performance wasn’t a fluke with a solid rookie campaign. Arozarena delivered a 20-20 season with exactly 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, led all rookies with 135 hits and finished in the top three in runs, doubles, RBIs and OPS. He primarily set the table as the leadoff hitter for an explosive Rays offense and played a well above-average defense in left field.
CF Adolis Garcia, Rangers
After beginning the year at the alternate training site, Garcia joined the Rangers on April 13 and quickly asserted himself as one of their most dangerous hitters. He led all rookies in RBIs (90), finished second in home runs (32) and ranked fourth in hits (141) and stolen bases (16). Garcia stood out even more on defense, where he was an above-average defender in both center and right field and finished tied for the major league lead with 16 outfield assists.
OF Dylan Carlson, Cardinals
Carlson carried over last year’s hot finish into his official rookie season to help the Cardinals win a National League wild card spot. He hit .266/.343/.437 with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs and finished in the top five among rookies in hits, runs, doubles, triples and walks. Carlson spent most of the year as the Cardinals’ right fielder but also stepped in to play a capable center field as needed. He recorded eight outfield assists, fourth in the NL, and made the second-most putouts of any NL outfielder.
DH Ryan Mountcastle, Orioles
Mountcastle built on his strong debut last year to solidify his place as part of the Orioles’ rebuild moving forward. He led all rookies with 33 home runs and finished second with 89 RBIs while mostly batting cleanup in Baltimore’s order. He also finished among the top five in hits, runs and slugging percentage. Mountcastle split his time between first base and left field and showed decent range at first, but his offensive performance is what stood out most.
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SP Ian Anderson, Braves
Anderson overcame a midseason shoulder injury to provide a solid, steady performance in the Braves’ rotation. He went 9-5, 3.24 in 128.1 innings to help the Braves to the National League East title. Overall Anderson tied for fourth among rookies in wins, finished fifth in ERA and was ninth with 124 strikeouts. He finished among the top three Braves starters in most categories behind only Max Fried and Charlie Morton.
SP Luis Garcia, Astros
Garcia moved between starting and relieving to begin the year but pitched his way into the Astros’ rotation for good by May. The 24-year-old righthander went 11-8, 3.30 and led all rookies with 167 strikeouts in 150.1 innings, helping lead the Astros to the American League West title. Garcia finished particularly strong down the stretch to help the Astros hold off the Mariners. He posted a 2.96 ERA over his final 10 starts and pitched at least five innings in each of them.
SP Alek Manoah, Blue Jays
Manoah made his debut with six scoreless innings against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 27 and remained in the Blue Jays’ rotation the rest of the year. The massive 6-foot-6, 260-pound righthander went 9-2, 3.22 while posting the lowest WHIP (1.05) and opponent average (.192) of any rookie starter. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 15 of his 20 starts and had four double-digit strikeout games.
SP Shane McClanahan, Rays
McClanahan received his first callup at the end of April and stabilized a Rays rotation hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness. He emerged as the team’s de facto ace by the end of the year, going 10-6, 3.43 with 141 strikeouts, all of which led the Rays as they cruised to the best record in the American League. McClanahan allowed two earned runs or fewer in 16 of his 25 starts and finished strong with a 2.75 ERA in his final 10 starts.
SP Trevor Rogers, Marlins
Rogers was one of the best pitchers in baseball, rookie or otherwise, until he went on the injured list with back muscle spasms in late July. He returned in September and finished with a 2.64 ERA, best among rookie starters and sixth among all MLB starters who pitched at least 130 innings. He also led all rookie starters with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings and represented the Marlins in the All-Star Game.
RP Emmanuel Clase, Indians
Clase missed the 2020 season after he tested positive for the steroid Boldenone and received an 80-game suspension. He re-emerged this year as the Indians closer and posted a 1.79 ERA with 24 saves, both best among rookie relievers. His 0.95 WHIP was the lowest of any rookie with at least 60 innings pitched, and the combination of a 100-plus mph cutter and low-90s slider held opponents to a .195 average